Blood on the boardroom carpet


Football is brutal.  Each year, boys who have worked tirelessly for years in the hope of making the big time are cut free, hundreds of them across Scotland, little has changed in this respect for a century.  Whereas these traumas happen privately, the managers and coaches responsible for those decisions, face their own brutal edge in the most public manner possible, often with hoards yelling for their removal.

At every level, someone has the responsibility of telling someone else, he or she is out.  This is the DNA of an industry we all wanted to be part of as kids, then look on in horror later in life.

Dominic McKay was one of our own, a Celtic fan who worked his way up to run Scottish Rugby, not through the usual routes of commercial, accounting or legal, but from being the in-house public relations man.  The transformation at the club since the end of last season has been beyond my expectations; failures at Tynecastle, Ibrox and Denmark did not cut deep, as the direction of travel was clearly forward.  His course seemed assured from the outside.

Despite the common delusion, chief executive of Celtic is neither easy nor straightforward.  You run a TV channel and other media outlets, several licenced premises and restaurants; a bricks and clicks retail operation.  You deal with the whim of the police and Scottish Government, the SFA and SPFL.  There is a youth operation, with its myriad of complexities and a major events venue that accommodates enough people to bring half a city to a stop when in operation.

Then there are the pressure groups: fans, media, a board and major shareholders; executive, coaching and playing staff.  None of them are really pressure groups, but that’s what they will feel like if you are trying to keep them happy.  Crucially, if you want to affect change, you need to be able to lead people in those pressure groups.  If you cannot lead, your lack of followers is your fault.  Genuine agents of change prove this.

And there’s the football, which underpins all revenue streams and can cause joy or heartbreak on the bounce of a ball.

Wealthy young players, some with more sense than others, the ever-present contract negotiations with agents whose job it is to find someone else to make more money than you can afford.  You make multi-million pound investments with consequences that stretch years into the future and despite all the metrics, whopping mistakes are made at every club.

The bandwidth you need to do this job well is unimaginable to most of us.  It takes management experience, people skills and a firm control on your stress levels.  You need to know when to be hands off and when to give clear and early guidance.  Doing 90% of the necessary elements brilliantly will lead to disaster if you overlook something fundamental.  You also need luck.

Dominic McKay found out about that brutal edge earlier than any of us expected; football is meritocratic in this respect.  It was not results, it had nothing to do with former execs who are now on the beach (honestly!), nor was it about character, his remains impeccable.

He made mistakes, one was largish, but even the best do.  If he had the bandwidth for the task, he could have done more to demonstrate this, a large and complex business will expose your bottlenecks.  At Celtic, PR is hugely complex but even then, it would never be a launching pad for the top job.  PR in rugby is mundane by comparison; this route to the top drew the eye when I read of Dom’s appointment.  He was not a good fit and this is a poor look for Celtic.

Best of luck in your next appointment, Dom.

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  1. lololol Love it PHILBHOY.



    As long as Ange stays happy I will be happy.





  2. Go tell the Spartim on

    Are there many on this site that have had a bigger job than Dom had? Find it strange to comment on such a thing, we’re always told to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before commenting.



    I thought, from the outside, that he’d done a decent job, doubt the interim appointment has the necessary skills for this task. Too many wanting to keep their cushy (non contributory ) roles, I fear. Bankier should’ve been ousted years ago, he brings nothing to the party

  3. Nine paragraphs of generic fluff then one which has a dig at the outgoing CEO.


    Was the recruitment process flawed?


    Do we know why this appointment was not a good fit, to ensure the next one will be?


    Is having one man cover all of the areas listed the best operating model?

  4. KLV



    Ange seems fine about the whole thing.



    As long as he’s happy I am too!



    C’MON THE ANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. that was an excellent well put description of the complexity of the job and the skill set needed to succeed,



    still not a £1m a year salary though.



    now the gnashing of teefs to say well who appointed him.



    i took a look at the SRU annual reviews the other day, last 3 years.



    i took a look at any press or comments relating to Doms time there.



    for executive recruiting, Dom was a near match to what was the job profile at celtic park.



    i suppose you dont know if the person is right until they are inside the door.



    was the massive mistake as simple as telling Dermot “no” ?

