Shares, Protests, 5WA and Res12: Exclusive Interview with David Low, Chair at Celtic Trust

Q: Thank you, David, for taking the time to talk to The Celtic Star. First Let’s get to some of the “nuts and bolts” of the CST. First, can you give us a brief history of the trust, and then describe some of the short-term and long-term goals it aims to achieve going forward?

A: The Celtic Supporters Society Limited (trading as The Celtic Trust) was incorporated in 2000 (Registration Number: 29147R) and is registered with the FCA. It’s original, and existing, aim is to increase fan ownership and influence over Celtic. Notwithstanding its legal and financial structure, throughout its existence it has primarily been a campaigning organisation on behalf of Celtic fans in particular and football fans in general. Our achievements, either on our own or with fellow Celtic organisations, over the years include trialling Saturday Celtic PLC AGMs; removing alcohol advertising from children’s strips (before it became illegal); the introduction of the Dividend Reinvestment Scheme; the introduction of the Standing Section; the adoption of the Living Wage at Celtic; the introduction of a published Disciplinary Code to protect supporters’ rights; the development of a fairer European Away ticket allocation system and the defence of the established domestic away ticket allocation system; we successfully pushed the club to have an independent report into the Janefield Street crush, to conduct a disability audit and to introduce both the SLO and DSLO posts. We have represented numerous fans in conflict with the club and we successfully campaigned on behalf of victims of the OBFA and played a prominent role in procuring its repeal. We were prominent in the Dam Bhoys campaign which provided support to the victims of the Dutch police and achieved, after 5 years, a successful appeal against their convictions.

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I was elected chairman at last year’s AGM with a primary objective of helping to reunite shareholders with their lost shares. Most shares were purchased in 1994 and over the years an increasing number of shareholders have relocated or died and a large number of shareholder records have not been updated to reflect these changes of circumstance. The effect of this is to concentrate power and control over the affairs of the club in the hands of a minority. Celtic is now controlled by two shareholders one of which has no emotional investment in the club and this is not healthy. A similar situation existed in the 1990s which allowed the old board to control the club from a minority position. It wasn’t acceptable then and its not acceptable now. Many said it wasn’t possible to do anything about it then and that wasn’t true either. All said, regime change is an aspiration but not a feasible objective of The Celtic Trust at this moment in time but shareholder enfranchisement is achievable through unity and a common cause.

Q: To give us a yardstick, can you tell us the CST’s current size of shareholding now, compared to the start of the season? Can you divulge the overall percentage share the trust holds compared to the total shares in the PLC?

A: The main current objectives are to empower the support through the reactivation of ‘lost’ shares which are substantial in number and consolidation of existing small shareholders under a common cause; the betterment of Celtic FC. This second grouping is also substantial in number and great progress has been made. There are over 120 million Celtic shares in issue owned by over 25,000 supporters most of which are small shareholders representing around half of the total equity. These are the principle issues the Trust is concerned with just as they were in the 1990s. The Trust owns around 25,000 shares and is in the market for more. It also has the support of an increasing number of shareholders, large and small, and we are very happy with progress to date.

Q: So, let’s say I want to support your work and I donate to the CST. You have my £10 a month pledge. Could you break down how much of the £10 goes to purchasing shares, as well as how much of the £10 is spent on other facets, like administration, etc.?

A: Members make subscriptions rather than donations and all members have an equal say whether you subscribe £10 or £1,000. All surplus cashflow is being applied to the acquisition of shares in accordance with The Trust’s constitution, details of which can be found at www.CelticTrust.net. We have very low administration costs and all officers and Trustees are volunteers.

David Low, Chair at Celtic Trust

Q: Let’s talk about structure: How did you become chair of the CST? Is it an elected or appointed position? Are there mechanisms in place for democratic processes in decision-making and choosing leadership and what influence do members have in that process?

A: I was elected as chair by the members last year in general meeting. Any member can stand for election as a Trustee at the annual general meeting. All paid up members have one vote each. The aims and objectives of The Trust are detailed in its constitution.

Q: In the way of promoting the CST, should the trust work closely with the Celtic fans media — across news websites, blogs, podcasts and digital TV channels — to get relevant messages across to the wider public. Have you considered, in light of recent growth and developments, of producing an up-to-date manifesto that would clearly outline the aims and direction of the trust beyond the constitution outlined on the website- would that be something you could pass to the likes of fan media sites and ask them to consider publishing with a view to attracting further membership?

