Next week will see The Celtic Trust’s first members’ meeting of the current football season as well as its largest. It will also be a virtual meeting delivered by Zoom, another first. Although The Trust’s constitution will require a number of protocols to be followed, we all know the meeting will be dominated by the collapse in the performance of the team, who is responsible and what we’re all going to do about it.
The collapse, and collapse is the correct description, has been evident from the start of the season and is substantiated by results, results that have seen the team knocked out of two European competitions and the League Cup before Christmas and trail Rangers by twenty points in the league. Comparison with last season’s performance at this stage of the season also corroborates the conclusion.
All of this feels bad to all Celtic fans everywhere, and worse, because expectations were so high, the spectre of an unprecedented world record achievement of ten league championships in a row was within sight and supporters gladly ponied up circa £30 million of hard-earned cash to pay for the dream they were never going to experience in the flesh on account of the coronavirus. All of those hopes and dreams have evaporated and it is no wonder supporters are angry, disillusioned and looking for someone to blame.
So, who is responsible? Football is a results driven business and our results are both self-evident and poor. It is always the manager of the team that carries the can and in Celtic’s case the outcome will be no different. Analysis of Neil Lennon’s track record as Celtic’s manager compares favourably with previous favoured sons but its the here and now that matters and that is why his fate is sealed. It is probable that the timing of his departure and the appointment of a replacement is being choreographed by the board of directors.
It is also certain the board has an eye on season ticket renewal time which is now on the horizon. Given it is likely full capacity arenas will not be possible for the start of next season just how many season tickets will be sold without full access to the stadium, the allure of ten in a row and a change of manager? Passions are running high and some sort of meaningful change in the dynamic is necessary to mitigate all the negative energy that has been created.
It may also be relevant that any sizeable shortfall in season ticket revenues will increase the possibility of a new share issue to repair a balance sheet ravaged by the effects of Covid19. Football clubs across Europe are already going down this road and Celtic has not issued any new shares since 2005. If small shareholders did not subscribe to the extent of the board’s block holding control would be further consolidated in the hands of the board and Lindsell Train. As so many existing shareholders have become detached from their shares it has never been more important to get reunited with those shares and to take up any new entitlement they may be entitled to. Celtic’s six month trading figures are usually announced in the first half of February and this may well be a pivotal date in the affairs of the football club going forward, both financially and from a football perspective.
When all is said and done The Celtic Trust as a representative body for Celtic shareholders and supporters will correctly adopt a position on these matters but as a democratic organisation it is the members that will determine what that position is when we meet next week.
There have been two previous open forums via Zoom (as distinct from meetings of members) at which strong views were expressed by attendees and these views were articulated to the Celtic board last month.
They were told the board is out of touch, unambitious and stale. Four of the five NEDs have been there for over nine years. Questions were raised about just how effective and independent they were. They were told executive pay for a company of this size and under performance was excessive.
Strong views were expressed about recent football performances and the status of the manager as well as our poor performances in Europe since Seville when compared to other big fish in small ponds. The player acquisition and development record was highlighted; for every gem there’s six duds (sic). It was apparent that football ambition was more focussed on being better than Rangers than competitive in Europe. The board makes a big play about what its done when more focus should be on what it’s achieved.
The financial references are pertinent because the reality is the directors of Celtic plc are ultimately responsible for the management of the football club. If its not working at the top changing the manager unlikely to be the solution as any good manager will soon discover. It is the responsibility of NEDs to assess the executive directors about performance and questions have to be asked about just how independent the NEDs really are and to what extent they are challenging the executive directors.
Next week the members of The Celtic Trust will express their views and instruct the committee on where we go from there.
As Jock Stein said “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that.”
Pax Vobiscum et Serva Fidem