  6. ERNIE LYNCH on 13TH SEPTEMBER 2021 12:26 PM


    And to think we used to laugh at the huns.






    nothing that happens at celtic plc the business ever affects my ability to laugh at thems.



    you applied for the job yet ?

  7. P67 — your small business roots shine through with this tripe.


    Football is small potatoes regarding big business.


    It does involve lots of cash and huge egos.


    I fear DMcK got caught out by both.



    That’s me sorted (I hope) with regard to the QR code. Chap was very helpful, although it took about 25 minutes to get through to him.





    I thought the app with the QR code wasn’t available until 30 September but from today venues could download an app that would allow them to check our QR codes from 1 October?



    Do you have a link?

  9. MADMITCH on 13TH SEPTEMBER 2021 12:34 PM


    P67 — your small business roots shine through with this tripe.






    you applied for the job yet, squeeze it in between your government advisory role and your gigantic business successes of your own.



    poor show with the small business roots comment about the host.

  10. WESTCRAIGS on 13TH SEPTEMBER 2021 12:39 PM


    why is Bankier still there and what does he bring to the job?



    1) Because it suits The Great Desmondo.


    2) an ability to do the bidding of The Great Desmondo.

  11. It was not results, it had nothing to do with former execs who are now on the beach (honestly!)






    Last I heard mobile phones can work on a beach – unless ye get them wet.

  12. Stx2 @ 12.38



    There are good reasons why small businessmen run small businesses.


    P67’s comments above lay them out in a pretty brutal fashion.



    I fear that you have skin in his game and you are playing the defensive uncle.

  13. CEO’s running a company turning over £60m are literally 10 a penny.



    Look’s like we hired a guy with all the right ingredients, but ultimately couldn’t deliver on KPI’s during his probationary period.



    High profile , and everyone with their own agenda will use it to leverage their argument.



    Reality is it happens every day in business.



    We re-hire and move on.

  14. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Maybe Dom wouldn’t swear allegiance to the old firm…..?



    Oh, cracking line about the meritocracy, Paul!

  15. peter laweel is not on the beach, he is on a dermo private island in the bahamas, and is linked by satellite to celtic park, the vatican, putin and the chinese,



    all done while stroking his fluffy white cat.

  16. Explained: Dominic McKay’s shock exit and what Celtic do next



    Dominic McKay has left his role at Celtic


    By Kieran Devlin Sep 12, 2021 41 The Athletic


    Big things were expected from Dominic McKay when he started work as Celtic chief executive on July 1.



    He lasted 72 days.



    This summer was hardly the ideal time to start as CEO of the club. McKay was immediately tasked with appointing and supporting a new manager, navigating a raft of player departures and initiating Celtic’s biggest squad rebuild in over a decade.



    All the while, he had to coordinate the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the long-awaited — but bureaucratically challenging — return of fans to grounds.



    And there was more…



    The Athletic also understands McKay faced a host of other, internal, challenges at the club, including differences of opinion on how to move Celtic forward, and what he perceived as an undermining of his authority.



    The exact reason for McKay’s departure is unclear, with the club only confirming on Friday that he had left for “personal reasons”.



    Ultimately, however, Celtic supporters, manager Ange Postecoglou and his players are now left confused as to the direction of the club.



    What actually happened with McKay?


    Celtic announced McKay left his position for “personal reasons”, with the specifics ambiguous.



    The Athletic can however provide context to his extraordinary two and a half months as Celtic CEO.



    After being announced as Peter Lawwell’s successor in late January, McKay saw out half of his notice period after six years as the Scottish Rugby Union’s chief operating officer before joining Celtic early in April, to help ease the transition from one chief executive to another, in the run-up to his official start date on July 1.



    The move to appoint long-time Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe as Neil Lennon’s successor fell through in late May, but McKay was peripheral to those discussions, which had begun in earnest last November. Rather, the negotiations were fronted by Lawwell and Celtic’s major shareholder, Dermot Desmond.



