Today, like clockwork, out went the tweets, the first out of Celtic since Tuesday night.
An advertisement. Or, rather, a reminder … a reminder that if you’re on the Home Cup Ticket Scheme your bank account is set to be lighter by £20 so you may have the pleasure, the privilage, of watching us in UEFA’s second tier competition on a Thursday night.
Between the CEO and the manager Celtic has grossly mismanaged our summer, with the consequences clear.
And instead of an apology, or explanation, or any kind of vision being outlined their first communication is the equivalent of a hand in your wallet.
An offer that normally might be easy to refuse … except you can’t, unless you withdraw.
And if you withdraw the club will punish you for that in the event we get to Hampden this season.
This is their level, this is the respect they have for the supporters.
Yesterday, a frequent poster on CQN tweeted the Supporter Liaison Officer John Paul Taylor and asked him who fans are supposed to contact if they have issues with the club. The SLO said that if they pass their concerns to him he will funnel them to the board.
Don’t be bothering that guy overmuch.
Nobody should be flooding the SLO’s inbox with complaints. It’s not that guy’s job to take the flak on behalf of those in the boardroom. Lawwell and his people pay more attention to social media than they let on, and they know how many of the fans are feeling today.
But I try to think of this as a politician would. Here’s a fact; the Prime Minister has a member of staff whose job is to give him a no-holds barred accounting of what’s in the media every single day. At times that must be a truly hellish job.
Am I saying Lawwell has such an employee monitoring social media?
He’d be daft if he didn’t, and it might well be that it’s John Paul himself. Tuesday night’s “press” was ghastly. Wednesday’s was worse. Yesterday topped them both, with only one blog suggesting that we get past this. Few of the replies to that piece were in any mood to do it.
This is as close to unanimity as I’ve ever seen this support. Lennon is bearing the brunt of enormous fury and he is under serious, deadly, pressure already, the sort that many managers do not survive. That’s how bad that defeat was the other night.
Those who are defending him on the grounds that it’s one game had better readjust their thinking because the rest of us understand what they apparently don’t; this was a game of huge consequence against a relatively weak opponent. The stakes were enormous and it should have presented no significant difficulty to navigate.
Yet his tactical decisions were ridiculous. His approach to substitutions was amateurish. These were not just small errors harshly punished, they were gigantic, obvious, mistakes of the sort which just beg to be exploited, and they were.
He didn’t even put things right when the writing was on the wall in 20 foot letters. His failure on the night to do even basic stuff does not simply call into his question his abilities as a manager at that level, but it brings even his professionalism into question.
Cluj are placed 227 on UEFA’s rankings. They scored four times at Celtic Park. The financial effects of that are going to hurt him and the team, although I’ll bet the CEO’s bonus is just fine. The reputational hit we’ll take is far worse.
It is a staggering result with huge implications for everyone at the club.
Lennon is not alone in the hot-seat here though.
Everything about his performance on the night is under scrutiny, yes, and he’s used up all the goodwill that had built up over the summer, but the feelings on the man who hired him are, if possible, even more negative. There is barely a single Celtic supporter who I have spoken to or who’s opinion I have read – and I do read all the blogs, and as many of the comments as I can – who wants him at Parkhead for one more minute.
But does it affect him? Does he care?
Some politicians get awfully animated by what’s in the papers and others don’t.
Some run the country by focus group and change their opinions and policies every time the opinion polls blip – early years Blair was notorious for this – and some simply don’t give a damn, and motor on regardless. Late years Blair was exactly like that.
The calculation Blair was making by then was that he was on his way out of office and there was no more need to fear the electorate. Theresa May knew she was sinking from the moment, on 8 June 2017, when the BBC released the findings of their exit poll and she knew that her “strong and stable” gamble had spectacularly failed. If it seemed at times that she couldn’t give a monkeys how the world saw her or what the public thought, it’s because she didn’t.
I’ll tell you this much; come election time, all politicians fear what’s in those papers. Come election time they are paying attention in full.
The Celtic support does not have elections. Our AGM, which could fulfil that function if the bulk of the shares weren’t in the hands of a small group of men who can block anything they don’t like, should be a place for holding people to account. It isn’t. We have no shareholder group who’s objective is to do what Club 1872’s started out; to acquire the requisite number of shares as to put control back in the hands of the fans.