A: The Trust will work with all parties that have the best interests of Celtic at heart. The Trust has existing relationships with supporters’ organisations as well as the club itself. I think the manifesto question has already been covered but the Trustees are obviously likely to respond positively to positive proposals and to present them to the members for consideration and approval.

Q: Operating under the assumption that the CST has an annual general meeting, at least one every year or possibly more, how can members — old and new — present resolutions to be put for a vote? Could you advise when the last AGM took place and given the recent increase in membership, are there plans for there be a meeting in the near future so members can raise current concerns?

A: Details on the Trust’s constitution are available at www.CelticTrust.net. There are statutory resolutions that are heard every year. Members can also submit resolutions. The last annual general meeting of members was in January 2020. This year’s should be in late April but there will be a members’ meeting towards the end of January as well as other ones on the minimum of a quarterly basis.

Q: What is the CST’s view of having a Celtic supporter being elected to the Celtic Board? Given your work with Fergus McCann in the past and as the current chair of the trust, you would probably be the ideal candidate. Would the trust advocate for a supporter on the board, and would you serve if elected or appointed?

A: I assume that you mean a supporter representative since there are already supporters on the Board. Most supporters do not appreciate that when a ‘supporter’ joins the board he/she immediately assumes regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities that changes his/her status. Protocol has to be adhered to and boardroom confidences cannot be discussed with any third parties. In effect, you cease to be the type of Celtic supporter I think you are referring to. I have
no ambition to be a Celtic director and never have had.

Q: Let’s back up a bit and go back in time: Given your involvement with Fergus McCann [during the time when he essentially saved the club and you yourself played a role in that process], do you have any idea why you weren’t involved or invited onto the Celtic Board at that time?

A: You clearly have a fixation with the director thing! In the 1990s I had a plan and had a big role in its execution but, like Fergus, never saw it as a vocation for life. Indeed, I don’t expect to be chair of The Trust for a prolonged period. I made it clear I had no interest in being a Celtic director then and I make it equally clear once more. I have numerous business interests that require my full attention. I can also say that its very difficult to enjoy supporting Celtic when you’re involved in all the other extra-curricular malarky which comes with the responsibility. Its not all its assumed by many to be.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Q: Back to the present, what is your relationship if any historically and presently with members of the Celtic board including CEO Peter Lawwell?

A: I’ve not been directly involved with Celtic or any members of the Celtic board since Allan McDonald left in 2001. I’ve have occasional conversations with some directors and know several pretty well.

Q: In a recent article published by the Celtic Star titled “The Celtic Trust, a forum closing down the Res12 debate and the need to hold the Celtic board to account” you indicated some of the content to be wide of the mark. Would you like to take this the opportunity to set the record straight?

A: Well, what’s the headline about? Its pejorative, inaccurate and straight out of an SMSM tabloid. There’s ongoing conflation of the actions of protesters with Celtic Trust membership and an apparent ignorance of the Trust’s constitution and modus operandi and, beyond that, I’m not motivated to respond to the misguided opinions of the author. The Trust had a mandate from members to vote for Resolutions 12 and, more recently, Resolution 11 and did so as well as encourage other shareholders to do so as well. The resolution was rejected by shareholders due to the directors’ block vote. So, as a matter of fact, the purpose of Resolution 11 has already been met and Resolution 12 is ‘procedurally dead’ as so advised by the Requisitionists’ legal advisor who has given permission for his advice to be published should it be necessary.

Q: Regarding the 2019 Celtic AGM and the subsequent fallout around the responses to supplementary questions around Resolution 12. What is your take on whether there was full disclosure offered to shareholders when Peter Lawwell informed shareholders at the 2019 AGM that he had not seen the so-called Five Way Agreement?

A: What great fallout? No one’s supposed to know about the 5WA but everyone does. Those in positions of responsibility aren’t permitted to talk about it and everyone that’s read the 5WA should know this and know why. That said, its a modern day Warsaw Pact of sorts designed to protect the blue pound that not one single SFA member is prepared to challenge which is quite shocking but not that surprising.

Q: In the wake of the AGM, you have had a public disagreement with one of the prominent resolutioners, Auldheid, regarding the advance of Resolution 12. From what we can ascertain, there seems to be two different versions of what happened, Auldheid’s which appeared here, and one from the Celtic Trust’s secretary on another Celtic blog. Given the contradictory messages, as Chairman could you clarify the Trust’s position on this matter?

