Celtic’s Perception Problem Is Now Toxic And That All Flows From One Place.

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If there’s one theme in relation to this club that this site has returned to over and over again in the last couple of years – crucially, since Peter Lawwell returned as chairman – it is that of perception versus reality. This is something you mostly see in politics, but in truth it is common in every part of our lives, mostly without us noticing it.

Have you ever ordered food from a takeaway and it’s turned up and the meal has been absolutely disgusting? We all have, right? If it was only your first time ordering from them, would you ever order from them again? Probably not, right?

But there could be a million reasons why that dish just wasn’t right on that particular evening. It might not even be the fault of the restaurant. But you would form a clear opinion nonetheless and you’d avoid them in the future. If someone told you that the food from there was outstanding and pressed upon you to give them another chance, you might … but probably not. Because it’s human nature to let that first impression guide you.

When Ed Miliband took over the Labour Party, he should have gone on to be Prime Minister. But he never stood a chance. The media set about trying to define him from the first and he didn’t do enough to counter that. He failed to define himself in time. By the time of the 2015 General Election the public thought of him as geeky, metropolitan and vaguely absurd. That impression of him was so baked in, early doors, that he had no chance of shifting it.

That’s perception, and it does not matter what the reality is. I didn’t vote for Miliband because he dismissed a coalition with the SNP, thus telling Scotland we didn’t count and our voices didn’t matter. But he is a good and decent man and instead of his “coalition of chaos” as the Tories called it (even after he ruled out any such thing) we got David Cameron and the Brexit referendum and we all know what peace and prosperity that has led us to, right?

But the public dealt in perception, just as they did when so many millions voted for Johnson because he seemed like someone you could go and have a pint with; forget that he’s a pure elitist who wouldn’t sully himself to spend more than five minutes with ordinary people, and was an all-round scumbag, and had always been that for anyone who cared to look at him properly … people thought he was a straight talker and, madly, put their trust in him.

The reason we keep returning to this subject, and we’re back here again, is that Celtic has had two pretty good victories in recent days, and a large number of our fans don’t recognise them as such. We got a result in the Rodgers disciplinary case and we have secured 2500 tickets for Ibrox.

The SFA wanted to ban Rodgers for the coming derby and a few games beyond that too probably. The Ibrox club didn’t want to give us more than 700 briefs, and had no intention of guaranteeing our fan’s safety. Neither the SFA nor the people running that club of desperados across town have the outcomes they had sought from those two issues … but a lot of our fans still see it as Celtic who have been defeated on both. Why is that?

We definitely do have absolutists in our support and other people who have a wholly unrealistic view of what is possible and what is not. Many of them don’t appear to realise how much they sound like the madder sections of the Ibrox support at times.

Demands that we “destroy” the SFA, demands that we “take them all way” and other such stuff pays no heed to fact or reality. To do what they want would require the kind of evidence that would convince other clubs to support us without reservation or which would stand up in a court of law. Demands that we produce smoking guns which might not even exist are frequent.

A WhatsApp rumour which was widely circulated before the Rodgers hearing gained ground and seemed to be taken as fact by certain people, for reasons that aren’t clear; I’ve lost count of the number of nonsensical stories which have emerged from that alleged source. The one about Rodgers flying to Zurich to quit wasn’t even close to being the maddest of them.

Our club has to operate within the boundaries of what is possible. Do I think we’ve done enough at times? No, absolutely not and there are dozens of articles on this site raking them over the coals for it. But nor do I think that the last week has seen us cravenly surrender. That doesn’t stand up to the slightest examination, not even for a second.

We hired a top sports lawyer for the Rodgers hearing. We could have gone into it with some anonymous local if we were just going to take whatever the SFA handed out. People keep asking me, “If the guy is so great how come Rodgers got banned?” Maybe – and this is just a guess – because Rodgers actually did what he was accused of?

