The economic miracle which beggars belief


I wasn’t engaged in Celtic politics 20 years ago, never attended the Celts for Change meetings and I wasn’t there to hear ‘The rebels have won!’ in person, but it was clear the Celtic Movement had achieved a remarkable revolution.

The old board’s biggest failing was its lack of strategy.  20 years on Fergus McCann rightly receives the plaudits for putting his money where his mouth was but until that very week he was merely one cog in the machine.  Celts for Change were the advance party, others, such as McCann and John Keane were the generals, playing a critical role in the revolution, while the circa 30,000 fans who came forward to buy season tickets and shares were the foot soldiers who did the heavy lifting.

It cost £620 to participate in the subsequent share issue.  People borrowed money in order to do their bit – in order to help Celtic, while others clubbed together to raise the target amount.  This was an era when credit was even less pervasive as it has been in recent years.  Thousands ‘did without’ to make this happen, and no one knew this more than Fergus.

The Revolution came 20 years after Jock Stein’s world record nine-in-a-row, but the intervening period brought obscurity in Europe, only once did we progress beyond Christmas and that was after overcoming Dundalk and Partizan Tirana.  Six league titles were won.

The 20 years since have produced nine titles, with another in the oven, while former directors of former clubs are talking about the prospect of Celtic winning 10-in-a-row.  We’ve had Seville, and lots of genuinely great achievements in the Champions League.  It has been a fantastic two decades.

The one thing Fergus drove most thoroughly was his vision of the club’s social mission.  Bhoys against Bigotry and Celtic Charity were launched and put squarely in the middle of who we are as a club.  The renamed Celtic Foundation has grown and now engages thousands of fans each year in outstanding feats of generosity.  If we are not ‘just another club’ this is the reason.  If you’re not involved, get involved.

Over the years I’ve heard talk about a monument to Fergus, which would be entirely inappropriate, the man is a low-profile pragmatist, but we’re overlooking the biggest monument in sport.  When he took over as managing director, Celtic Park was a magnificent football arena but fit only for our memories.  We needed a safe, all-seater stadium.  He raised £14m at a share issue, built the biggest football stadium in Britain apart from the decrepit Wembley, and left five years later with the club around £2.5m in debt.

It was an economic miracle which still beggars belief.  I cannot explain how on earth this was achieved.

So Fergus, take a bow, you were years ahead of your time; ruthlessly uncompromising, just when we needed the same, but to those who only wanted to do their bit, without a wish for credit or glory, treat yourself this Pancake Tuesday, you deserve it.  Every goal since is down to you.

Congratulations to Peter Lawwell on his appointment to the executive board of the European Club Association (ECA), alongside Bayern’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Milan’s Umberto Gandini, Ajax’ van der Sar and Ivan Gazidis of Arsenal; a heavy-hitting team.  The appointment reflects not only on Peter Lawwell but on the fans and everyone who makes the club what it is.

Celtic are the club who more than any other in Europe have been disenfranchised by the drift of football success away from meritocracy to TV markets.  Denied access to the TV markets neighbours enjoy, their status will inevitably decline further compared to those in other territories.

Do the ECA care?  They will now.  If football is to continue its 150 year tradition as a meritocratic sport, structural change must come.  Celtic have been promoting this message consistently for years, so the ECA know who they have invited into the room.  Let’s get on with it.

Seville, The Celtic Movement, launches this month.

“The long walk home from the game was memorable for the incredible reaction we got from the locals. They applauded each of us as we walked past their homes in recognition of what took place in their city throughout the day. Things like this don’t happen but that day was different. Seville, like Lisbon, will always remember Celtic.”

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  1. Frank Ryan's Whiskey on

    shameless repost, New article just after posting :-(





    11:14 on


    4 March, 2014



    My take on the ECA is the same as when they issued the ‘same’ club nonsense about Sevco. They are an utter irrelevance. European football is governed by one maxim “profit”. There will be no change, no implementation of the much vaunted FFP, regardless of loobying, as long as the game is primarily run as a business first with sporting integrity and competition being a very distant second in order of priority.



    UEFA are powerless to act against the ‘rich’ clubs. They have the Sword of Damocles hanging over them. Implement FFP and the rich clubs resign from their respective associations and form their own European super league taking all the TV sponsorship with them and leaving UEFA with nothing but a multitude of backwater soon to be penniless leagues. FIFA would be powerless to intervene apart from banning the super league players from participating in a WC. Would the majority care? Not a chance when they are earning obscene amounts of cash playing club football, the world cup is a merely wee bauble. Would this European football ‘Armageddon’ scenario benefit Celtic ? Undoubtedly if we were to receive an invite to participate in the league of greed, which is incidentally the only way I can envisage Celtic being able to ply their trade out with Scotland for the foreseeable future.



