Celtic AGM: The most urgent questions that need to be answered by Peter Lawwell and company
It’s probably the most hyped AGM that Celtic have organised in years.
With the effects of Covid-19 still being felt across the world, the board have been forced into meeting their shareholders online (Investegate).
Given the amount of vitriol aimed at Lawwell, Bankier and co. in recent weeks, that’s probably a relief for Celtic’s power brokers.
That vitriol is not misplaced, however. There are a litany of questions that need asking at Monday’s Annual General Meeting.
There are huge problems with the board and their actions. The team is underperforming and we need to understand why. After a shocking European campaign, Celtic’s name is sullied internationally.
Let’s break it down ahead of a landmark AGM for Celtic Football Club.
Questions about the board
Why has Peter Lawwell kept his job?
Let’s cut to the chase, here. Yes, Celtic are performing relatively well financially, given the circumstances. That’s built on 9 years of domestic success, having to sell our best players, and – foremost – the loyalty of supporters.
As it is, though, supporters need to know what Lawwell is actually doing to justify his sizeable pay packet. In recent weeks, he’s used mealy-mouthed rhetoric in shallow attempts to win fans back.
The appointment of Neil Lennon was farcical. Even Andy Walker is coherently making digs at Lawwell, which must be some kind of biblical sign of a falling empire.
Lawwell has unquestionably backed Lennon, both in moral and financial terms. However, our signings haven’t worked out. Scouting either isn’t good enough, or players aren’t getting the required playing time.
He’s called for unity, then put up fences. His entire approach to PR this season has been catastrophic. It’s no wonder fans are protesting. Direct questions need to be pointed in Lawwell’s direction.
For the record, I really do think Peter Lawwell is a Celtic fan, who is obsessed with the club succeeding. It’s just his methods that are questionable. It’d be interesting to hear him defend himself.
To what extent is Dermot Desmond investing in the club?
It’d be fascinating to know to what extent Dermot Desmond is running Celtic. As the majority shareholder, the Irish billionaire has a lot of sway at Celtic Park. If he’s withholding money for coaching, scouting and the squad, he should have to answer why that’s the case.
Neil Lennon was very clearly the cheap option, especially after we’d splashed out on Brendan Rodgers.
As I said earlier today, we risk stagnation. The 10 isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Desmond has to act if his investment is going to yield continual success.
Why isn’t communication better between the board and fans?
Celtic fans shouldn’t have to resort to protest in order to be heard. There needs to be more transparent collaboration between the fans and the board. The work of The Celtic Trust is key here, as a diplomatic option. No Celtic fan wants to see or experience protest against their own club. Nobody wants to feel compelled to have to do that.
AGMs and occasional interviews in The Athletic won’t cut it any more.
What does the season ticket’s “additional value” entail?
When season ticket holders renewed in the summer, they were promised “additional value”. To cut to the chase: what is that?
If it’s ‘Pass to Paradise’, then the Celtic faithful will be sorely disappointed. They haven’t seen additional value on the park. Just what is it, and what does it mean?
The board have a fight on their hands to secure the season ticket sales of Summer 2020. They’ve got to be clearer in their offering from now on.
Questions about the team
Is the level of scouting good enough?
Kieran Tierney left for £24.3m (Transfermarkt). When our best left-back in a generation departed for Arsenal, he was replaced by Greg Taylor and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo for less than half of that fee.
With Moussa Dembélé, Stuart Armstrong, Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk all leaving for big fees in recent years, we have to ask: why haven’t most of these players been adequately replaced?
We shouldn’t have to rely on loans from bigger clubs, when teams our size tap into plentiful markets. Clubs our size, for example Atalanta and Red Bull Leipzig are making much more intelligent signings. The scouting just isn’t at the level it used to be, and the team is suffering for it.
Why is Neil Lennon still our manager?
This is perhaps the most saddening question so far. There is zero doubt in my mind that Neil Lennon is a Celtic legend, both as a player and coach. However, the board appointed him after a disappointing spell at Bolton and a dressing room revolt at Hibs.
Yes, the early signs were good. He followed Rodgers’ roadmap to secure our historic Treble Treble. However, the disharmony the Celtic team are showing, as well as the sloppy defending and incoherent strategy mean that this issue must come up again.
We’d love Lenny to be the one to lift the 10, but at the moment it doesn’t look likely. If we can’t win the title, our pulling power in the transfer market is reduced, and we’ll always wonder “What if…?”. The board should be as resistant to that prospect as the fans are, but it just doesn’t seem that way.
Are fans going to see long-term planning post 20-21?
The 10 is obviously our most obvious goal for decades. Since stopping our bitter rivals doing it in 1998, the chance to make history hasn’t been so tangible.
That said, everything about Celtic just now seems geared towards that one goal. What’s ahead? If Neil Lennon is to leave, are we going to see a coach with potential and ambition to take us further? Are the board going to equip a manager with the funds to secure Champions League qualification? Will Europe be a bigger focal point for the club?
Simply put: what’s the plan, 10 or no 10?
How much will be made available for January transfers?
As I said in this YouTube video on the 67 Hail Hail channel, fans don’t want a mad trolley dash in January. Spending money for the sake of it during a global crisis isn’t the answer.
But we need reinforcements in key positions. We’ve looked short-staffed all season, and it’s shown in our performances. Ryan Christie has repeatedly been played out of position, Edouard doesn’t seem to have a reliable back-up, and in goals… well.
Perhaps the answer will come in playing our youngsters. That’s the preferred option, no doubt. But with Elhamed leaving, he will need a top-class replacement. Frimpong is better further up the park, while Anthony Ralston isn’t of the required standard. Our next best right-back, Lee O’Connor, is on loan at Tranmere Rovers until the summer.
So to what extent will (most probably) Neil Lennon be backed next month? Fans have every right to know. In the interest of transparency, shareholders have the right to know this. Fans, equally, have every right to know about the running of the club.
The board will have a busy day
With The Celtic Trust aiming to increase their number of shares and attendance not restricted to those who are able to travel, this’ll be an eventful AGM.
Peter Lawwell will be up against it from minute one. How he comes across, as much as what he says, really matters here. If the board are in charge, they at least need to sound it. Also, they need to appear receptive and open to fan contribution.
Transparency and ambition will need to be on display here if Lawwell and co. have any chance of quieting sections of the Celtic support. We’ve been there for them, buying tickets and merchandise. It’s time for them to do theirs.