Well done today to all the Celtic sites and podcasts which were allowed to put questions to the manager and the players. You all did the blogosphere and Celtic social media proud.
This has been a long time coming, but it is great to see it finally being done.
Of all the changes that this site and others have urged down through the years, in terms of the way the club communicates with the fans, this was the easiest to do but the hardest to actually conceive of the powers that be agreeing to.
There are a couple of reasons why.
First, as fans of the club we are not susceptible to the blandishments and briberies foisted on the media; we are involved because we care and that makes most of us impossible to buy off or be scared off the trail when there’s something to report.
Perhaps, one day, years from now, fan media will become over-familiar with the inner workings and worry about such stuff, but I very much doubt it. The club knows we will be honest and forthright.
They also know we will criticise them when they deserve it and for the rest of the time we will protect them from smears, lies and distortions elsewhere.
The second reason is the real one, and it’s here that all the sites who were allowed today should be most grateful; Celtic’s own media department are fierce guardians of their turf. I understand that, and I understand why.
Back in the sands of time, when blogging was something only a handful of us were involved in, they saw danger inherent in what we do … restricting our access was the only thing they could do to protect their position.
Think of it this way; if every blog had access to the players, the board and the management no-one would read the Celtic View or buy subscriptions for CelticTV.
They understood that there was a risk inherent in that, and they did what any organisation would do.
Over time, as the boundaries have become blurred anyway, as the bloggers have become better at this stuff, as Celtic cyberspace has grown, the nature of the threat has changed.
The Celtic sites frequently talk to ex-players, they have readerships which the club’s own publications can barely attain and a reach and an influence which the club cannot contain any longer.
Nevertheless, it takes courage to do what they’ve done today and accommodate the blogs and podcasts in the way that they have. This is an act of progress. This is an act of strength.
I never believed the dangers were as acute as those inside Parkhead believed.
The club has nothing to fear from the bloggers and it never has.
We will hold people to account, for sure, and we will poke and pry into every corner, but that’s an act of love. None of us has ever pretended to speak for the club itself and nor would we.
On top of that, there isn’t one of us who has the resources that the club’s own media department has and there’s no reason to give us an all-access pass. Even today, the club didn’t initiate a free-for-all, they chose select people, they imposed limits, they allowed only the people they put forward to speak. This doesn’t, on the surface of it, change all that much.
And yet it changes everything, and for the better.
Because this is what the club should have been doing right from the start.
The PR has been disastrous this campaign; imagine the fans could have put questions to people directly and even expressed their concerns, face to face, much sooner?
We might have averted much of the poisonous rancour that has come to dominate the summer. This was a problem of communications … when communications are bad, misunderstandings and mistrust follows like night comes after day.
Not everyone at Celtic Park has been responsible for this; the social media team only puts out what they are told to, CelticTV has continued to work hard putting out content and the club publication still goes out like clockwork.
John Paul Taylor, the SLO, has been superb in dealing directly with the concerns of the fans. His efforts have been absolutely stellar. Not a soul has a bad word to say about that guy, and for good reason.
Likewise, Gerry McCulloch and other members of the media team have put up with a lot in the past few weeks and months … they, too, have been excellent throughout.
The real lack of trust came from those at the top of the house.
But trust is a two-way street, and it only takes one side to make that first effort and today the club has done that, and fair play to them for doing so. This is a welcome moment for us all.
Celtic is changing. That change is most certainly for the better.
As I will write at some point in the next few weeks, we are all upset and angry about how we got here … but something good must always come out of something bad.
Something positive must be found in every negative experience.
Some light must shine through in a dark night.
If this is one of the long-term effects of the collapse of this campaign it will be a welcome one, a fitting one and one of the great lasting legacies of this otherwise wretched season.
I want to offer my sincerest congratulations to all who attended and did the rest of us proud, and to the club itself for extending the offer in the first place.
Much more like it, Celtic.
This is what we want to see from you.
A proffered hand should never be dismissed as a mere stunt; this is an act of hope and mutual respect.
That makes it profound.
That makes it something all at Parkhead should be proud of.
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