Response to ‘History will regard Peter Lawwell as a Celtic legend’ & ‘Unfair to label Peter Lawwell Celtic’s villain of the piece’

I am an avid reader of your site, season ticket holder of 13 years and concerned Celtic supporter. The two articles named above try to provide a defence of Peter Lawwell and you have opened up the responses to the wider Celtic support so I thought I’d give my opinion on the matter. While I appreciated every supporter had their own take on the issues facing the club at present, I think that the authors of the articles have missed what for me goes to the heart of the problem with Peter Lawwell’s tenure at Celtic which has come to a head this season.

READ THIS…History will regard Peter Lawwell as a Celtic legend

I believe that Mr Lawwell does not represent the best value available for the salary he receives. As detailed in the annual accounts until June 2019 (this year’s accounts do not include salary information), Mr Lawwell received a basic salary of £1,161,500 with an annual bonus payment of £2,370,153 giving a total income of £3,549,026. As reported at the time, was £400,000 more than Ed Woodward at Manchester United (the highest paid CEO in England).

We are regularly told by Mr Lawwell and others on the board that we are unable to compete with the wages in England when it comes to football players, and I accept this given the disparity in TV income. What I can’t accept is that at the board room level we are able to exceed wages in England. None of this is new information but I have yet to hear anyone provide a suitable justification for this juxtaposition.

When he took started in October 2003, mere weeks after Martin O’Neill’s famous “slow lane” comment, he was hired on a salary of £160,000 pa plus bonuses. Compared to his salary in 2019 this represents an increase of 625% on his basic salary alone over 16 years. For comparison, our turnover for the 2003/04 season was £69m and our turnover for the 2018/19 season was £83.4m, an increase of around 20%. In fact, over the course of his tenure of turnover has fluctuated from as little as £52.56m to £101.6m, but his annual salary increasing year on year, regardless of results on or off the pitch. I appreciated that turnover is not the only financial marker but it gives an insight into the amount of money flowing through the club.

READ THIS…Unfair to label Peter Lawwell Celtic’s villain of the piece

While the club have reduced their debt, turned profits and put money in the bank over his tenure I still believe that the extraordinary salary we pay our CEO is unacceptable. And I know he doesn’t choose how much he earns (an issue with the wider board for another day) but my point is he no longer represents value for money for the position he holds and the job that he does.

On the pitch we have won 13 league titles, 9 Scottish Cups and 7 League Cups including a 2nd 9IAR and a Quadruple Treble since Mr Lawwell came to the club. Unparalleled dominance of the Scottish domestic game of that there is no doubt. But Celtic aren’t just about what happens domestically, since that famous day in May 1967 the Celtic support has craved European sucess. Given our poor domestic TV income I would argue that European football, and particularly Champions’ League group stage participation, should be a priority from a boardroom perspective as well. Furthermore, if we are to believe that our model is to buy low/young sell high when it comes to players, then European participation is essential to player development.

WATCH THIS…Peter Lawwell issues a Message to Celtic Supporters

We have qualified for the group stages of the Champions League seven times getting to the last 16 three times. A decent rate you might think but only two of those group stage participations has come in the last seven years. When listing the teams that have put us out in that time, Maribor, Malmo, AEK Athens, Cluj, Ferencvaros it becomes clear that there are problems that run beyond the manager’s capabilities. Season after season fans worry and complain about the lack of forward planning when it comes to the European qualifiers and rightly so given our recent record. The last three season in particular has been like watching the same games on repeat.

Perhaps the other contributors are right, maybe we will look back at Mr Lawwell’s time more fondly than the current view, however, I think the comparison which both made to Fergus McCann was a little disingenuous. Fergus was vilified by the SMSM, even comparing him to Saddam Hussein, and Celtic fans bought into it but those were different times. The SMSM had more say what information was available and how that information was portrayed. Now there are plenty of good, Celtic-minded voices out there asking pertinent questions regarding Mr Lawwell’s position and worth to the club. And these questions aren’t new either, there are articles on Celtic Underground and eTims to name a few going back to 2011 asking these same questions about Peter Lawwell, his sphere of influence, the lack of long-term planning and his running of the club.

For me his 17 years tenure has been 10 years too long and he has not offered value for money for quite some time now. His perceived image among the supporters I know and regularly go the games with is at an all-time low and it will be his continued presence in the corridors of Paradise that will have a bigger sway on whether I renew my season ticket than the outcome of the league or the manager in the dugout.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Even if it isn’t put on the site it’s be quite cathartic to write it all out and I will be sending something similar to the club (as I did after Cluj last season and Ferencvaros this season) when they come looking for my season ticket money for next year.

Hail Hail

Carlo

If you would like to have your say you can add your comments below all the the articles on The Celtic Star and if you would like submit an opinion piece for us to publish as an article then simply email your contribution to editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

Emailed Comments…

Well said Carlo, I agree with every word you say, the very idea that anyone would compare Lawwell to Fergus is quite insulting, we are still seeing the benefits from Fergus all these years later, as for Lawwell the Green Brigade got it spot on ” falling asleep at the wheel” Lawwell is a legend in his own mind only.

Ronnie Palmer

Great read agree 100% Lawwell out.

Jim Fitzsimmons

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

1 Comment

  1. Martin Leadbetter on

    A very well researched and structured piece – thanks. When you see the sums involved it does make you wonder about the value. I have been a season ticket holder and shareholder since the Fergus days so have always appreciated the organisational and financial solidarity of the club in comparison to the scoundrels and thieves in place before that ! As a shareholder I get to attend the AGM and always ensure I do. My response is therefore based around that experience.
    So, I am always impressed by Peter Lawell’s performances at the AGMs – he always comes across, to me, as honest, intelligent, strong and sincere in his love of Celtic – but balanced with the need to be a CEO and make head decisions rather than heart. He is noticeable too as, apart from the Chairman and whoever the current manager happens to be , he is the only one who speaks. The long top table of ageing gentlemen ( I excuse the recently appointed lady member off course) remains unchanged and looks more and more elderly each year. The Chairman tries his best and may be good at what he does but he doesn’t convince or come across as well as Brian Quinn or John Reid did when in the job. Dermot Desmond I think has attended twice in 30 years or more – that always strikes me as rude and arrogant. I respect what he has done for Celtic and the backing he provides but one appearance per year is surely not too much to ask.
    In short the same people have been in charge for too long and have enjoyed too many unchallenging years. Time for change – particularly with the Chair and longest serving members of the Board. New ideas and challenges are needed – particularly in Europe. Winning trophies in Scotland should not be the main focus now – it should be progress in Europe and the restoration of the club’s standing generally – with a view perhaps to getting back to knocking on the door of joining the Premiership. That should include the development of, and investment in, our own young talent via a structured system with targets and longer term thinking. To start next season with a recognised manager with his own coaching staff and a group of players with a mix of experience and youthful ambition would excite the supporters – especially those who are thinking twice about another season ticket. I think we need a new Chair person and a smaller more focused board – I think sadly it may be time up for Peter Lawell too. I do think though that both he and Neil Lennon should be sincerely thanked by all of the support for the hard work they have done and the success they have brought. This is the end of one empire – a very successful one but now outdated and exhausted – and Hail Hail the new Ceasars – long live the new regime !

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