    Perhaps PLs energies may be best directed at lobbying UEFA to do something about the SFA (if he hasn’t done so already) or lobbying the Scots government to repeal the offensive behavior bill (again maybe he has done so already)

  2. Good afternoon.


    Right whose first up for an argument?


    What class of a supporter are you then?


    Do you take the moral high ground by not attending Celtic matches or are you a board flunky that goes to matches?


    Deary, deary me.


    There was me thinking I could just like to watch the Celtic play fitba.







  3. Cowiebhoy supporting the Celtic to 3 in a row on

    Auldheid thanks for response



    So what has the board Done about victimisation of their fans inside Celtic Park ?



    Yes they responded for the Amsterdam incident



    And have they apologised to the section of fans blamed for a


    Motherwell ? Or have I missed that ?


    Hail Hail

  4. The subject matter of my linked article could hardly be further removed from the interests of a football blog but I believe there is a link.



    On a day where we celebrate the achievements of a thrawn and single minded wee man with a bunnet and an obsession (plus the actions of all those who supported him and the Celts For Change movement that paved the way), I stumbled across another inspiring story about a small humble man who just kept asking the hardest question of all:- “why do things have to be this way?”



    Please look beyond the subject title and read an inspiring story about how to change the poverty and degradation of this world.



    Mr. Muruganantham

  5. bournesouprecipe on

    Celtic had better be very mindful that whilst the Joe Season Ticket is getting more and more rare every year, that the Club has a public duty to protect the interest of everyone that attends, as a Celtic supporter. I can assure you that the focus is focussed, and I maintain I haven’t seen a boy in blue in Block 404 for years, their eyes are fixed, elsewhere in the stadium.



    There has never been a police presence in the North Stand in general since it was built.



    It’s ironic that on Bunnet day the cynics who said he’d never fill a 60,000 stadium, wonder how Celtic should are address how to keep the top tier populated on an ordinary every day match day.



    Maybe somebody should ask him?

  6. Dontbrattbakkinanger on

    This was the second economic miracle in the Clubs’ history- the first was raising the money in 1892 to build the stadium in ‘the disused brickyard in Janefield St’.

  7. It’s patently obvious the game is broke, there is no ‘romance’ in the game anymore.



    Who (like me) tuned in to see Sunderland beat Man City?


    All around Europe folk reacted with joy when we did the improbable and beat Barca. Neutrals love the fact we got our arses felt by Morton and Aberdeen.


    A return to the old format of European Cup would be a start with access to nations champions only. No seeding, straight knock-out home and away ties.


    Same for the UEFA Cup for nations runners up, we could also have a cup winners cup.


    Old ideas were not always bad.

  8. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Eurochamp67. Types of Celtic supporter ? it is all in your mind fella there are only one type of Celtic supporter but many different personalties as in all walks of life.When I meet a fellow Celtic supporter I never ask what type of Celtic supporter are you ? I just welcome the fact that I have met a fellow Celtic supporter.H.H.

  9. bournesouprecipe on

    As pointed out by DBBIA this morning Munich are also 20 points clear



    Bayern Munich have told more than 5,000 standing season ticket-holders that their tickets will be taken away from them if they do not attend at least eight Bundesliga games per season.



    There are 5,200 standing season tickets at the Allianz Arena.


    The club want to stop fans from attending only the season’s biggest games and leaving their space vacant for the rest of the season.



    Terrace season tickets at the Allianz Arena — which could have its capacity increased to 75,000 in the near future — cost 140 euros, with 1,600 further standing tickets sold on matchdays.

  10. Logical Optimist on

    Eurochamps 67,


    Joe Filippis Haircut beat me to it.


    Class of Celtic supporter ? We are all class.


    “Howya fella and what’s your name” type!



    Good bless all who sail in Glasgow Celtic FC.







  11. Even the head of FoCUS won’t come out and decry the singing of TBOTOB or the ROH as sectarian or illegal, because he can’t; because it’s not.



    Even Celtic shy away from putting a label on songs, they leave the choice to you. But they won’t ever defend you your rights when you are accosted for their buck-passing.



