Celtic Fans Should Reject Any Club “Membership Scheme” On Ibrox’s Grubby Model.

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There are times when I put up a piece and it bombs.

Like completely. It’s an occupational hazard.

Sometimes I pick a subject which nobody else is interested in. Sometimes it’s put up at the wrong time. And sometimes I get the headline so completely wrong that people just glance at it and go “sorry, not for me.” Which one of those did I do last night?

I think it was all of them to one degree or another. My article on the fan survey crashed and burned because it was a boring subject, it was posted during a Euros game when the numbers are always down and I botched the headline. Guilty as charged.

But there were two sections of that article, and two sections of the fan survey itself, where I did have something that I wanted to say and I didn’t do it very well in the piece anyway. This is the first of them. I’ll get to the second one later on.

There was segment in the article on whether fans would support the idea of a club membership scheme. I answered emphatically with a no, and said so last night in the piece. But it’s a complex subject and one that definitely deserved a more detailed examination. So let me attempt now to explain why I’m opposed to it … and what could change my mind.

The club survey, by the way, didn’t ask us to explain some of our answers. If they had I would have pretty much said what I’m just about to say here.

There are basically two types of club membership scheme, and both of them have the same problem but one of them, at least, has an answer for those of us who think so. In that case, it’s not a deal breaker. In the first instance, it most certainly is.

The problem is this; a membership scheme creates a two-tier fanbase, and we have enough of that already with that section of the support that thinks if you’re not at every match every week that you’re less of a fan than they are. Membership schemes of both sorts exacerbate an already existing issue and make it far, far worse.

The truly terrible model is the one across the city; MyGers.

I’ve written about that subject at length and it’s no secret that I consider it an absolute con.

The club uses it to fleece supporters in a way that is absolutely abhorrent. It awards points for every penny you spend on club merchandise, and tickets and stuff. The thing is, in order to justify its own existence those points have to mean something, and they do. It places those who can afford to spend big at the front of the queue for special offers and match tickets for games. It is an undisguised scam which seeks to lock its members in tight.

In order to maintain your place, you have to keep on spending, year on year, because to leave the scheme means losing all the points you accumulated. Even if you stay, most people won’t be able to keep up with those can just constantly add to their tally.

The whole system is built around pressuring people to go that little bit further for fear of missing out. In such a scheme the “haves” can have it all … and if you’re a “have not” hard lines.

If Celtic proposed initiating such a scheme I would be disgusted. Don’t modern clubs leech enough cold, hard cash from their fans as it is? And yes, I can well anticipate the spin. It would be a “loyalty program” for those who already spend money, not a shady means of incentivising folk to spend more.

Rubbish. That’s exactly what it would be.

Needless to say, I personally would not participate in any such blatant grab for money. I would oppose its implementation. I would lobby fans not to fall down the rabbit hole of signing up for something that would be very hard to get out of without real pain, and in the end, I would campaign hard for it to be scrapped, highlighting every concern with it and every time it took advantage of people. I would mercilessly expose its every flaw.

Ibrox fans loathe MyGers, and they loathe their club for ever introducing it, knowing that a lot of them would immediately jump on board in order to get priority for Hampden, away games in Europe and at places like Celtic Park.

Supporters’ buses were outraged, as they were already struggling for tickets only to see wads of them being withheld to be awarded to those whose spending enabled them to move up through the various membership “tiers.”

Oh yes. Tiers. When I talked about a “two-tier fanbase” I meant it. There are those who are “members” and those who are not. But within the membership itself there are multiple additional levels, and that creates further problems all on its own.

Imagine the horror of the Ibrox fans who joined that scheme way back in the beginning thinking that it would at least give them a chance of those gold-dust tickets, only to find out later that the scheme itself resembles a pyramid where you need to climb through various levels, with the vast majority of briefs available only to those on the levels above you.

It stinks, doesn’t it? That’s why I would be so vocally opposed to anything like it.

The other type of membership scheme is vastly more palatable, and it comes with one very big solution to the “two-tier” fanbase question; in fact, it openly acknowledges that issue. The two-tiers are, in fact, the point of it because that membership scheme comes with real clout attached. It confers on the membership the one thing that this board will not even countenance; power. That’s why it would never be implemented.

In Germany, every club in the top two divisions has a membership scheme, and there are actually written regulations governing this. You cannot take part in either of those divisions unless your club adheres to what is known as Rule 51.

This is what the Bundesliga’s own website says about Rule 51.

“The 50+1 rule guards against (fans being viewed as mere customers). The name of the rule refers to the need for members of a club to hold 50 percent, plus one more vote, of voting rights – i.e. a majority. In short, it means that clubs – and, by extension, the fans – have the ultimate say in how they are run, not an outside influence or investor.”

Now, that rule does not guarantee that the fans run the club – there are ways around those regulations as you might imagine. But the important thing is this; the clubs are protected from unscrupulous “investors” and major changes are much more difficult to implement if they would fly in the face of the will of the fans.

