Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has finally broken his and the club’s silence after Dubai. The trip ended with 13 players and 3 members of staff having to isolate. Gavin Strachan had to take charge of the draw with Hibs, after Neil Lennon and John Kennedy were forced to stay home.
It’s an issue that has confounded and angered the Celtic supporters, and quite rightly so. Failing to gauge the national mood during the worst pandemic in generations, the club acted rashly and seemingly without care.
Peter Lawwell’s apology was videoed by Celtic FC and released on Twitter earlier this evening.
A Message to Our Supporters.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) January 13, 2021
Celtic chief Peter Lawwell’s “profound apology”
Lawwell told Celtic supporters:
“Looking back, looking with hindsight at the outcome of the trip, clearly it was a mistake. For that, I profoundly apologise to the supporters.
“The rationale for the camp was with very much the best intentions. Things haven’t gone the way we wanted to, and the outcome was clearly very regrettable.
“If you look back over the last 4 years, going to the camp in Dubai has been extremely successful. The decisions we made are entirely for the best interest of the team and the best interest of the club.
“What we planned to do is take them to these facilities again, which are world class, after a very, very hectic programme in November and December. To take them there, give them the training and come back and get to that performance level again.”
“We decided way back in November to go, and were permitted to go. Clearly the landscape has changed significantly, particularly in the run-up to going to Dubai. At that time, Dubai was part of the green corridor for UK and Scottish travel. [Celtic] were deploying the same protocols that we have done since the bubble started in June.
“We hadn’t had one positive up until this stage, in terms of using our own protocols through international travel. [Celtic] had six international flights, and the training camp in the summer.”
“Robust protocols”, not a question of values
Lawwell went on:
“I certainly don’t agree with [questioning the club’s values] and I think it’s actually unfair. I do understand how people are questioning the decision to go. This club operates in the values and standards we have in terms of integrity, respect and humility. These values and standards have been developed over the years, and we haven’t compromised them.
“We’ve done an awful lot as a club. The attitude we’ve had [during the pandemic] has been responsible. We have been at the forefront of getting Scottish football back to training and playing.
“Through our foundation, we’ve donated over a million pounds to the people that are worst-affected by this horrendous pandemic.”
Lawwell is simply not taking responsibility for putting the whole of the Scottish game under threat. The accountability from the club has been absolutely minimal. Emphasising how “robust” the precautions were doesn’t justify a trip that should never have happened.
It’s a laughable claim that “respect and humility” have been shown here. Respect would’ve meant not being the only top-flight club in Europe to leave the country during a deadly pandemic. Humility would’ve been not going for pints after losing our biggest game of the season.
Let’s be clear here; like all football clubs, Celtic have lost supporters to Covid-19. People have had to go through Zoom funerals, miss births, not be able to see their loved ones for months and months. It’s frankly astonishing that he’s playing the Celtic Foundation card.
It’s not unfair to question what on earth the club were doing going to Dubai, and how that reflects on us. You can’t make a blunder this costly and then turn around to say “aye, well we were behaving up until then”.
“The club they believe they have”
Perhaps most galling of all, Lawwell added:
“I’d like to reassure the supporters that the club that they believe they have is here. We have made a mistake and we apologise for that. But the club that they would like to have, and had had, is here.
“It’s affected our club probably more than any. These challenges have come upon us. For our supporters and our community, we’ve really got to stick together, be united and face these challenges together.
“We will keep fighting over the coming months, and put the club in a position that we can maximise its potential, and take this magnificent football club as far as we possibly can.”
Easy for you to say, Mr Lawwell. For a huge majority of us, we didn’t see anything like the club we thought we had. Celtic was founded with a focus on social responsibility. Yet, that hasn’t come from the club in years. Instead, it’s come from the supporters, often to the club’s annoyance.
To say that Celtic have been more affected by this than other clubs is simply unbelievable. There are football clubs who will face administration because of this. Semi-pros who will lose their livelihoods, community clubs just getting by before all this who will be worse off.
That’s not because of Celtic, but to say that we’re worst-affected is so detached from reality, it’s practically science fiction.
Finally, Celtic man Peter Lawwell on Unity
Then, finally, this unity patter. It’s birthday card nonsense. It’s sentiment trying to force the few who like the board into wavering on their side. Nobody who is leading a united organisation ever calls for unity.
It’s obvious that Celtic chief Peter Lawwell is terrified of the recent unrest within the support. He and Dermot Desmond can no longer say the fans are moaning without a reasonable cause.
As apologies go, it’s an outstanding bit of spin. However, nobody in their right mind is buying any of this for a second.