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NEGANON – The Alternative CEO (May 2014)

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NEGANON 2 is one of the Celtic board’s fiercest critics on CQN. For issue 20 of CQN Magazine, published in May 2014, NEGANON 2 took up our challenge to outline what he would do if he was in charge at the club. When posting on CQN over recent months NEGANON 2 has referred fellow posters to the article he wrote for the mag. We thought we’d get the feature on the new site and it is very interesting looking at his outlined policies for the future of Celtic back in May 2014 and what has transpired in the intervening period…XT0Fj-D_XrygkminN9_VJ6hkCyFXc8IUcxkY_cdD4-Y

THE ALTERNATIVE CEO – by NEGANON 2

Right so the accounts have been published, the AGM done and lots of press and public announcements made. Celtic have never been in better shape we are told. Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond have told us this. In fact, announcing no changes to season ticket prices Peter stated:

“We are very proud of the position Celtic is in. We are in great shape on and off the field and we know we can look ahead to the future and the challenges which face us, with confidence”.

We have money in the bank having been in the CL League Group stages in the last two years and having managed to make a vast profit on player sales. We have won the title 3 years in a row and have no challengers in our line of sight for the foreseeable future.

Writing as the alternative CEO of Celtic is a waste of time is it not?

Everything is wonderful right? WRONG.

It’s season book renewal time and particularly this close season it’s an incredibly important time for the club. In his statement around season book renewals Peter described this season as “…another great season, achieving a hat trick of consecutive league titles and once again participated in the world’s greatest club tournament, the UEFA Champions League”.

Does it feel like it’s been a great season to you? Shouldn’t we be winning the league easily? What happened to the cups? We had a real scare qualifying for the Champion’s League and we had a pretty awful campaign within the Champions’ League group stage. Also what happened to promises we would be stronger after every transfer window? We sold our best players and didn’t replace them with the same quality.

On the surface you can spin a good line on the accounts. But there are some fundamental questions at the heart of the club. What are we about – what is our vision? Are we there to make a profit? If so to what end? Is it to give our shareholders a dividend? What is our ambition on the field – to simply win the league and occasionally qualify for the Champion’s League? Is that it? Whilst understanding some of our commercial constraints is that what our vision is?

I don’t think we actually have a vision to be honest. Peter talks about it but it seems to have gone unarticulated.

A quick risk assessment of the future throws up a very troubling black cloud hanging over the club. A remarkable 43,000 bought season tickets last year – I think off the back of wanting to support the club through the much vaunted Armageddon which the media told us would come. But a large proportion of these supporters are simply not turning up. The season ticket base is the rock around which everything else is planned and it doesn’t take a genius to realise that those who don’t turn up may be unlikely to renew their season books. So the club should be worried if customers aren’t turning up to see the product even when they have already paid!! To be fair they clearly are. Retaining the season book prices is a smart move. But I don’t think it’s enough and I think that there are simple things that can be done to encourage loyalty – more on which later – but let’s look first at why people are not going to games.

The mainstream media in Scotland would of course have you believe that the malaise is simply down to the lack of credible opposition and all will be right with the world once the new Rangers return. Right? WRONG. While it is clear that there is some truth in the lack of competition resulting in a lack of desire by some to turn up I think it’s only a small part of the picture.

My main contention is that Celtic FC has badly treated its supporters. The Celtic website currently claims that one of the reasons you should renew is because “We never take your support for granted”. I think that claim is risible. I think Celtic do take the support for granted – particularly when it really matters. Celtic until recently have been very silent on the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and it seems has been passing details to the Police on their request. The dawn raids of young Celtic supporters and members of the Green Brigade on trumped up charges has been distressing to the individuals and to the Celtic Support as a collective. The club stand accused of aiding and abetting this harassment and of not doing enough to defend the support. This was exacerbated by the incident at Motherwell and the subsequent suspensions of supporters and the GB. None of those supporters was subsequently arrested. It’s undeniably important that Celtic supporters behave and by and large we do. But I believe that Celtic have allowed and participated in unsightly and unnecessary witch hunts and it’s clear that Celtic supporters are being judged on a very different barometer to other supporters. The haste in which supporters were banned following the Motherwell game was particularly distasteful.ZQVn31WEibDmiiJ_sZ7ZIniOoPy4_yzbElBfjPVYX9I,RUbMtlaxFFLMV6gtMTVQb7DAlLn5G2Or5wdi17IhLcI,gbMVQzNinJnNAbpUohBosPoHKckg8pIvbsSPeoTD8iM

I also believe that the banning of the Green Brigade was unnecessary and badly handled. It feels like Celtic have helped the police who famously said that they would “smash the Marxist Green Brigade”. Concerns around banners are understandable but a different approach to managing this (vetting etc.) could be arranged. Celtic have not told us enough of what is going on (this too is a common problem).