    The alternative to Howe, Postecoglou, was appointed in early June, and was billed as McKay’s selection. It is understood McKay was more heavily involved in discussions with the Australian than he was with Howe and the pair even hosted a joint, inaugural press conference together in June.



    It was at this press conference that Postecoglou outlined his vision of expansive, free-flowing football — and McKay presented his ambition of modernising Celtic, name-checking both La Liga side Sevilla and Premier League newcomers Brentford as businesses and sporting models to learn from.



    New Celtic manager Ange Ange Postecoglou


    New Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou (Photo: Getty Images)


    A week after Postecoglou’s appointment, there was speculation that former Celtic and Scotland Gordon Strachan would be appointed as sporting director — something McKay was asked about in that first press conference. He rubbished the story and stated the club would wait patiently before making structural changes or appointing a sporting director, as they wanted to make the correct appointment.



    Celtic had been on the cusp of appointing Manchester City’s football partnerships and pathways manager Fergal Harkin as sporting director in February, but pulled the plug before it could be finalised. McKay wanted to revive such a model and made an appointment one of his first objectives in his strategy for modernising the club.



    It is understood that disagreement over a prospective change to a sporting director model became a major source of tension between McKay and some of Celtic’s other board members, who did not feel ready for a change of structure or did not feel one was necessarily needed. McKay, in turn, believed this impacted his autonomy to restructure Celtic.



    It has also been suggested that Strachan’s return last month in a three-month consultancy role — while still also working as fellow Premiership side Dundee’s technical director — was a further source of tension between McKay and some board members, with multiple sources suggesting he may have felt Strachan undermined his authority during his time as CEO.



    As a counterpoint, someone close to the club’s board says they were unimpressed by McKay’s start in the role and may have felt it was time for both parties to move on.



    Another source of friction was Celtic’s handling of transfers.



    Head of football operations Nick Hammond’s departure at the end of March — effectively, he led the club’s recruitment team — left Celtic without a central, head-of-operations figure to co-ordinate incoming and outgoing transfers.



    Multiple sources external to Celtic have described their confusion over who they were supposed to contact about and negotiate over transfers. McKay, Desmond, Desmond’s son Ross, Lawwell and the club’s head of scouting operations, Jay Lefevre, all were involved in co-ordinating transfers or club matters to varying extents this summer. Michael Nicholson, the club’s head of legal and now acting CEO, was also involved.



    Sources have spoken of receiving mixed, contradictory messages from different club figures. One described Celtic as being “painfully slow” in some discussions and several mentioned not receiving replies to messages for days or sometimes weeks. When replies did come, they would sometimes be from a different club figure.



    One source described it as “messy, everyone stepping on each other’s toes”. More than one target is said to have been missed out on during this process.



    There are conflicting claims over who or what was ultimately accountable for this summer’s difficulties. One source close to the club says some board members believe McKay was too passive in the transfer market, while an external source believes the lack of a clear hierarchy of authority on transfers was responsible.



    McKay came in wanting autonomy to build his own vision of Celtic and it is believed he felt he was not being given the power to deliver that.



    The board were reluctant to concede significant day-to-day input, with some members also hesitant over McKay’s vision for the club, as well as his acumen to deliver on that vision.



    So, what impact did he have?


    Lasting only 72 days, there was little opportunity for McKay to make a real impact at Celtic but even in that limited time there were seeds of promise.



    It is understood that, coming from a PR and communications background, he was intent on improving the club’s communications and marketing.



    It has been suggested to The Athletic that McKay was involved in the move to start a partnership with Dugout Media, who specialise in behind-the-scenes video content, in February — although he did not officially start as CEO until July.



    A four-minute video of Postecoglou’s training sessions went viral on Celtic Twitter earlier this summer, both because of Postecoglou’s charisma seen in the video but also because it was something new and fresh the club had not produced previously.



    McKay also introduced fan-media conferences with the new manager and players, to build a relationship with Celtic’s popular and prominent fan-media outlets.



