All over football, clubs are leery of the idea of fans on the board. There are many reasons why it is generally assumed that this would not be a good idea.
Not all end as spectacularly as the rise and fall of Chris Graham, of course.
He was the Ibrox fan plucked from obscurity and given very brief prominence by his elevation to a seat around the big table, which lasted only as long as it took for some enterprising folks to go trawling through his Twitter feed where a series of atrocious comments were quickly found and highlighted and made the papers.
Offer withdrawn. Oops. Not the smartest thing they’ve ever done.
At other clubs, the fear is more that fans would stick their two bobs worth into things they really didn’t understand that much, like stuff involving finance, stuff involving commercial deals, and that some might even vote for crazy spending.
(Because actual boards at actual clubs would never do that, right?)
The Celtic Trust is not one of those organisations we’d ever have to worry about. We’re not talking, here, about people who would prioritise such things as banning Kris Boyd, revoking Keevins pensioner pass or picking fights with the police and other such militant claptrap. These are serious folks, and they would take their roles seriously.
Still, Celtic has always been resistant to the idea, even now when there are basically two Celtic boards, one of which – the PLC Board – handles all the financial stuff and the commercially sensitive information. Why not have a fan on the other?
Yet our club refuses to entertain the idea and hilariously claims that it has nothing but fans on the board … oh yeah? It wasn’t long ago that we had a chairman who claimed to be and wasn’t. It’s a pretty poor defence. Most of us would choose competence and vision over blind allegiance and a lack of ideas any day of the week.
I’ve written here several times of my concern, and it’s one shared by The Trust, that we could one day find ourselves the targets of a hostile takeover and the club dropped into the hands of people you would not wish to sit next to in the stands.
This fear is real, and you can see the damage that has been done to plenty of clubs in England by very similar scenarios. Even those which are now awash in cash have a Hell of a job getting the blood off their hands. That will never be us.
Or so I tell myself. But in fact, I know it could happen. The club across the city is in graver danger of that I think, but we should never be complacent about this stuff.
The Trust’s latest proposal has found ground right in the middle of where they’ve traditionally sat and where the board currently sits. The idea of a “shadow board”, made up of supporters and other stakeholders. They don’t go into great detail but we can surmise what it is that they have in mind from similar proposals down in England, as well as the powers that are going to be handed to Trusts and other fan organisations by the new regulator.
A shadow board would be there to do what’s known as “advise and consent.” It would have no specific powers of its own, but its support would be necessary in certain critical areas and it is those areas which are of the greatest concern to us.
There are broadly three areas where a shadow board would have the authority to intercede and where their approval would be necessary for ratification purposes.
The first instance would be when a buyer was interested in a certain number of shares, shares of sufficient voting power that this individual would be able to exert some form of controlling influence over the club. The shadow board would have the power to veto such an agreement, perhaps with some sort of authority to sell the shares to fans instead.
The second instance would be when the Celtic board was considering any action which changed the fundamental culture or identity of the club; the colours, the name, the name of the stadium, the commissioning of statues or the removal of them, naming a stand etc. This also includes any scenario which involves abandoning Scottish football or joining a competition outside of UEFA. I think those things are part of our culture and identity.
And third, and finally, the shadow board would be able to veto any action which placed at risk, or in the hands of outsiders, any of the principle assets of Celtic; the stadium, the training ground, Barrowfield and any other part of the key infrastructure. In certain circumstances, there would even be legal documents certifying that the shadow board – and thus the fans – were the de facto owners of those assets in a final guarantee of their security.
The first change would deny anyone the ability to mount a hostile takeover because the shares would never be in the hands of any person who had that goal in mind.
But should that first guardrail fail the second would immediately protect us from harm.
The third is added insurance in case the board was taken over in a manner not foreseen by the first protection … this would, in all likelihood, render any intent by hostile parties moot in the first place as the club’s identity and assets would be beyond their reach.
In the end, you know what? This is a fight we’re going to win.
In the end I think legislation will protect fans in Scotland as it already does in England. The upside of it is obvious. Our club belongs not only to us but to our grandchildren and their grandchildren after us … if we can do anything for Celtic in the here and now, if there is one mighty service we can provide, one momentous thing we can give them, it is to make sure that Celtic is here as something for them to love as much as we do.
This “triple lock” in the hands of a fan-led board would assure forever the future of Celtic as the club we all follow today. If this is what The Trust has in mind the directors have nothing to fear from it, and every reason to give such a scheme their support.
And for we the fans, it’s a no brainer.