    Instead they will victimise a minority of the support to what end? To whose agenda? Whether you condone the singing of the songs or not you can’t condone the vacuum of leadership and courage.

  12. Great article , Paul and well worth remembering just what Fergus achieved during his tenure, a truly great Celt in all respects and a guy who did not lose the ordinary guy methodology.


    On the topic of PL’s appointment to the ECA, do you think this could possibly be the starting seed of a breakaway Euro League we have all dreamed of????



  13. Cowiebhoy supporting the Celtic to 3 in a row on

    Remember Mclelland of a now defunct club was part of ECA, is he still ? Or removed like his ex club



    Hail Hail

  14. mighty tim supporting wee Oscar on

    HE I know you can’t make it tonight but can you tell me what time the meeting starts.


    Thanks mate again for all your help a real Centre FC man.







  15. bournesouprecipe on




    Fergus did more than that.



    There were people in the queue for shares *like me* without two halfpennies to rub together. McCann set up a loan system from our Cooperative Bank friends, and all you did was sign the dotted line.



    Best £1,240 I ever spent in my life.

  16. He raised £14m at a share issue, built the biggest football stadium in Britain apart from the decrepit Wembley, and left five years later with the club around £2.5m in debt.



    It was an economic miracle which still beggars belief. I cannot explain how on earth this was achieved.





    I agree ..ranks alongside the moon landings. :O)

  17. ArranmoreBhoyLXV11 on




    Remembering Paul Mc Bride QC today..and Fergus..



    Just picking up that Richard Wilson the Sevco Herald Spin doctor is getting a bbc job with Tom English..



    God help us..



    I want my licence fee back..




  18. I seem to recall a Minister, Anglican, not political, I think, going on record recently to thank Celtic FC and its supporters for all the help with their food bank initiative.



    The club funded a coordinator, I think, to run the project and Celtic supporters including the Green Brigade donated an amazing tonnage of food and continue to do so.



    That hardly sounds like the actions of a club intent on disrupting the food collection. I could be wrong but it seems that the club and its board seem to be an easy target for any rumour or accusation that people fancy throwing about.

  19. Everyone has a theory about attendances and why we can’t fill the stadium against St Johnstone or St Mirren or Ross County, often based on whether you’re generally supportive or generally not supportive of Peter Lawwell and the Board.



    There was a view on here a few years ago that the decade or decade and a half following Fergus rebuilding the stadium and filling it with 50,000+ Season Ticket holders was a ‘historical blip’.



    Anybody know if any of the excellent Celtic sites have compiled the attendances over the years?



    Anybody know what the average attendances were during Nine In A Row with the Lions?



    Be fascinating to compare to today’s attendances to see if this is particularly bad or if in fact we’re departing an era that was particularly good.



    Anyway, thank you very much Fergus McCann. Without you who knows what would have happened to this thing called Celtic that we all love.




  20. Joe/logical



    My point exactly.


    Celtic supporters are Celtic supporters.


    We may differ in how we display our support.


    There is no right or wrong way, no better than or less than.






  21. SwanseaBhoy rooting for Fearless Wee Oscar Knox


    12:40 on


    4 March, 2014



    I think somebody did, and as I recall attendances were averaging at around half capacity. Those were official figures though.

  22. Paul67


    Back then I didn’t have 2 pennies spare to rub together


    but I had a lovely mother in law who was a big Celtic fan.


    I borrowed the £620 and got my shares, and a 10% discount card to boot.


    There was a time when we could have doubled our money on them when things were tight, but I did the right thing, and got the wife a job.

  23. Fergus took our club from near oblivion. But he wasn’t content with merely saving the club, he was always looking to the future.



    There are few more important figures in the history of Celtic Football Club that Fergus McCann.

  24. SwanseaBhoy rooting for Fearless Wee Oscar Knox:



    I was at just about every single home game during Celtic’s 9 in a row and straight of the top of my head, before I get the books out, I’d guess the average attendance to be about 29,000.



    Now I’m going to try and see how much the books differ, bearing in mind, back then, clubs didn’t inflate numbers, they disappeared them.

  25. By the way, I listened to the second of the Celtic Underground podcasts with ‘Harry Brady’ speaking to Jock Brown while driving to work today. Both are fascinating listening and I would commend them highly to anyone interested in that era.



    It made me reflect on how susceptible to influence most of us are, whether we like to admit it or not, to influence from the written and broadcast media and I suppose now you’d need to include ‘new’ media too.




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