We also hear complaint after complaint about the stewarding at the club – something is clearly wrong – but the club don’t do anything about it.

It should of course be acknowledged that the Club have acted in defence of the supporters who were arrested in Amsterdam and that is welcome to see. The evidence here is overwhelmingly in favour of police error – I work in The Netherlands and most Dutch people are of that opinion too.

In addition to this we have the Rangers situation. Celtic stand accused of inaction and, at worse, aiding the cause of the stricken club/entity/whatever. Is this fair? Well a few things stand out when it comes to the Rangers situation. Firstly Celtic allowed the hopelessly compromised Campbell Ogilvie to be re-elected unopposed to the disgust of many. We have also heard from players and from our owner who have declared their desire to see the return of Rangers. All supporting the myth that this is the same club. Now the situation is complex and sterling work is being done by Auldheid and others to support the club in challenging the football authorities. But in my opinion Celtic are supporting the myth and awaiting the ‘return’ of Rangers and the cash bonus it brings. Is Celtic pandering to the bigot pound by doing so? Have they done enough to call out clear sporting advantage gained by EBT’s etc.? We are getting no answers to these questions. The silence is deafening as the Aberdeen fans once told us. Celtic has been a haven for many of us against the sectarianism we experienced in Scotland. What are we to make of Celtic’s continued silence and inaction?

Then we turn back to on field matters and the team. As noted above we have heard claims that we will aim to strengthen the team after every transfer window. Well that never really seems to be borne out by what happens in reality. Just taking the summer transfer window where we sold Hooper and Wanyama – we never replaced either with quality. In particular the striking position at Celtic with the signings of both Balde and Pukki only got worse when Hooper left. That we did it before the Champions League qualifier made it even worse. So in my opinion the club are saying one thing and doing another. We fill the team with as many projects as we can and hope that some of them do well – and we do this not because it’s good to build a team but to allow us to make money from their sale. We are also told that Celtic will invest any money made in the transfer dealings back into the playing staff – well that hasn’t been true for some time. Celtic are not building a team – they are trading for profit. Ergo the performances suffer and we never build on our success. Ergo the supporters do not see the sort of quality football we crave for.

So I believe that a large amount of supporters are staying away and may not renew their season tickets because they feel the club is alienating them either by lack of team building on the park or by either ignoring or supporting criminalisation and victimisation of supporters off it.

The growing disconnect between supporters and the club is a massive issue. It threatens the very heart of the club. Celtic believes providing the Kerrydale Bar or cheap season books for children is the answer but these are focussed solely on bringing in more income for the club. I don’t blame the club for maximising income – it’s the correct way to behave. But for me there are simple things that the club can do to reconnect with the support and unite us in a meaningful way and they would cost very little:

*Build a real vision of our purpose, our approach and how we will remain healthy on and off the pitch. Seek feedback from supporters to get agreement for that vision. Explain openly and honestly the financial realities for supporters to see. The support will not want to jeopardise the club but will unite behind a vision that has ambition for footballing success – not treading water.

*Launch an open and ongoing campaign against the OB act. One statement is not enough – Celtic must protect the supporters from this act and the way in which the police are behaving. Openly criticise the act and its aims.

*Openly discuss the club’s views and concerns on what happened with regards to the Rangers affair. Make the club’s position on new club/old club clear and explain why. If this is about public disorder then say so – be honest with the supporters.

*Deal with erroneously or biased press reports immediately and with the intent to defend the supporters and club – we can no longer put up with the growing media bias. Have a policy with regards to this – leave the media in no doubt of the action we will take.

*Temper the single-minded view of profit, profit, profit – build a team – show some sustainable ambition.

*Create a concrete way to speak to and most importantly listen to supporters – listen to complaints about stewards for example and demonstrably act.

*Allow the Green Brigade back – tell them and us the rules. Then if the Green Brigade act outwith those rules then we will all know.

Celtic has performed well financially but, in my view have forgotten why we are making money in the first place. If we want a vibrant and full Celtic Park they need to reconnect with the supporters. That requires more trust and communication with the support and perhaps more importantly a greater degree of openness and courage in tacking those who would harm Celtic.

 Written by Neganon 2 for CQN Magazine, May 2014 and re-published 5th March 2015.

 
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