Peter Lawwell's Celtic influence needs to be put under the spotlight

By Euan Davidson

January 23, 2021

Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell might feel aggrieved by his image amongst the fans.

From his point of view, he should be heralded. Celtic have romped to 9 titles in a row, a feat no other Scottish club has achieved more than once. He runs a profitable outfit, with an international supporter base.

Over the past four seasons, Celtic have collected 12 trophies. We’ve signed prodigious talents and moved them on for enormous fees. Going into this season, the club sold 50,000 season tickets (Glasgow Times), with the hope of securing 10IAR.

Lawwell has taken the club to new commercial heights, with ambitious pre-season trips to far-flung reaches of the world. The CEO has enjoyed a number of financial success at the club, running a business which can boast a multi-million pound deal with Adidas, as well as a range of other lucrative endorsements.

That’s all well and good. But that comes at a price. Peter Lawwell may be a financial wiz, but he’s by no means a football man at heart.

His influence on the football side isn’t entirely clear, given the lack of transparency from Celtic. That’s another problem. But under his watch, it’s unclear what the club’s strategy is. Managers with conflicting ideologies have been appointed one after another, and there’s doesn’t seem to be a coherent vision at Celtic Park.

There’s an onus on youth development and training facilities, with Lawwell having been involved in developing Lennoxtown in 2005 [Herald]. Yet, the club haven’t exactly brought through a vast amount of youth players over recent years; certainly not players who have been successful. For every James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney, there’s are tens of others who’ve failed to develop.

Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

This season has been a disaster for Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell

Over the last decade, you could at the very least say that Celtic were a professional looking outfit. That image has been utterly destroyed this season.

We’ve lurched from one disaster to the next, and face a summer of incredible upheaval. If the board make any more wrong moves, we’ll suffer for years to come.

Jackie McNamara said it best. Lawwell and the board’s obsession with the 10 has actually caused the landmark achievement to slip our grasp. There were warning signs from the minute Neil Lennon took the job full-time, a decision marked entirely by emotion. An impulse spend, if ever there was one.

The preparation for such a huge season was far, far off the mark. Players in vital positions weren’t secured until we failed to qualify for the Champions League. From then on, it’s been one disaster after another.

Lawwell is clearly a huge fan of Neil Lennon. If it’s truly his influence that counts, then our CEO has pulled out all the stops to deflect and defend his manager. Looking at it objectively, in a modern football context, it’s incredibly unlikely that at any other club, a manager would survive a run of form as bad as Lennon’s Bhoys this season.

While our chairman is M.I.A., Lawwell has become the public face of the club, as well as the manager. When Celtic were rightly pilloried for going to Dubai during a pandemic, it was Lawwell who offered an apology, then said nothing as his mealy-mouthed words were entirely contradicted by Lennon just days later.

So, what now then?

It’s easy to say “Sack the Board”, but it’s much, much harder to do in actuality. Celtic’s success is what’s made our downfall so brutal and shocking. There’s no way in the world that our board will step down voluntarily, given the years of trophies.

But fans have been saying for years that penny-pinching and indecision have rotted the club at its core. More than that, Lawwell’s commercial focus has brought dividends, but at what cost? There are many former Celtic supporters who felt alienated by the club’s rampant commercialism, and went to follow smaller teams. I know some, and I’m sure you might too.

All of the uncomfortable politics at board level have been a huge problem, and are symptomatic of the club’s direction over recent years. Yes, we’ve enjoyed such amazing success domestically, and there have been tremendous European nights. But failing to pay employees the living wage? Attacking fans for demanding the removal of a Tory peer who regularly votes to punish the poor? That’s not Celtic. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Lawwell is the public face of all of this. He has serious questions to answer, and they can’t come from his cronies in the board, nor from Celtic TV presenters.

His influence over us is too strong. He needs to cede the football side to people who know about it, and bring us further towards our roots. Just heralding the Celtic Foundation isn’t enough. Without pals like his running the country, the need for charity wouldn’t be as great.

Lawwell can – quite rightly – point to his record overall. But Celtic supporters can count to his litany of failures this season. They’d both be right.