Of course, we know how that turned out, but I like to think we’re a lot smarter than the average bear, if you’ll pardon the pun. Our fans should have made that commitment years ago. Whilst not convinced that fan ownership is necessarily a desirable objective – I am ready to be convinced though – I know the current way certainly isn’t working.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways that a PLC club’s fans can hold it to account. They can make their voices heard in the stands or they can vote with their feet and make sure those stands are empty, as testament to their anger and frustration.
If our supporters want to hold Peter Lawwell to account here, we need to get this head of steam up to full.
Fans are not going to boycott.
I have never understood the reluctance to do so, because it brought down a previous board and it can certainly rid of us of an interfering, over mighty CEO who should have taken his marbles home a half dozen years ago.
What I should say is that there will be no organised boycott, but then when the upper tiers were closed during Deila’s second season there was no grand sweeping plan behind that, and there didn’t have to be … fans had just had enough.
And that was one of the catalysts for the appointment of Brendan Rodgers.
Celtic’s average attendance has held up strongly, as you might expect during this period of domestic dominance. But I think it’s a soft number. The Home Cup Ticket Scheme – because it creates a two-tier fan-base by offering members preference for Hampden tickets – literally guarantees a captive audience, with captive being the appropriate word. Looking at it now, it’s so obvious that this is a tool to blunt one of the fan’s two key weapons of dissent.
As such, this is the first domino that has to fall.
But for that scheme being in place, the fans would be able to protest Tuesday night’s calamity by staying at home for the AIK game. I reckon it would be played in front of a half empty house if fans weren’t automatically charged and sent tickets for it just so as to stay in contention for Hampden games.
Think of an unofficial boycott as our version of a negative opinion poll. It is a message that this board would understand fully, and which they would find it very hard to ignore.
Look, the Celtic support is not a rabble behaving irrationally. There are a number of very specific grievances here. None are unrealistic or unreasonable. Nobody expects us to behave like the club across the city, with their ten signings this summer in spite of having a fraction of our resources and already running on debt. It is lunacy and nobody is advocating that we follow that all the way to the asylum and then, inevitably, the boneyard.
But this club has no ambition to speak of and those running it have no idea how to do it better or smarter. We still have a bloated squad, much of which is not good enough. Our squad should be smaller, and better, and those in it well compensated.
Our best players are on modest salaries which make the interest of richer clubs harder to resist and turn down … never think that having Callum McGregor on a poor contract is not, in some way, purposely designed to make him think of what he could earn elsewhere.
We may not have pushed Kieran Tierney out the door, but we did not offer him the kind of incentives which may have convinced him to stay. That is not an accident. It is the policy. Having Lawwell as the highest paid person at the club is not mere happenstance. It is quite deliberate.
So the Home Cup Ticket Scheme has to go, and that’s going to require a little bit of work. It’s going to require the fans coming together and that’s harder to do than making cats walk in formation. But there is a mechanism, and it’s called the Celtic Supporters Association.
Every supporters bus has representatives, and all are allowed to propose motions for discussion.
It will only take one to call for an emergency meeting on this issue … and to put it to a vote. If the CSA recommends that its members withdraw, then the chances are that the scheme will collapse. It might not even come to a vote; the CSA executive does have an open line of communication with the club and if they say the membership is on the brink of this I do believe that it would be enough to get the club’s attention in a big way.
If you’re one of those people who doubts that our supporter’s reps have the stomach for a fight like this, well don’t worry about that. Because this is a simple matter of democracy; if enough people vote for it then it’s policy and they will have to enact it whether they want to or not.
Don’t trouble yourself with concerns over their willpower, it’s not a factor here.
Concern yourself only with your own.
Do you have the stomach for a fight? If the Home Cup Ticket Scheme falls, then the fans have the weapon of boycott – organised or not – back in their hands.
And you know what? I wonder much stomach Lawwell has for the fight, and I wonder how much hassle the rest of the board really thinks this guy is worth.
In other words, just the idea that the fans do have such a weapon might negate the need ever to use it.
The biggest obstacle to Celtic’s completion of ten in a row and at the same time our progress in Europe is the club’s own chief executive. He is the single biggest threat to our continued dominance of the game here and any hope we have of making forward strides on the continental side. I’ve got an article in mind which will explore his entire tenure, but I don’t have to write it to convince most people; on this we’re all sort of agreed.
Seventeen years is far too long. It’s time for him to move on, for the good of the club. If he gave the slightest, tiniest, damn about that which he claims to love he’d know this and take the appropriate action. But he either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care.
It’s time he was put on notice in a way he can’t ignore.