Here’s what I don’t get about those saying we rolled over; they know the SFA, their whole point is based on the SFA being steadfastly anti-Celtic and out to screw us, and they think that’s exactly what they did. But if that’s true, isn’t the sentence pitifully weak when they had the power to make it much more severe? If they are out to get us and we allow that, they didn’t do a very good job of it did they? Celtic rolled over, but Rodgers is in the dugout at Ibrox anyway?

The ticket affair is even more obvious a case of Celtic getting an outcome which the other side certainly did not want to give to us. They cut our allocation to one tenth of what it was. One tenth. We have gotten more than three time what they wanted to give us, and along the way we’ve refused any tickets at all and banned their fans from Celtic Park.

Know how many clubs have banned away fans from their ground in Scottish football since the regulations prohibiting it were introduced after David Murray did it to us? One. Us. In this case. Since those rules were introduced not one club ever violated them, not until we did in response to Ibrox’s behaviour.

You’re going to tell me there’s something more we could have done, some step we didn’t take, some avenue we didn’t pursue? We did everything possible within the rules. When that didn’t work, we actually did something so alien to Celtic that when I heard we were going to do it I was staggered. We took action outside of them. That’s the measure of our resolve. That’s how determined we were not to meekly accept an outcome on Ibrox’s terms.

People still think we should have held out for some absolutist position; 7000 tickets or nothing. Then it would have been nothing, for years and years to come. But as long as they’re not giving us that number, they won’t get it either. Their fans lose out as much as ours do. If they want to continue depriving many thousands of our supporters the chance to watch our side play at their ground, we’ll deprive thousands of theirs the opportunity to come to ours.

Let me repeat; they offered us 700 tickets, in intolerably dangerous conditions. We were so determined not to accept it that we refused the allocation and then banned their fans from coming to Celtic Park. This is about as far from rolling over as it’s possible to get. We even managed to shake the SPFL out of its gutless state long enough to get them involved in helping us get a resolution that the club was willing to accept. We’ve fought every inch of the way and as Rodgers made clear in his presser yesterday, we’re not finished yet.

The whole club is focussed on one objective right now; winning this title. Anything else is an unwelcome distraction, and some of our fans think we should be devoting our attention to waging wars with no end in sight, and no clear strategy for winning. That stuff takes preparation, and a Hell of a lot of politicking, and you need your guns to be loaded.

But you know something? I’m not blaming our fans for not seeing this stuff; I blame the board. Yes, I blame the board. They are responsible for this, because not only do they fail to act at times when they should but even when they do, they do too much of it in private. They fail to communicate clearly what they are doing and what they are involved in.

Too much stuff is kept in-house. The fans don’t see tangible signs of progress because we never know which direction the club is acting in at any given time, and this isn’t limited to how we work behind the scenes on issues involving governance and discipline.

The failure to provide a strategic blueprint stating our objectives and how we intend to get there is glaring. We talk about being “world class” in every department, and yet so much of our club is shoddy and badly managed, even outright amateurish.

But nothing – nothing – has done more to create the perception which has fed into the way a lot of our fans have judged the events of the last few days than Peter Lawwell sitting in the chairman’s seat has. Almost all of this distrust swirls around us from his direction.

He’s seen as fatally compromised by a history of backtracks and grubby compromises, everything from allowing the SFA to con us over the Nimmo Smith result, the failures to act robustly on Resolution 12 and to the assurance he gave fans at one of his last AGM’s about not having ever read the Five Way Agreement, an assertion which if false means he told our shareholders a blatant lie and if true, considering the importance of that document, is one of the grossest abrogation’s of directorial responsibility in the history of our club.

The distrust of Lawwell and the idea that he has sacrificed our club’s best interests at times for whatever reasons he has – and there are as many theories on that as we have points on the board this season – is so widespread that we pretty much need total victory in any circumstance before people will even give us the credit for trying.