In Spain, some of the club membership schemes are even more influential; at Real and Barcelona the fans actually elect the President, who runs the whole operation, and powerful individuals lobby for votes and actually need to make campaign promises to reach that office.

The two top clubs in Argentina have influential membership schemes. In fact, in August last year it was an Argentine club, River Plate, whose scheme had the most members in world football, with 335,945. That’s twice the number at Barcelona and three times higher than that of Real Madrid.

But Germany is the place where this is most solid; four of the top ten football teams by club membership are in that country, which also has some of the lowest ticket prices in Europe; that is directly related to the fans being viewed as the game’s most vital component.

This form of membership scheme would be much, much easier to sell to fans like me, but it’s for the very reasons that I would take it that I consider it wildly unlikely that this is the sort of membership scheme our club would even want. In the absence of that you are left with something that if it’s not the MyGers scheme it will be similar enough to be a concern.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that fans fill in the survey and make damned sure that they make their voices heard on this and on the other issues which are up for discussion. I’m going to talk about another of them later on today.

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  • Frank Berry says:

    I filled in my survey last night and completely blocked the question as I did not feel that it represented what I thought Celtic was about. I thought that it was good to be asked questions about Celtic but whether they will be taken on is an other matter. The section on The Celtic Foundation was worthwhile and goes to the heart to what it means to be a Celtic supporter.

  • FSTB says:

    100% in agreement with you James .
    IMO the mygers scheme is an abomination and designed to fleece more money from supporters .
    I would be disgusted if my club ever implemented such a thing

  • KC67 says:

    I wouldn’t put it past the Celtic board to implement a carbon copy of the MyGers chiselling scheme. Their love of money is only second to the utter contempt that they show the Celtic support.

    The tories will be gone from government tomorrow but our special brand of tory remain at Celtic Park.

  • Patrick Carrigan says:

    Hi James, I was surprised to read that last night article bombed. I read it after filling in the survey and thought it hit the mark especially on this membership scheme, my response to that item in the survey turned out to be the same as you, that it would create a two tier fan base. Maybe I’m naive but I, on principle do not think that because you have more than someone else you deserve more than them. If the club has an offer to make to fans it should be available to all.
    The only membership scheme that is of any real benefit for the fans is the type where we have a say in the running of our club(so no chance there).
    All the best James, keep at it.

  • Anne says:

    These tiers already exist, haves and have nots! those with season tickets and those who scramble for some of the worst seats in the stadium in order to see the team despite the existence of empty seats at many games. How about some flexibility that would allow others to attend.

  • Pan says:

    The Board seem to be trying to con us once again. They sound like proponents of Neoliberalism, which is the dominant ideology of our times and affects nearly every aspect of our lives.

    Most people are not aware of Neoliberalism. Its anonymity is both a symptom and a cause of its power. Its central belief is that competition is the definining feature of human kind and it tells us that geed and selfishness light the path to social improvement, generating a wealth which will eventually enrich us all. It cast us as consumers rather than as citizens and promises us that by buying and selling we can discover a natural, meritocratic hierarchy of winners and losers. It says that the wealth that the winners generate will trickle down to enrich the rest.
    This plainly is not so, as the we see in the rising inequality; child poverty; erosion of the tax base; degradation of health care; education and other public services; the crumbling of infrastructure; the 2008 financial crash and the rise of modern day demagogues such as Donald Trump, Boris Johnson etc etc.
    The Celtic Board do not seem to be paying full attention to the club’s roots and this idea of creating a fan base of inequality is abhorrent.

    For those interested, I would recommend a wonderful little book by George Monbiot called “The Invisible Doctrine”, which is extremely enlightening. This tells us about how neoliberalism has come to control our lives.

  • Thomas Cochrane says:

    I was waiting for the question of how do you watch Celtic, were they trying to encourage us to get Celtic TV ? Or to gauge how many folks have other means of viewing games sticks ect? I never mentioned anything like that ? but I did find the survey interesting ? all the same.I personally don’t think they were trying to please the fan base as a whole imo information farming was the real aim.

  • Pan says:

    The comments on Neoliberalism described above are found in Monbiot’s book which I have merely adapted to the situation with out club.

    Apology for two little errors – mis-typing of defining” and “greed” in lines 2 and 3 of the 2nd paragraph.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    I’ll keep this simple…

    For Fuck’s sake Celtic –

    Anything that The Sevco Huns do…

    Do NOT feckin touch it…

    Not even with a BARGEPOLE !

  • John Smyth says:

    Excellent article and although I was aware of most of the content, you have expressed this in a very clear and factual manner. Keep up the good work.
    PS as a lifelong Celtic fan (64 years old) I gave up my two season tickets in 2012.
    I sent a letter to the club and expressed my disappointment in a number of areas. I am still awaiting a reply 12 years later. Our post office service must be the worst on the planet. There is a lot more to this which I would be happy to elaborate on, if you are interested

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