You cannot watch the Brexit nightmare unfolding on our televisions without realising that politics in this country is going through a dark period, as the Westminster class struggles with what some writers and commentators are calling a “crisis of legitimacy.”
That’s what you get when the institutions which run things are no longer trusted. It is a real shock to many Britons that our political class is venal, corrupt and almost completely useless but this is not really news to anyone who’s been in the political arena.
We have a reactive, not proactive, political class which struggles to think more than a couple of steps at a time.
We can see clearly the results of it whenever we turn on the TV.
Some of us recognise that stuff from elsewhere.
Scottish football fans need no lessons about what a legitimacy crisis looks like; we’ve had one of those since at least 2012. We have seen where certain institutions are, to paraphrase our former chairman John Reid, “not fit for purpose.”
One of them is the SFA. The SPFL is another. To that you can now add UEFA.
There are some who would say that the Celtic board is mired in its own crisis of legitimacy. A lot of our supporters do not believe they accurately reflect the mood and will of the fans and there’s a belief that we haven’t done enough to fight our corner and battle for reform of the game.
I would argue that at the very least we have proved to be bad at coalition building.
As most of you will be well aware, the guys responsible for Resolution 12 have put up a website making public every bit of information they amassed in the course of their campaign. I have reviewed all of it and believe it is what they promised the club; a smoking gun.
Why will the club not act robustly on this stuff?
The club claims that no footballing body is interested in reviewing the case. It is really difficult to see where we can go from here if the club is holding to that line, but there is a threat – implied in a lot of the articles about this already – that the shareholders themselves may try to force their hand or the hand of the SFA by bringing a legal action.
I say go for it. I say do it. Because otherwise we’ll never get answers.
The SFA has a case against the Ibrox operations as a result of the Resolution 12 campaign, but the club currently playing out of that ground succeeded in spooking them by calling into question their ability to properly hear the case. The SFA was told it would need to take what they had to CAS and have them adjudicate; that was over a year ago now, and there has been no sign of life.
Frankly, nobody expects movement there any longer.
It is clear that the SFA has utterly failed at corporate governance as far as our game goes.
Whether it’s because they are unwilling or unable to make these kinds of decisions and hold clubs to account hardly matters. The result is that in certain areas the game here is in total paralysis, and this leaves much undone which clearly needs to be.
The SFA’s failings could fill many a book, and indeed there will be such books in years to come. But they only shoulder so much of the blame; our own club has to take a little responsibility in this area as well and this, I think, is what the Resolution 12 case has fully exposed as much as any maleficence at Ibrox or incompetence or worse at the SFA.
Celtic has simply not done enough. That cannot possibly be denied by a living soul who takes an interest in these matters. Some allege dark motives for our lack of action, but some of them are so ridiculous they don’t stand up to examination.
For openers, it was never in our gift to “prevent” the re-emergence of a club calling itself Rangers. We all know that such a club was always going to crawl out of some gutter somewhere and that as long as it had the keys to Ibrox the SFA would bow down and give them a place in the league system. Celtic could not have done anything to stop that, and nor could we have stopped the corruption the SFA allowed when it endorsed the Survival Lie.
The recorded fact is that Celtic opposed the NewCo being allowed into the SPL on the grounds of sporting integrity. Our club has remained consistent in the view that they were a new club and new clubs start at the bottom. And if you’ll permit me to say this, it was none of our business whether or not the SFA chose to endorse a blatant lie and give that club trophies and titles; it’s not as if those trophies and titles were snatched from our records and added to theirs. The SFA knew what they were doing in accepting that fiction, and they knew that it would have lasting consequences for the game and they did it anyway. Celtic cannot be blamed for that.
Nor, I think, can we be blamed for the scandal of the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, although I cannot believe that we’re content to accept the verdict of it especially considering how it was put together in the first place. Our failure to properly appeal that is ridiculous.
We asked for another inquiry, of course, more than a year ago and this was readily dismissed by some of the clubs and the SFA itself decided not to bother with it. Our silence since then has been deafening. We’ve made a stand on a number of small issues, but larger ones have been left almost entirely alone.
It’s hard to know what, if anything, we stand for.
And that’s part of the problem; it’s a big part of it in fact.
Celtic has never adopted a formal, public, position on Financial Fair Play. Our support for it is assumed because we voluntarily adhere to its tenants. We have never taken a public position on reforms to fit and proper person issues. Our support for those changes is assumed because we don’t want to see clubs around us spiral into crisis, dragging the game down, and us with it. Our opposition to Strict Liability is a matter of public record, and is welcomed by almost all our fans.
So much of what we do happens in secret. So much of what we have done is shrouded in doubt.
One thing is not. One thing, at least, is clear; Celtic could have done more. But where we’ve fallen short is not where some think. We’ve fallen short because our leaders are not as smart or as capable as they think they are.
We have done a bad job selling ourselves and what we believe in.
Put simply; Peter Lawwell and our board have proved incapable of building alliances.
If Celtic lacks friends that is due, in no small part, to our inability to make any.
Why is it, then, that we’ve been utterly unable to get done the things we need to?
It’s because we are bad at the mechanics of it. We are bad at the politics. We have not tried hard enough or worked smart enough to sell our ideas and our vision and our goals to the greater game. When we called for that inquiry we should have put our people – Lawwell in particular – in front of every news outlet in the country and made our case. We should have had other directors and chairman out in support of the plan at once.
We should have dominated the news cycle with it.
We should have gone out there and told the rest of Scottish football what the benefits were of having the game scrubbed clean.
We never did.
Nor have we made the case of FFP or for fit and proper person rules.
We did not put forward any public proposals for changing the way administration events are handled.
If Celtic took a public stand on major issues, and put its own reform proposals into the public domain, we could rally support behind them, or identify those opposed.
It is smart. It is political. And we’ve never bothered to.
As a consequence, we have allowed others to set the agenda.
We have allowed them to control the narrative.
Whether our enemies got together and built alliances of their own is simply irrelevant; it was our job to make sure that we forged links and built coalitions and sold our ideas to the rest of the game. We haven’t done it. We have been unable. That’s why Resolution 12 failed as much as anything; we lack support. And when you consider the importance of what we’re fighting for we cannot simply continue to blame other clubs for not taking our position.
Good leaders, real leaders, can bring others along with them. It’s not good enough to say that clubs are jealous of us or don’t trust us or actively hate us; much of the game is indifferent on these issues and there was room to work with them had we been able.
Frankly, I don’t know what benefits Lawwell’s position on various Scottish football boards has bought us. I don’t know what benefits his position on the European Club Association board has brought us. It seems to me that this is another area where we have failed to build coalitions and get things done to our benefit. The ECA should be the subject of an article in itself; an organisation of various clubs which has somehow allowed itself to become a mouthpiece for a select few.
What in God’s name is the point in being part of a multi-club association if a small group at the very top dominates it completely to the detriment of the rest? For all we’re said to be “influential” on that body, I don’t see any evidence that it’s done us much good.
The thing of it, Lawwell is obviously an excellent administrator.
But he is a crap leader and a lousy politician, and we needed those skills more than a flash guy in a suit.
Those who decried our club when John Reid was chairman would do well to consider that his skill-set is exactly what we needed in 2011 and that his style of leadership would have been a game-changer.
Instead, we’re left drifting along in the prevailing wind. We are a well run club and there is no doubt of that, but we have been astonishingly lax in fighting for the important things in the background. The muscle needed to get changes through can’t be mustered by just one team and nobody wants to follow us.
Is that because the ideas are bad?
No, they would be of immense benefit to the sport.
It’s because our leaders are.
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