Earlier in the month I posted a piece about what desperate clubs do and how, if Ibrox’s board felt unloved enough that they might sell to the Americans. That article prompted a long of discussion between myself and some other people by email and text. The question they were asking is “how susceptible is Celtic to a foreign takeover, and should we be worried?”
I would love to say that the answer to that question is no, but in fact this concerns a lot of far more knowledgeable people than me.
David Lowe, the prominent Trust member, has raised this issue a number of times in the past, and he remains worried that having such a large block on shares in the hands of one man – Dermot Desmond – and another in the hands of Lindsell Train, who are pretty much faceless, could create problems later on.
The rest of the Celtic shareholding is pretty scattered; you would think that there would be some warning signs if someone was trying to acquire a significant block of it without going through either of those two parties, and that would be right.
But as long as such a large amount of our shares in the hands of one man, that is a potential source of trouble. Even if, as Desmond claims, he never intends to sell.
I’ve written before on this site that in spite of our concerns over Desmond there are far worse people, far worse types, that could in charge of Celtic. And whilst nobody can defend turning this club into a family dynasty, that also offers a protection of sorts against the kind of people who might otherwise get their paws on the place.
The same dynamics I talked about which could entice a buyer to come for the Ibrox club could just as easily factor into a decision to come for Celtic. A loyal fan-base which could be relied upon to attend in sufficient numbers as to keep on the lights. A major asset without which the club itself could not function. And we have two separate training facilities which, themselves, could be hived off and sold by an unscrupulous board who were in and out for the profit.
Celtic Park is the real prize, of course, and a sale and lease-back scheme along the same lines as I’ve outlined for the club across town is a deadly possibility in any scenario where foreign owners or hedge funds got their claws into us.
Desmond claims that he wants to pass his shares on to his son, who is almost a de-facto board member anyway as he attends the AGM in daddy’s place. As infuriating as it is to think that this is how our future is to be decided, I would certainly not support Desmond throwing the shares into the air like confetti for anyone to pick up.
At some stage those shares are going to have to come back to where they belong; the supporters. The people who will always put the club first. It’s only when the fans are fully in control of Celtic’s destiny that this club of ours will be completely safe.