    But perhaps McKay’s biggest legacy is an intangible one. His primary ambition was to modernise Celtic, underpinned by a long-term strategic plan of improving their infrastructure and work practices over several years.



    That long-term vision, aspiring to be something more than just trying to win the Scottish Premiership every season, had been absent from Celtic for some time — at least in the public realm — and many fans bought into it.



    Who is Michael Nicholson, and does he have the right skill set for the job?


    Nicholson has been with Celtic in a variety of roles for over eight years. He was initially club secretary and head of legal before his 2019 promotion to director of legal and football affairs.



    He comes from a sports law background, having been a partner at the Glasgow firm Harper Macleod. He also acts as an arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport and is a former council member for the Law Society of Scotland, and graduated from Harvard Business School in the US.



    Nicholson is described by club chairman Ian Bankier as “absolutely a team player” in Celtic’s statement on McKay’s departure. He is well-liked and well-regarded by the rest of the board and is close to Peter Lawwell.



    Very influential at the club, the board have considered Nicholson an executive capable of greater responsibility for several years.



    What do Celtic need from whoever comes next?


    They need to provide stability and then communicate a palatable long-term vision that everyone, from the fans to the boardroom, can get behind.



    If the board disagreed with McKay’s strategic vision for the club, or were not convinced he had the ability to deliver it, they still need to present the supporters with a similarly compelling plan, as many had bought into his and are perhaps not content to settle with the status quo.



    The next CEO will have to facilitate short-term success by providing Postecoglou (and his eventual successors) with the infrastructure to best support him but also, in the long-term, build an inclusive coalition of fans, shareholders and board members who trust in the club’s overarching direction and ambition.



    Is there any indication yet of who might get the job permanently?


    For the moment, no concrete names are being put forward.



    That Nicholson is so highly thought of internally has prompted discussion over whether he might be a viable permanent candidate, while there is the inevitable suggestion of a Lawwell return.



    But those are only rumours for now.



    Where does McKay’s departure leave Celtic and Postecoglou?


    Although Celtic lost two consecutive games before the September international break, there is nevertheless a feeling of forward momentum at the club and they did get back to winning ways on Saturday with a 3-0 home victory over Ross County.



    The vast majority of fans support the new manager and a number of this summer’s signings have already caught the imagination. There is an acceptance that this is going to be a transitional year, that the necessary squad rebuild is incomplete, and that it is unlikely Postecoglou and his new-look team can fulfil their potential until next season.



    But a transitional season needs to ultimately culminate in something. On the pitch, that means domestic silverware and respectable showings and fond memories made in European competition again. McKay’s departure inevitably raises questions about this process and its destination, however.



    Given Postecoglou was so explicitly McKay’s man, the latter’s departure partly casts doubt on his own long-term future at the club, although chairman Bankier closed Friday’s statement by name-checking the new manager: “The board, Ange, our management team and all our staff will continue to work together with the ultimate objective, as always, of delivering success for our supporters.”



    Postecoglou currently has no head of recruitment to identify targets specifically for his style of play, while it has been suggested to The Athletic that Kyogo Furuhashi and Josip Juranovic were the only two of the 12 summer signings he personally identified as players of interest.



    Given McKay was the figure lobbying for a move to a sporting director model, the imminent arrival of one, who could support Postecoglou in the club’s football operations, is now unlikely for the foreseeable future.



    Celtic have also yet to replace head of sports science Jack Nayler, who moved to the Red Bull group in late June. In July, Postecoglou even commented: “I think the areas we need (people in) are particularly in the conditioning area and the sports science area — we need some more people in to help us. It’s going to be a punishing schedule.”



    Postecoglou is currently without a CEO’s explicit backing, heads of department in both recruitment and sport science, or an overarching figurehead overseeing operations in the style of a sporting director, to help him.



    “We’ve come through a really hectic period where I think getting a squad together has been the number one priority,” he said on Saturday. “Now we get an opportunity to organise a structure around it and if I feel changes need to be made we will make those changes.”



    He, and the Celtic support, could benefit from clarity about the club’s direction.