Because when people say “our club doesn’t have the guts for this” or “our club isn’t motivated to do that” what they are really saying is that they don’t believe Lawwell does, they don’t believe that he will do anything that he doesn’t believe in, even if it’s plainly in Celtic’s interests. Whether that means he’s complicit in these things or lacks bottle or just can’t be bothered, it doesn’t matter at all. The view people have of him is toxic. Nothing will shift it.

And because of the perception that Lawwell cannot be trusted, Celtic is not trusted, not even by its own supporters, not even when we’re doing well and riding high. Even when we’ve moved heaven and earth to defend and protect ourselves some people simply do not believe it, no matter how much you point out the facts and lay out every step along the way.

That is as clear-cut an example of the power of negative perception that you will ever see, and we did this to ourselves, this club did it to itself the minute the board decided that the baked in views fans have about Lawwell were irrelevant … when in fact, they were fundamental to the way we see the whole operation at Celtic Park. The very act of appointing him was a middle finger salute to every single one of us and all of our concerns … and those chickens have well and truly come home to roost during this campaign in so many, many, many ways.

And as I’ve said before, this will not be resolved whilst he is chairman. Fans have made up their minds about him as completely, and unalterably as voters made their minds up about Ed Miliband and we pay a high price for that as a club.

How much longer we continue to feed that perception, and how much more damage it does, is the question that will need to be confronted, and answered, by Dermot Desmond and others at Parkhead, sooner rather than later, because we can’t afford for it to go on like this.

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  • Michael Rooney says:

    We folded like a pack of cards regarding the ibrox tickets. There is no victory there.

  • Effarr says:

    Without going back to the full allocation Ibrox will still be unsafe. After all, that was the main thrust of the argument, so it will be every bit as dangerous with the 2,500 tickets as with the 700, It only means 1,800 less of them to urinate down on the Celtic support, although if they themselves are happy with that, among them be it. Mind you, if you perceive Celtic to have won some sort of victories recently I suppose that is OK.


    James I think you’re dealing with the Scottish Media reading element of our support here.
    If they can’t get it into their heads that the SMSM is pissing on them while saying it’s dry outside then trying to get them to understand the consequences of perception and the differences between what you want and what is achievable then you’re fighting a losing battle.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      I’ve a good neighbour up the road a wee bit who is a very good lad and a big Celtic Supporter…

      Quite often I meet him in the shop and he will be buying a rag from The Scummy Scottish Football Media and a few times I’ve asked him why and he just says that ‘its something to do’ –

      It’s his hard earned and therefore his right to do what wants with that said hard earned I guess…

      Just like it’s ma right to think ‘Sometimes I wonder, Sometimes I really do’…….

  • Dan says:

    I agree with you that Rodgers did as charged, so why bother with big shot lawyers. There is no way Rodgers would be safe in the Ibrox stand and the SFA knew it. Imagine Brendans interview after the game sharing his experience of being seated among the chosen people. No way he was ever going to be banned, it wasn’t the lawyer who got him off. Pointless exercise taking him other than bluster.

    • Joe McQuaid says:

      Sorry, nonsense Dan. Sometimes you have to put down markers and that is what Celtic did by turning up with a top class team. In terms of allocations for Ibrox, the onus is now on Sevco to provide safe viewing for 2,500 fans – let’s see how they respond (given they wouldn’t guarantee Sutton’s safety whilst doing his job…)

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    So it’s 5% each then next season…

    It’ll be interesting to see how they placate those of their own that are gonna be losing out – but he’ll bloody mend them on that front for sure…

    There are quite a lot of them that would happily go back to ‘as things were’ – I suspect the only reason being is that they are very cocky about winning the title and with the riches that come with that the next few as well and they see a winning party at Parkhead as their holy grail for some reason such is their mentalist mindset…

    Personally speaking I don’t care where Celtic win a title – Just as long as Celtic win it that’ll do for me although if a gun was put to ma head I’d always say win at at Parkhead as I’ve had quite a few title winning parties there over the years and then there is presentation day as well…

    Hopefully the Ghuys/ Ghirls that have taken my place can enjoy both this season !

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