What Would A Celtic Fan Advisory Board Look Like? Here’s One Possible Plan For It.

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Last week, The Celtic Trust published its short report on the meeting between Celtic fan media reps and their own board. I wrote about that meeting, and the one which followed it up, the week before and expressed some of my misgivings.

In the interim, I’ve talked to a lot of people about the idea of a fan advisory board, and a bunch of us have come to the same conclusion; not only would this not need the permission of the club, but it would probably be better if it didn’t have any input from them at all.

It could be set up by the fans, completely separate from the club’s structures, and that could be done very easily. The complicated part is how it would look, who would be on it and how would it be done.

The first thing to decide is who gets to vote on it. Before you decide on the positions or the structure you need to cover that part.

This thing would not run on its own, it would need a source of funds, and to that end some people have suggested an actual membership scheme open to every fan, whether they have season tickets or not.

Not an expensive scheme, but something that would allow a team to run things and maintain a website, book meetings, plan a national assembly, that sort of thing.

I don’t know whether or not that is an idea which would gain wide favour.

If you opened it up to the Celtic support as a whole you would still need a means of determining eligibility; after all, you could not have people from outside our community voting in the damned thing, or even nominating people to sit on it.

So, you would need some system for determining that, and being a season ticket holder limits the potential pool of candidates, the potential electorate and discriminates against those who either can’t afford to go to games or otherwise don’t.

Each candidate for election would need to garner a certain number of member’s votes to get onto the ballot paper. That’s a fair way of doing it. But when you open something up to as wide a support base as possible, you are risking something big; you are risking hardcore elements co-opting the whole body by making sure it gets its people elected.

Fortunately, there is a political body which has given us some hint as to how to accomplish the three principal boxes we need to tick; the first is to make sure that a broad range of views are represented. The second is to make sure that it is truly representative of the support as a whole in its makeup and constitution. And the third is that it has clear ideals and goals and doesn’t get caught up in fringe campaigns or held hostage to a narrow sect.

The body which I had in mind right from the start was the elected body that runs the Labour Party; the national executive. It’s not a perfect system, and the idea of adopting it is not a nod to Labour politics which I want absolutely no part in. But if you were going to design a system that checked those three boxes you can hardly ask for better.

The Labour National Executive is made of 39 elected members.

At the time of writing, they form a pretty decent cross-section of the party as a whole. The National Executive is the rule-making and policy-setting body of the party and in order to fully reflect the broad nature of the party it is comprised of several different constituencies.

It is comprised of the following; a chair, a vice chair, it seats the party leader, it seats the deputy leader, it has a treasurer, it has three members of the shadow front bench and a shadow Scottish front bencher. It has a representative from Wales. It has a BAME member, a disabilities member and a youth member. Now, most of that would not be applicable to us, but I’ll get to that later on in the article. This is just a precis of how the Labour NEC looks.

The rest of the composition of the NEC assures that is a broad church from the party’s various different wings. It has 13 representatives from the trade unions. It has one representative from the socialist societies. It has nine representatives from the constituency Labour parties. It has two representatives from amongst Labour’s elected councillors and finally it has three seats reserved for members of the parliamentary Labour Party.

The national chair, the chief whip and the chair of the PLP sit on the national executive ex officio, in other words, with observer status by no actual voting power.

That’s how Labour’s national executive is organised. Each member of it serves a two-year term. No one “faction” is supposed to have overall control; even now, the NEC doesn’t bow solely to Starmer, and nor did ever dance only to the tune of Jeremy Corbyn.

We could have something very similar.

There will be a lot of ideas thrown around, but let me propose just one possible version of how ours would look, and it takes into account the way the Labour Party works itself. This is just a suggestion, and only my own personal view, formed over a couple of weeks. It’s not to be taken as anything else. But I would hope it’s the basis for a proper discussion on this.

First, let’s talk about the system for elections to it.

Now, because this will be organised along the lines I’m going to suggest there will be some who will say that every “section” should get to pick its own nominees separate from everyone else; I disagree, but I can understand why the CSA would want its own members to choose who represented it and not have anyone else make that decision for them.

Still, I think the most open possible process would help enormously. In the end, an individual member would only be able to run for one post in one section anyway.

In order to stop various people or parties attempting to rig that system there is an electoral method which would be beneficial to consider.

When voting in this system, you vote within the sections; in other words, you elect your trade union reps on a different part of the ballot paper from your CLP reps.

The same would work here, but instead of doing it the way political parties do with some version of one member one vote (where you put an X next to a candidate or to multiple candidates) the fairest electoral method is to use what’s called the single transferable vote system.

We know it from it the Scottish Parliament elections.

In other words, instead of putting an X next to a name you put a number. Number 1 for your first choice, 2 for your second choice and so on and so forth.

If no candidate reaches the quota required to be elected, you redistribute people’s second choices. If that doesn’t work you redistribute the third choices and so on.

