Over the last two decades, stories of potential Celtic takeover bids have only ever tended to pop up at various times of trouble and strife, usually as wishful thinking. There has never, to my knowledge, been a concrete attempt at one since Desmond has been the largest shareholder. Without his being willing to sell, it would be a largely self-defeating exercise.
Celtic should never have ended up in the hands of a small group of people; this is the antitheses of what Fergus McCann wanted when he took over the club and most definitely what he wanted to avoid when he sold his shares to the fans.
At the time, a lot of Celtic fans accepted this accumulation of influence not because they thought Desmond was benign but because they didn’t really understand that it was taking place. He did it by stealth. He did it without visibly acquiring a controlling interest of the shares. Would fans have stood up against him if he’d been more open?
The truth is, I very much doubt that they would have.
The concept of our club being endangered by such a move never arose. The very idea that we might suffer the same fate as Rangers did under Murray was not a “live” issue at that time or for years after, and by the time Ibrox did find itself in that state we had already established our bona fides as a club that ran on a self-sustaining basis and was therefore never really in any danger.
Indeed, looking at Celtic and the time in which Desmond has had control you really can’t argue that we’ve done too badly. We are the biggest club in the country. We’ve won the majority of the titles. We didn’t go out of business. We have won four trebles in five years with a fifth in six years on the cards. We are well run and financially sound.
But for all that, there have been mistakes along the way and this club is nowhere near as advanced or sophisticated or respected in football terms as it might have been had the board under Desmond operated any kind of strategy.
Indeed, when we lost the league last season to a financially doped Ibrox side it was only a shock to those who had closed their eyes to what that club was doing and how similar it was to the one at Ibrox before.
This board was asleep at the wheel. It allowed the circumstances which gave Ibrox that opening.
A smarter, more strategic, board would have shut that down.
There is no question, though, that things could be far worse. We didn’t fall into the hands of crooks and charlatans here.
But that risk remains in our future and it is something we all have to be wary of even as talk of a takeover bid is renewed under the UFC brawler Conor McGregor and a consortium whose names remain as elusive as any evidence that this might come to pass.
For the record, I think a lot of people enjoy being at the centre of speculation that never actually goes anywhere and my gut feeling is that this is all we’re talking about here. McGregor is never going to seriously take this anywhere, but if he did we would need guarantees that it wasn’t some vanity project.
And we would need guarantees of more than that.
We’d need to know the other names of the folk in this consortium and what their individual stakes were.
We’d need to lock them in to legally binding agreements about the kind of people they could pass those shares onto at a later date.
We’d need to know what the long term plan was and some idea of how it could be achieved.
In short, the fans would need to be included – indeed, we’d need to be at the centre – of any major discussions which turned our club over to anyone other than the current board.
We might not like these people and everything they do, but we know them and we know that there are things that they just won’t do under any circumstances.
I would be appalled if we found ourselves owned by some faceless organisation or worse … one with a very identifiable face who our history and traditions would be offended and degraded by.
I like to think we would not have tolerated oligarch wealth at Celtic, that the fans would have been in uproar … but I know that a large section of our fan-base would have welcomed it.
That is dangerous to us, because there are vultures out there and some of them are perfectly capable of wearing pleasing masks.
As much as I believe we would have run him out of town, I know there is a section of our fan-base who would have accepted Craig Whyte on the basis that The Record sold him to the Ibrox support, as a local boy made good, with “off the radar wealth” and that section of our fan-base would not have taken kindly to being told that it was all a lie.
I worry about the potential for a takeover of our club somewhere down the line and it’s why although I abhor the idea of Desmond turning his shares over to his son, or Lawwell doing likewise with his, that there are worst outcomes we could face.
No move towards such a thing could take place without the widespread consultation of the fans and very specific guarantees that our future course would not take us down the road of changing hands multiple times until we didn’t know who owned what.
Unlike Ibrox’s fan-base, we saved our club once in all the ways that matter.
It was fan action which brought down the old board and enabled Fergus to take control.
It was fan money which turned his vision into a reality and we are not dependent on equity confetti for our financing because the fans themselves are who keeps the lights on at Celtic Park.
This club belongs to us in a way that they will never be able to claim for theirs … and it must stay that way, as long as we’re all alive, and then it’ll be the job of our children and grandchildren to make sure that the flame still burns.
Watching Chelsea at the moment, the dangers of any other course of action are obvious and they are probably not even as extreme an example as those who you will find lower down in the English leagues, or by looking back at those who ran clubs here in Scotland, and at Ibrox and Gretna in particular.
We must always beware that doesn’t happen to us.