A: I haven’t had any such disagreement with any one although I’m aware disagreements are good click bait. The Requisitionists’ position is clearly articulated in their statement accompanying the Celtic AGM notice. Basically, they say the conduct of the SFA ‘is potentially detrimental to the overall interests of Scottish football’ and ‘request that Celtic plc raise these matters with UEFA’. When you strip away the hysteria its pretty anodyne stuff. Auldheid has mismanaged a bone fide injustice and Resolution 11 is finished as it was voted down by shareholders on 14 December 2020. If our members wish us to, we shall ask Celtic at our regular meetings what progress has been made on the commitment hey gave to shareholders at the AGM. Other than that there is little we, or anyone else, can do.

Q: As chair of the Celtic Supporters Trust (CST), how do you feel about supporters, trying to hold Celtic accountable for their failings in what can be strongly argued as accepting the poor governance in the Scottish game [at the SFA level]. Is lobbying for reform of the SFA an important consideration for the Trust going forward?

A: The board voted against Resolution 11 because they considered it unnecessary and undertook to ‘engage with the relevant authorities……and provide an update when possible’. I have good reason to believe the board’s progress with this undertaking will be monitored closely. As regards lobbying for general reform that is best done through common cause with supporters and/or shareholders of other clubs. When the lobbying comes from one club the argument is naturally weaker and perceived in the wrong light but, certainly, poor governance anywhere is unacceptable.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

Q. Does the absence of fair governance not allow controversial match changing decisions to go unquestioned by the SFA Committee responsible for referee appointments and referee performance monitoring? Is it fair of the SFA to put referees in such an invidious position? Is it not an area worth campaigning to change?

A: Matters such as you refer to can only be addressed by Celtic as the SFA member. The CST has a long established and successful track record of campaigning on injustices against Celtic and Celtic supporters which is more than can be said by most.

Q: One more thing: The CST released what was described in some quarters as a “cute” statement about serving as a liaison between the police and demonstrators at recent demonstrations at Celtic Park. Celtic subsequently appeared to contradict the Trust’s version of events in their own statement prior to the protests. Can you clarify why the club’s and the Trust’s statements appeared at the time to be at odds?

A: No one has described it as cute other than the author of the article. A careful reading of the Celtic statement shows that it does not contradict anything we said. We said that, in organising the demonstration, we had liaised with the Police and the Club and that is because we did liaise with the Police and the Club.

Interview by Larry Cafiero on The Celtic Star.

Larry Cafiero  is Celtic’s American Blogger on his own blog — ’67 in the Heat of Felton:A view of Celtic FC from the Central California coast — and a contributor to The Celtic Star, Larry is a retired journalist who doesn’t mind getting up at 4 a.m. to watch the Hoops. You can also find him enjoying regular conversations on the best Celtic fans forum going, Celtic Noise.

The CST conduct first survey of Celtic fans and members in over 20 years

The Celtic Trust is conducting the first survey of Celtic fans and members in over 20 years. They have already received over 1,000 responses from members and the number is growing daily and are now rolling it out to The Trust’s larger mailing list and social media followers.

The survey can be found at https://celtictrust.net/new-fan-survey/ and as many supporters as possible should try to complete it before it closes at the end of the month.

The results of the survey will be available on The Trust’s website and also on The Celtic Star, an assurance that we have been given from David Low, the Chair of the Trust. He also confirmed to The Celtic Star this morning that the Trust will be holding their first members’ meeting of the year towards the end of this month.

Celtic – It’s our club, always has been, always will be…

“I can also tell you our first members’ general meeting of the year will be on 26 January. These meetings are formal and also shape policy going forward,” David Low stated.

Meanwhile you can listen to David Low talk about increasing fan ownership of the club via a new podcast on Scottish Football Monitor.

“This episode is the first in a multi-part series and explores the holy grail of football fans – ownership of their club. In part one, John Cole talks to David Low, the Chair of The Celtic Trust, a fan and shareholder body committed to fan ownership. Low explains the realities, the dream, and the pragmatic steps that need to be taken by such a fan organisation.

“Part two we will hear from Stuart Wallace of The Foundation of Hearts, the successful ownership vehicle of fans of the Edinburgh giants.”

Celtic – It’s our club, always has been, always will be…

LISTEN HERE.

Celtic – It’s our club, always has been, always will be…

About Author

Celtic's American Blogger on his own blog -- '67 in the Heat of Felton:A view of Celtic FC from the Central California coast -- and a contributor to The Celtic Star, Larry Cafiero is a retired journalist who doesn't mind getting up at 4 a.m. to watch the Hoops. You can also find him enjoying regular conversations on the best Celtic fans forum going, Celtic Noise.

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