Two Celtic supporter’s groups, the Trust and the Association, held meetings with the club this past week.
I will do a fuller piece on those meetings later on, having seen minutes from them both in the last few hours.
What I want to cover here is something the Trust has said in the published version of theirs; Peter Lawwell addressed allegations that Celtic were briefing tame journalists against the fans and that someone in a senior position at the club had called our fans “entitled.”
He flatly denied that either of these things were the case.
This makes me think of the night of the AEK Athens game at Celtic Park, where Chris McLaughlin told BBC listeners that a senior figure at Celtic had expressed the club’s disgust to him about Brendan Rodgers’ conduct in the pre-match press conference the day before.
I was sitting listening to that and I knew we were in a lot of trouble.
I did a piece on it, and said that Celtic was in a state of turmoil with the manager slagging the board and the board responding by briefing against the manager.
The response that article got was almost overwhelmingly negative; the question I was asked over and over again was “Are we believing the BBC now?”
I knew he was telling the truth that night, in part because it was such a momentous thing to be alleging and also because the media isn’t as bad as people sometimes make out.
These guys have a job to do and when they do it, as the BBC did that night, we ought to be glad for it even when the news isn’t something we particularly want to hear.
The allegations that senior figures at Celtic had told the press that the club was going to dig in its heels over Lennon to spite the protestors and that someone at the club had called the fans “entitled” are pretty serious allegations on that level.
Not only did the club endure an avalanche of negative publicity over those reported briefings, but fan fury reached heights it hadn’t seen in ages. The newspapers who printed those stories, and aired those reputed remarks, were in no doubt as to the seriousness of those allegations, and it quickly became clear that Celtic was in no doubt either.
The blogs, including this one, which have used those allegations as a stick to beat Lawwell and Desmond with were perfectly entitled to do that. Because it seemed obvious, as it did that night with McLaughlin, that this was too serious an allegation to have been manufactured by the press. I didn’t have the slightest doubt that those things had been said.
Peter Lawwell stands accused by a group of Celtic shareholders of lying to the club’s AGM in 2019. That’s a serious allegation in itself. They believe they have conclusive evidence which proves it. The question related to the Five Way Agreement, and Lawwell’s denial that the club had seen it. The Requisitioners know that Lawwell and another director were emailed copies of it, because they’ve seen that correspondence for themselves.
So trust in the CEO is not exactly at a premium at the moment; still, if he denies the club said those things this past month, then he’s making a pretty big counter-allegation against the press.
Thinking back to what I wrote about McLaughlin’s comments on that Champions League night, and what I told people who asked me if I was really putting my trust in him, I would be more than a little bit surprised if those reports were exaggerated far less confected … and I’d be stunned if the “entitled” comment was the invention of some enterprising hack.
There is one thing that the club could do to convince those of us who are feeling a bit sceptical about that claim, and I don’t know, to be honest, why, if Lawwell’s playing it straight, that we haven’t already done it. We ought to ban the media outlets which carried that story.
Because let’s be honest, if they’ve invented that then they’ve caused our board a lot of grief on top of that which they were already due, and in doing so the media outlets have done an immense amount of damage to Celtic’s relationship with the fans.
I would have thought that was something the club would have treated with the utmost seriousness. I would have thought there would be some payback for that, starting with the journalists whose names were on that story and extending to the papers they work for.
Only one of two thing happened here, there is no possibility of this being some misunderstanding or miscommunication between the titles which published that and the club itself. Either those words were used and the club is now frantically back-peddling on them, and lying in the process, or the outlets which made that claim are, themselves, telling lies.
It’s a serious situation either way, and if the club is in the right then I would expect them to be robust in defending itself. Because you cannot just let media outlets get away with spreading untruths like this, if indeed that’s what’s happened here.
Smaller outlets are currently furious at the club for restricting their access to press conferences; as they have done nothing wrong they should be seething at any scenario where outlets which have are still being shown the red carpet.
And on top of that, so should we.