    The Athletic, 12/09/21

  17. These C Suite appointments are not made on a whim ( in the showers for instance ).


    The complexities of the job and the skill set required are measured critically ( or should be) against your prospective Candidate. Robust interview and discussion should then confirm appropriateness, or not of said Candidate/s.


    So, who’s heads should roll from within the amateurish clique that ‘run’ Celtic for getting Dom’s appointment so very wrong ?

  18. My friends in Celtic,



    With a sailing background Dominic Mckay would be very comfortable dealing with ” suits ” on the beach.



    We did our homework before headhunting Dom, and we ensured an extended transition period to ensure it went smoothly.



    I liked what he brought to Scottish Rugby. Personally the Friday night experience at Scotstoun ( Glasgow Warriers ) is enviable. He engaged with supporters.



    What was his “biggish” mistake. ? Possibly treating the fans as valued supporters who could be trusted to behave responsibly if treated respectfully.


    We simply do not know, so naturally speculation will be rife.



    Paul 67, I cannot let the comment, ” At the whim of the police and Scottish government” go unchecked. Later for sure.




  19. Dom Mc Kay has left the club end of ,we move on ,and if their has to be more changes at board then so it be,Personally young dynamic people either men or woman need to be head hunted,Haughey,McDonald,Nicholson,need to take control of the club,ie with Haughey at the helm,just my opinion.

  20. onenightinlisbon on

    So the advert for the next CEO should read



    “Wanted – a lapdog who will do as he/she is told and do nothing to rock our very cushy boat”



    Shambolic is not the word.

  21. In terms of performance he started fixing the mess which he inherited from his predecessor who remained in post since the Rodgers fall out and shower appointment. So any largish mistake is a red herring when you think of Lawwell who crammed a ton of mistakes into the last 2 years and he remained in role.



    Whether he was up to the job I cannot say ; however if he is not the right guy who recruited him. Lawwell & Bankier are in the frame of the hire which is compounded everything they have failed at in the last 2 years. Bankier needs to go as he has zero affinity to the support or cares about the values of the club. Bankier and Lawwell facilitated the new club & SFA cheating. They also misled ( possibly lied to) the Celtic support and shareholders on Res 12.



    Celtic structurally is in a poor state from execs in role, football dept, systems, pr, media ; any plan to transform this neglect is going to meet with resistance from the old guard. We need change agents on the Celtic Board and new leaders DOF, Head of Recruitment, CIO, Head of Medical —- a complete deep revamp with everybody in place based on capability not the easy option. We need a strategy.



    Celtic is meandering along before the next crisis hits it and they will batten down the hatches. At least Michael Kelly and those guys tried. These charlatans just hide.

  22. I think St Stivs is closer to the truth than the rambling Athletic Journalist.



    McKay didn’t impress DD and thats why he’s out.



    Now a different question is why has our club being run at the whim of one man. The Board are no more than PA’s for DD. This is not the best model for Celtic.



    For the good of the club we need a different ownership model. How we get there is difficult to envisage.



    I feel yet again it is about money and that DD would be unhappy at the deals done by McKay. He is not a man to who money doesn’t matter. It his his driving force. How can he be encouraged to sell his shares.? He would not be a willing seller so it needs to be made worth his while financially. The shares should be bought at a Premium. What we dont want is some other billionaire to buy him out.



    I think we want a more egalitarian ownership model and I think more wide spread share ownership is required. I dont know how exactly this can be achieved but with so many interested parties it is stupid that all major decisions are in the hands of one man.



    Its not his club or is it?

  23. As has already been mentioned, our turnover is not exactly in the Amazon or Apple league. There are family run businesses in Scotland making shortbread that are larger companies than Celtic.



    The difference is the company profile and customer base. We don’t (I assume!) eat, sleep, and breath shortbread, but we all tend to think Celtic for a good part of our day. Dom was probably too long in his comfortable role at the rugby to make a seamless transition to the mental world of football in Glasgow.



    It would be most welcome if our majority shareholder or chairman came out from hiding and shared their views with the support. Why we accept the contempt we are treated with is beyond comprehension.