That is fair because everyone’s vote matters and everyone’s opinion, in the voting booth, counts. If your first choice doesn’t get elected you don’t lose your influence; your second preferences are considered next and then your third picks and on down the line it goes until the slate is filled.

There’s actually a very nice, very simple, video of it to be found here.

Obviously, I would dispense with the need for any of the “political offices”; there’s no need for the party leader and deputy leader.

I’m against the idea of having chair, vice chair and treasurer as seperate elected representatives on the body itself but not enough against it as to recommend we do away with those posts entirely. Instead, choose them from amongst the elected members.

Of the three, treasurer is, I think, the most important.

Chair and vice chair should be ceremonial positions only, but should rotate so that every section should have someone in those roles role during their tenure.

There should be a “recall” mechanism, for any member whose conduct jeopardises the work of the body as a whole. This should be clearly written in to the constitution.

The makeup of the body itself could work something like this.

The CSC could have eight representatives as by far the largest representative body of the fan base, and one which already holds open meetings and elects it executive.

The Affiliation could have three. Other fan groups could get three. The Irish fans could have three. The North American federation could get three. Australia and the rest of the world could get another three. Three seats should be open to Celtic fans who aren’t members of buses and aren’t part of any “fan organisation.”

That’s twenty-six of the positions on what would be a 39-person panel already.

Of that 26 a minimum of seven should be women, where possible, split between the various groupings. I suspect we’d get a lot more than seven.

In addition, The Trust could get three seats. Disabilities could get three reps. BAME could get three. Fan media could get three. Which leaves one seat left.

And that should go to a prominent member of the Celtic fan community, whether a former player or whatever, to sit and discuss these things like a normal supporter.

If you want to allow the club to have its people there as non-voting observers, then that’s fine and that’s doable, as long as everyone was clear that they were not to hold influence of any kind.

And if the feeling of the room was that they should not participate in certain discussions they could be sent to sit outside by a simple voting majority.

It’s an idea. It’s nothing but an idea, but it’s an attempt to create what would amount to a Congress of Celtic Supporters.

Because it is broad-based it would be inclusive. Because it is elected it would be taken seriously and viewed with legitimacy. And because it would be viewed with legitimacy, when it pronounced on something the club would have to take that seriously.

It should be open. It should be transparent, with minutes of every meeting posted where fans can go and check it out. Every vote that it takes should be recorded except in a handful of circumstances where it would be better, and more credible, if the organisation needed to speak with a single voice, and everyone would be duty bound to support the decision made.

In those circumstances, the recording of the precise voting pattern would disrupt that.

Collective responsibility is something almost every elected body in the world relies on, as a matter of course, and it would be the same here in those circumstances.

In the digital age, not only is it possible for meetings to be held virtually, but almost all of them – and certainly any major ones – could be screened live as well.

Obviously, we’re at the start of a long process here.

All this stuff is still being talked about, it’s still being debated, and that means we’ve got a ways to go before anything concrete emerges from it all. But I think there’s a definite need for a working party to discuss suggestions like this one and others and to come up with a way of building something that works, that lasts and which has a broad appeal.

Other ideas will almost certainly follow. The beauty of this one is that its open, and the decision making body is big enough and diverse enough to make it properly representative.

It is not the preserve of a handful of people, or a tiny clique, and we’d need that if we were going to get the board to listen and hold them properly to account.

And that is the point of this. To act as a counterweight to the decisions that a faceless group of people take in the Celtic Park boardroom.

To give the fans their own forum and a means to speak up and be heard. Nothing like it exists right now, which makes the need for it all the greater.

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  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    With the quality output that you provide on this site James, I would like to see yourself on board for this !

  • Jimmy says:

    A fantastic post James. When you write like this. No other blogger comes close.
    Something needs to be done, If only a high profile fan could lead it. Ordinary fans like myself would get right behind it.

  • SSMPM says:

    Na not for me. Too many groups with preconceived agendas and voting support ie Green Brigade. No thanks.
    If it takes lots of vote backing nominees, it probably means it’s not gonna be your average Celtic fan.
    Many of our principled fans returned STs in response and protest at the board’s inactions and lack of team and manager backing. That’s the kind of man or woman I’d want and as for shareholders that have sat on their hands for so long. Na.
    I’d just want yer average fan and that’s not what your gonna get I’m afraid. HH

    • James Forrest says:

      I get what you’re saying, but in fact it’s specifically designed so no one group has that kind of authority.

  • Brattbakk says:

    If this is set up properly in the beginning it has a much better chance of being long lasting and useful. Get involved James, you’ve got my backing.

  • Auldheid says:

    A lot of thought has gone into that James.

    The next thing is how to make it happen.

    A working group would look at that.

  • DixieD says:

    This sounds like a great idea. Have the Affiliation and the Supporters Association expressed a wish to be part of something like this? If not, I think this will be difficult to set up without their support. I worry that they’ll both want to maintain their perceived strength/influence and won’t want that diluted by being part of a new organisation. Hopefully if they see the benefits in this they’ll put the club before personal benefits. Good luck with this, I sincerely hope it takes off.

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