You wouldn’t have to hire a Public Relations or Market Research company to discover that Celtic is very much a divided club today- the relationship between fans and management has rarely been more troubled. Customer satisfaction and engagement could hardly be lower.
Sunday’s silence during the dismal 1-1 draw with Ross County told it’s own story. It didn’t tie in with the excitement that you’d expect around a club going for five-in-a-row. It was more than the hang over from an ‘Old Firm’ cup defeat.
You don’t need to look too far across social media to read about ‘dis-satisfaction’. There are numerous tales of frustration and anger as fans of 20/30/40 years standing articulate their reasons for not re-newing their season tickets.
Sadly the Motherwell match on May 15 looks like being a highly emotional occasion as many fans say a reluctant farewell to a tradition that has been the one constant throughout their life.
Worrying there are many reasons being given for that decision. In general they fall into three categories:
a) The boredom and lack of entertainment from the team over the last two seasons.
b) Supporters feeling that the directors are out of touch with their feelings on various issues.
c) The silent acceptance and apparent zeal for the return of Rangers, the blue pound.
First of all Celtic are a football club, supporters want to watch good successful football. They want to look forward to going to the match, they want players they can identify with, players that entertain and bring success, players that the next generation want to hear about and see. There are only two players that fall into that category, when the manager admits that there has been no improvement in the last six months it tells it’s own story.
Some may feel that it’s too late to reconnect with disillusioned supporters, that may be true in some cases but football fans are generally a forgiving lot, a few changes could achieve a lot of goodwill and bring the supporters back online. Below are five changes that could transform the outlook around Celtic.
a) Recruit a manager that fans can relate to and trust to bring success.
b) Support Resolution 12 and call for a full enquiry into the licensing issues of 2011
c) Connect meaningfully with supporters
d) Appoint two directors that supporters can relate to
e) Stand up and challenge every area of football governance that the club disagrees with
We are well into the 21st century, the attitudes of the past are long gone, just because things have always been done in a certain way is no justification for continuing.
First and foremost Celtic are a football club, a large number of supporters simply want to turn up for the match, enjoy themselves, bask in the aftermath and look forward to the next game.
From the first matches of the Ronny Deila reign that presumption has been under threat. Both matches against Legia Warsaw were painful to watch, the reprieve against Maribor brought further concerns.
While Deila talked a good game concentrating on development, pace, fitness and other buzzwords the matchday evidence was at odds with the message. Few matches this season have been entertaining the list of complaints and concerns are too numerous to mention.
In any other business Resolution 12 would be ceased upon. A group of shareholders explored their concerns about an area of governance and found there was a black and white case supporting their gut instinct.
After taking those concerns to the club they were initially dismissed, after proving their case the follow up from the club could be described as lukewarm at best.
In short Celtic should have been nominated for the 2011/12 Champions League qualifiers because Rangers (IL) had an overdue tax bill at 30 June 2011. It wasn’t under discussion or being negotiated, it was overdue. The club from Ibrox had succeeded on the park while disregarding their social taxes. The bill dated back to illegal payments made to players starting in 2000, Tore Andre Flo and Ronald de Boer picked up honours while Celtic, and every other club, paid their due to Queen and country.
The work put in by those behind Resolution 12 has been incredible, the patience and perseverance they have shown has been remarkable. Had the same degree of diligence been shown by the club income in 2011/12 could have been increased by 30%.
John Paul Taylor does an admirable job but there is only so much than a nominal Supporters Liaison Officer can achieve. The job title is part of a UEFA remit but at Celtic needs to mean much much more.
Setting up a supporters department within the club should become a priority to deal with anything and everything that applies to supporters.
Dismissing viewpoints is very dangerous. Having regular public meetings where key figures are kept in touch with rank and file views would prevent a massive chasm developing between those that run the club and supporters.
With all respect to Tom Allison, Eric Riley and Lord Livingston they appear to have little connection with supporters. All three may excel in their own particular areas but as Celtic directors their visibility is minimal.
No one wants to see media tarts as directors but Allison, Riley and Livingston could be in among the fans at Tynecastle on Saturday and not be recognised. When did they last travel on a supporters bus or go to a Player-of-the-Year event?
As Resolution 12 has shown there are many talented people among the rank and file shareholders. People out of the loop in terms of corporate networking would perfectly compliment those currently on the board with books full of high flying contacts.
Finally the elephant in the room that is about to charge onto the scene from August. Is the club from Ibrox the club that went into liquidation in 2012, a process that continues to this day or is it a new club? Simple really, there is no middle ground.
After four years of online debate a throw away comment about Rory Bremner at an AGM really isn’t enough.
There is a massive list of areas of concern on this matter but the continuation myth needs tackled head on if Celtic are to retain any credibility with a significant number of supporters.
After Sevco Scotland were granted conditional membership of the SFA in 2012 the football authorities have been at work to merge them in with the club currently being liquidated.
Quietly transferring the league titles and cup wins to the current club has gone unchallenged by the same clubs that lost out on trophies when Rangers, headed up by Andrew Dickson, refused to disclose to the SPL and SFA full details of payments made to players, coaches, directors and backroom staff. The tax implications are another separate matter.
The silent acceptance of the continuity myth has gone too far.
A simple statement on the Celtic website, followed up by other clubs could yet save the day.
While a statement on the new Rangers is bound to fan the flames of mainstream media it won’t be challenged by anyone at Ibrox or Hampden.
A line in the sand will finally be established. As the last four seasons have proved every club in Scotland has a stand alone policy, there is no dependency on the mystical blue pound.
Celtic’s drop in income has been caused by poor choices in the dug out and on the football park. A £20m windfall awaits if the club can find their way past the champions of Slovenia and Sweden. It’s as simple as that.
It may be too late for some but a shift in attitude from the boardroom would do much more for Celtic than any gushy advertising campaign. Stand up for the club, reach out to the support and thousands will rally to the cause as they did with Fergus McCann.
Throw in a manager that understands the club and quickly things can be tickety-boo.
Failure to recognise the concerns outlined above will see the club race into a very dark place, by August it may be too late to retrieve.