Celtic’s Relationship With Fan Media Has Become One Of Our Club’s Great Strengths.

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Here’s a habit that I want to get out of quickly; giving credit and praise to those who run our club at the executive level!

But I’ll be honest, there are some things that they do which remain impressive and one of them is the access they are granting to fan media.

On Sunday, waited with a handful of others, at the side-lines at Celtic Park for Ange to come out and do his post-match interview.

Today I got a chance to ask him a couple of questions at the pre-match interview for tomorrow night.

This is the club’s new arrangement with the fan media, and it’s working well and it’s built on good foundations.

This process has been evolving for many months now to where it is today.

Fan media has had a troubled journey, but since Celtic definitively decided to do this towards the end of last season, partially, I think, because either Peter Lawwell or Dominic McKay pushed the project forward, the club has not pulled back from advancing it although neither man is still in the building.

Here’s what else; the club has not pushed back from it, nor changed its trajectory, simply because some of the blogs, like this one, have staked themselves out on being on the opposite side of those in the boardroom.

Indeed, some of us have vowed to do everything we can to assure that some of those currently at Celtic aren’t there in the not-too-distant future.

Consider too that the guy you’d think would be one of the point-men for this project – Michael Nicholson, the current acting CEO – is the object of more than a little of the criticism.

But still this project rumbles on.

Still the club sticks to its plan and keeps its word.

The club not only accepts that some of us are critics, but understands it and respects us for it.

I don’t think that’s a mistaken point of view.

The club gets why we do this. The club understands that we care about Celtic and the club will not act spitefully or punitively against us simply because we choose to express that emotion in a way they don’t agree with.

And this is what makes Celtic truly different from the club at Ibrox.

It has become one of our greatest strengths.

We don’t ban the journalists who actively work against us.

We don’t even ban or restrict access to the handful who openly despise us. There is no way it’s going to restrict access to its friends and allies and supporters and those of us who work, day in day out, to fight against those self-same forces.

Celtic is not afraid of criticism, either from within or from without.

We have people at this club, at every level, who are open-minded and receptive to dissenting views and willing to accept that we have to always strive to be better and do better.

And part of this is giving fan media the platform to get involved.

To talk with the manager. To talk with the players. To put questions to the club directly, even if – as I can attest from personal experience – those questions don’t always get answered.

(Although I have to admit that whenever I’ve emailed John Paul Taylor he has answered, and even gone to speak with others inside the club for answers when he hasn’t been able to provide them himself. I commend his work on our behalf to everyone, whether you’re involved with the fan media or not. This guy is one of the finest supporter liaison officers in this country and that is one Hell of a job when you consider the size of this club.)

This club has afforded us numerous opportunities now to talk with those inside Celtic.

It provides fan media with a number of tools and resources, not all of which we use but which are all appreciated just the same, as is every interview and bit of access which is open to us.

And throughout the last few months, as the club’s engagement with the fans has continued to develop, one thing keeps hitting me over and over again; I’ve basically been given, for free, what Ibrox charges its fan organisations £25,000 a time to be able to do.

To me, that’s quite an indictment of their club and its relationship with its fan base.

They really do see their supporters as nothing but cash cows.

Their fan media is not in the least bit independent of the club itself but drawn into it through various means.

Even the self-important title they’ve given themselves “official club partners” is largely a deception; they pay for the privilege.

So the club doesn’t seem them as partners at all.

The club controls their output because it still controls all the access points.

If Celtic asked any of our fan media organisations for that kind of money we’d all tell them to bolt, write it up as a scandal and do what we’ve always done; covered the club from outside it.

None of us pretends to be an “official club partner” because we’re not.

The club is in charge. The club could revoke our access any time it liked, and Ibrox can revoke its access any time it likes too, without refunding those mugs one thin dime.

Yet in the way that really matters we are far closer to the club, and a far greater part of the club, than their fan media is part of the one they follow.

When you have to pay for a seat at the table you are not respected for what you do.

When you have to leave your independence at the door – which every organisation which wrote one of those cheques had to do, whether part of the fan media or the mainstream press – you are no more than an extension of the club’s PR arm, doing spin on their behalf instead of directing events … and that’s what the real difference is.

Celtic genuinely does have us on the inside.

Because the club listens to us and pays us respect instead of pushing us onto the side-lines or worse; demanding fealty in exchange for access. And that is the worst of all worlds, of course.

This relationship is a good and healthy one.

The club accepts our independence whilst still giving a place at the table.

That is a strong position to be in, and there is a certain fearlessness in deciding to do that and sticking to your guns.

In the aftermath of the first fan presser, most of the mainstream editorials were scathing about the club for having agreed to it. A lot of hacks confidently predicted that the one time would be the last time, and they were dead, dead wrong.

I have the feeling that this is a relationship being built to last, and when you consider that it’s based on us all wanting the same thing why wouldn’t it?

And how do we know we all want the same thing?

Because it’s not a transactional agreement.

We don’t have to leave our conscience or independence at the door … and they aren’t charging us £25,000 for getting through it.

The club is playing this one straight.

Fair play to them for it.

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    But of a whitewash there James.
    The real issue is will they answer the meaningful questions?
    Will they answer questions on Res 11/12?
    Will they answer questions on the so called ‘governance of the game’ under the SFA?
    Will they answer questions about the lack of protection for our players on the park?
    Will they answer questions about the refereeing standards and the ‘honest mistakes?
    Will they answer questions about the agenda of the SMSM against our Club?

    No offence James, but their response to these issues will be the real measure of the Board’s commitment to genuine engagement. All else is window dressing and box-ticking.

  • REBELLIOUS says:

    Hear, hear, credit where it’s due.
    I hope this becomes the norm, I think fans and clubs should definitely be more involved and this shows that done the right way it can only be a good thing, ie. mutually beneficial.

  • Joseph Mcaleer says:

    James, Do “they” the mainstream press really matter anymore ,our own media Podcasts, Blogs are more and more relevant now to the fans ,I think the Celtic board are getting this idea bigstyle.

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