Exclusive: Jeanette Findlay on the joint fan statement, criticism and holding the Celtic board to account
Celtic Trust spokesperson Jeanette Findlay has given a robust defence of the statement released by supporters groups outlining dissatisfaction with the Celtic board.
The Trust joined Bhoys, the Green Brigade, Celtic Shared and North Curve Celtic in announcing shared plans on Friday. There’s a planned gathering on 17th of July to show support for Ange Postecoglou and put the board ‘on notice’, calls to resist merchadise purchases from the club, and a “January review” promised for mid-season.
On social media, there has been undoubted support, but also lots of backlash to the plans. Some supporters have suggested that the announcement sapped from the feel-good factor currently being kickstarted by the club following Postecoglou’s appointment.
Speaking to 67 Hail Hail this weekend, Findlay addressed the issues head on: “Look; first thing I need to say upfront is, this resolution that we should take this action, was put forward by a member. In a properly constituted meeting of over 100 people. And it was passed by a majority vote. There were people who had some misgivings, worried about the action itself and the timing, but nevertheless, the majority wins.
“For people who are criticising the Trust… the Trust is a membership organisation, a democratic organisation.”
The groups who released the statement last week are also insistent this is not designed to damage Celtic. They simply want to hold those that run the club to the highest standards.
Findlay continued: “It’s important that while we want to be positive – and always are – and never want to do anything that’ll damage the football club, it’s important for us to be able to hold the board to account. And actually, it’s quite surprising what short memories people have. In effect, nothing has changed in terms of the board. They’ve brought in this manager after a shambolic – in every respect – process.
“I don’t think what they’ve done so far – there may be some encouraging signs – I don’t think we can say at this point everything’s happened before is forgotten. Or that any of it makes up for the shambles of last season. And, in fact, overseeing circumstances where we should’ve been way ahead of the pack, and we’re not, having not had to face our biggest rivals for a period of time.”
“Not a popularity contest”; Celtic Trust remain steadfast in convictions
Often The Trust, and high-profile groups like them, are subject of criticism themselves. When they stay quiet, it’s questioned. When they put their views out there, it’s also questioned.
Findlay isn’t too perturbed by negative reaction, stating: “It’s quite interesting really. In December, people were screaming at the Trust “why are you not doing anything?”. Then, when you do something, they say “why are you doing this?”
“If it was a popularity contest among the wider Celtic support, nobody would do anything. So in that sense, what can you do?
“It may be that that statement doesn’t frame it as well as it might have. What we’re effectively saying is we’ve never called for a boycott. Never. We’re not calling for a boycott. [The Trust] certainly didn’t call for a boycott of season tickets, and be aware that lots of people did want that to happen in the wider Celtic support. So we have never done that, and we’re not doing that now.
“We back the team, we back the club, we want us to have a successful team on the park. We want things to be better than they are. But we’re not mugs. We can’t just immediately forget what has happened. So what we were trying to say is Ok, we’ve not done anything related to season tickets, we’ve all renewed our season tickets, I’ve renewed my season ticket. But we really just want to put the board on notice. All is not forgotten and forgiven.
“The event at Celtic Park [on the 17th] is really to welcome to the team and manager. We will take the opportunity to indicate we’ve got our eye on the board. We’re watching you; we haven’t forgotten.
“The thing about merchandising and other stuff – people will do what they want to do. People will buy strips… buy merchandise, do match day things, whatever they want to do, and that’s fine! All we’re saying is [it’s] one way of indicating to the board that we haven’t forgotten what they did, their failings, and that they still remain very poor in terms of their governance, in the way they treat fans and shareholders. One way of doing that is saying we’re not going to spend other money.”
“They think we should just forget everything” – The January Review
One of the more interesting aspects of the statement was with regards to a January review, mirroring the promises of the Celtic board last year when the season was collapising round our ears.
Findlay explained the thinking behind all that: “It’s more a symbolic thing. And the thing about it is… the January review was us saying, ‘You know what? We’ll give you a January review. And say whether we’re happy with your conduct!’ We won’t just sit back and wait to see if everything goes wrong or nothing gets fixed.
“There are people who don’t like that. They think we should just forget everything and move on. I don’t agree with that, and clearly the majority of members at that meeting didn’t agree with that. But what [members] are not doing is instituting a boycott. What they’re not doing is attacking the team, or the manager. We absolutely want them to be successful, of course we do.
“If people don’t like it, they don’t have to come. They don’t have to not buy their pies, they can just go ahead and do what they want. And I’m not clear why they’re so angry about it, they can just not do it if they don’t support it.
“It is not a boycott. We are not trying to damage the club, and we do wish the team and the manager to be successful, as every other supporter does. I won’t be taking any lessons from anybody about how to support my team. Because I’ve never been founding wanting, and Trust members have never been found wanting when it comes to supporting their team.
“But we also have never been found wanting when it comes to saying the difficult things that have to be said.”
Celtic Trust adamant that relationship with club is by no means irreparable
With the relationship between the board and supporters groups at an all-time low, we asked what it would take to bridge the gap.
Findlay told us: “It will never be the case that the Celtic Trust was saying ‘we’ll never speak to Celtic again’, that’d just be silly. But we were saying that, at that point, given their conduct we just didn’t see the point. In exactly the same way as they had took that view about us, for the reason that we put a proposal to them, and then spoke to other shareholders about it.
“The easiest thing in the world would be for Dom McKay to lift the phone to [fan group] organisers. He can lift the phone, and speak to the people who are saying they’ve got a problem. It might be much more comfortable to speak to the people who don’t appear to have a problem… but I think if you want to encapsulate the broad range of views, there’s a very straight forward way to do that.
“Speak to the organisations that say they have a problem, meet them, talk to them in good faith. Don’t talk at them, don’t tell them a consultation means we just sit here and say nothing, and you make your proposals, and we refuse to respond to them, or put proposals of our own out for discussion…
“What they can do is open up discussions with us, which will be conducted in good faith. In which the common sense usage of words like “consult” are understood by everybody.”
What happens next as Celtic embark on a massive season?
As always, the long-term aim of The Celtic Trust is to build up a significant shareholding that can give ordinary fans a real voice on decisions that impact the future of the club.
Asked what’s next after this statetment and the outlined action, Findlay concluded: “I don’t think there’s a plan as such, in terms of we’ll do X or Y. But certainly we’ll be keeping a close eye, and we won’t sit back as long as we did last season.
“The locus of power is not with us. So what can we do? We can protest, we can say what we think, we can take those kinds of public actions. We don’t actually have power, in that sense, so that’s what comes to Trust’s core thing [fan ownership]. It may be boring, and take a long time, but actually building up fan ownership in the club is the only way to start to redress that balance.
“That doesn’t mean a majority shareholding, but a significant enough shareholding that they begin to speak to us. If we can get up to 5% for instance, I believe that would give a group of shareholders the power to call a meeting. That’s not going to happen in this season, so the kinds of things that we could do in January will probably be in the form of protest.
“But the long term aim and the thing that people really need to get, is that if we don’t build up a collective shareholding, that we can collectively wield, then we can’t do anything, and [the club] can do what they want.”