The Celtic shareholders behind Resolution 12 believe that the club CEO Peter Lawwell deliberately misled the last AGM.
Their motion for this year is accompanied by a request that he in no way be involved in taking their issues forward.
In a statement and accompanying documents, published by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, the bitterness at, and complete lack of trust in, the chief executive is laid bare.
Resolution 12 was a request, by our shareholders, that Celtic publicly call for an investigation into the granting of a European License to Rangers in season 2011-12.
The contention is that Rangers’ overdue taxes, and in particular the outstanding bill from the Discounted Options Scheme, otherwise known as the Wee Tax Case, was enough for their licensing application to have been rejected.
They feel that Celtic has never properly acted on the request, although they opened a lengthy dialogue with the fans on the issue, and even told them to go off and find “the smoking gun.” The Requisitioners, as they have become known, have since produced what they believe is compelling evidence in support of their initial request.
Yet they believe that Celtic has failed to act in a decisive manner.
The granting of the UEFA license to Rangers that year denied Celtic the opportunity to compete for the vast sums available in the Champions League that year, which had a material impact on our share price and the shareholder dividends.
Some have likened this to the shareholders of a company finding out that a rival had been awarded a big contract on the back of a bribe or other inducement. Once the contract is signed the share price of the rival company went up, and the share price of theirs went down.
The question many have spent the last few years asking is why Celtic did not act in defence of the football operation and the share price?
Were the correct procedures followed? Was the decision merited? If not, how did the license get granted? Did Rangers lie on their application? Or did the SFA bend the rules, knowing that to refuse the license would have had a material impact on the survivability of the club? Was there corruption here, or simply gross negligence?
Rangers did play in Europe, but an early knockout from the Champions League was followed by another reversal in the Europa League; they missed out on Group Stage football and entered the administration process on 12 February 2012.
In the absence of movement on Resolution 12, the Requisitioners have shifted their focus from the SFA and UEFA to Celtic itself, which is why the CEO suddenly finds himself the target of scrutiny.
The area the Requisitioners are focussed on is the Five Way Agreement, the document that gave the current Ibrox club Rangers’ titles and which effectively underpins the theory that Rangers survived liquidation and were subsequently relegated by a vote of the clubs.
The Five Way Agreement also had a number of side-contracts one of which guaranteed that Rangers’ extensive use of EBT’s would not result in titles being stripped, which effectively neutered the Lord Nimmo Smith Inquiry into that affair before it began.
During the Big Tax Case’s final walk through the courts, a number of individuals connected with Rangers effectively confirmed the Requisitioners case in their testimony. The SFA was forced, because of the public nature of this disclosure, to finally confront this matter.
The SFA opened a case against the Ibrox club, and the directors there challenged the case and insisted that the SFA did not have the jurisdiction to hear it. They requested that this legal question be resolved at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The current Ibrox club is, in effect, hiding behind the Five Way Agreement, and claiming that one of the provisions of that document gives them complete immunity from anything that Craig Whyte’s board at Rangers did at the time.
They contended that the Court of Arbitration for Sport would have to rule on that matter before the case against them was heard, and for a while it looked as if the SFA would pass this matter forward and have the issue ruled on one way or another, but then, last year, on the day the SFA and the SPFL formally declared Celtic nine-in-a-row champions, the governing bodies announced that the matter would not be passed to CAS and they considered the matter closed.
Celtic agreed, and the whole issue seemed to have been put to bed. It was at this point that the Requisitioners turned their attention to Celtic.
The 2019 Celtic AGM becomes significant now, because at that AGM the directors were asked, quite explicitly, if they had seen the Five Way Agreement or if any members of our board signed off on it in their capacity as SPL and SFA executive office bearers.
When the question was put to him, Celtic’s CEO Peter Lawwell issued an explicit denial to each of the points raised. The Requisitioners believe that denial to have been false.
A Resolution 12 update, published today by Irish based journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, explains this year’s motion. Accompanying this statement are links to two letters, a representative sample from dozens, which have been sent to the club by shareholders in which their anger and distrust of Peter Lawwell is expressly outlined. A document which has been made available to their ongoing campaign appears to directly contradict the club’s official position.
The document is an email sent to two of our directors, one of whom was Lawwell himself, on 26 July 2012, from Neil Doncaster, the chief executive of the SFA, who enclosed the Five Way Agreement and provided an opportunity for our board to look it over and offer their thoughts. The email also indicates that without a response from the club, our acquiescence would be assumed and the draft would be submitted to the signatories for their final approval.
Celtic’s denial seems incredible; as the Requisitoners have pointed out, either Lawwell lied or the directors of Celtic were given an opportunity to scrutinise the Five Way Agreement and make suggestions and perhaps even voice their opposition … and turned it down.
On the one hand, you have the CEO lying to the shareholders about having read the document.
On the other you have what would amout to a staggering failure of corporate responsibility and governance.
Neither would be survivable for a CEO in another industry.
It is certainly clear that his blanket denial did not accurately reflect matters; he recieved the email from Doncaster and the Agreement was available to the club.
Over 50 shareholders have reportedly written to Celtic prior to this year’s AGM, echoing the stance that the Requisitioners have taken, and endorsing five key questions, the first of which asks that Peter Lawwell play no further part in the discussions between the fans and the club on these issues and that he should be excluded from any role in moving it forward.
Incredibly, the anger at Lawwell is so overwhelming that the initial wording of the Requisitioners AGM motion was dismissed by the club on the grounds that it was “defamatory.” This suggestion has only provoked further anger from the Requisitioners, who have pointed out that their fundamental charge against him – that he lied at the last AGM – has been proved by the existence of the Doncaster email. It is clear that there is no trust left between Lawwell and those who have been involved in campaigning on this matter for the last few years.
This charge could not have come at a worse time for Celtic’s embattled CEO, who faces questions and anger on multiple fronts as a result of the crisis engulfing the manager Neil Lennon. Not only does the board’s continuing support for him provoke the ire of the fans but it has focussed attention back to the manner in which Lennon’s appointment was confirmed on the day of the 2019 Scottish Cup Final, and in particular the chief executive’s declaration that he had failed even to consider the CV’s of alternative candidates.
In addition, the club currently are currently trailing in the SPL to a club that has spent tens of millions of pounds that it didn’t generate through income in a manner not dissimilar to what was going on at Ibrox prior to 2012.
The charge against him there is that Peter Lawwell’s pre-eminent position in Scottish football has resulted in not one major change in club licensing, refereeing reform or the implementation of domestic financial fair play regulations, the absence of which places clubs, like Celtic, which behave properly at a competitive disadvantage.
The Celtic AGM is in a matter of days, and Lawwell’s standing with the supporters is already lower than it has ever been. Today’s revelations will not do much to improve them. Indeed, this may just be the final blow which guarantees his departure along with the manager’s.