Published on Wednesday 20th November, 2013 by Celtic Trust
The AGM began as usual with the Plc Board sitting at the top table looking smug and resplendent in their Armani, or more likely Boss suits. As usual a notable absentee was Dermot Desmond, represented by one of his many employees. We were offered a presentation that demonstrated the success of the last year. A League and cup double and a decent run in Europe, during what was our 125th Anniversary year; film footage was shown of famous victories including that of the one against Barcelona. The agenda was set for yet another smooth run through the morning’s proceedings. Our illustrious chairman praised his fellow board members and held up each and every one of them as being the best men for the job. The balance sheet is undoubtedly healthy and praise where praise is due, our CEO and others have delivered a terrific performance in that respect.
The mood in the room was upbeat and the board members were smiling confidently as we moved to the proposals that were to be considered. No real surprises as proposals 1-9 went through almost on the nod, with little or no debate. These were mainly the re-election of various board members and the adoption of the financial statement. Plain sailing as usual and there was only the business of handling a couple of proposals from the shareholders before retiring for lunch.
Proposal 10 was put forward by the Chair of the Trust Joe di Paola and is a reworking of previous proposals in regards to fan representation and consultation. Unsurprisingly there was good support from the shareholders present but was again opposed by the board. This will no doubt be revisited next year in yet another guise and format.
For proposal 11, up stepped Jeanette Findlay and whilst the board were probably looking at their watches thinking the time for lunch was approaching, they were about to notice a change to the atmosphere in the room. Jeanette’s speech can be read elsewhere on the site and I’m not about to reprint it here, the words in black and white don’t do justice to the impassioned delivery anyway. It really was one of those, I was there moments. Suffice to say that the Chairman and everyone else on the platform appeared shaken by the support received from the gathered shareholders. Jeanette was given an unprecedented standing ovation and so taken aback was Mr Bankier that he announced that he was not going to read his pre prepared statement of reply to the proposal. That the proposal to pay a living wage to the employees was refused by the wealthy men of the board, is an indictment on each of them and we can only hope that after a period of reflection they may reconsider their stance and actually come to terms with the reality that this proposal fits entirely with the ethos of what Celtic were established those 125 years ago to provide.
Proposal 12 was withdrawn by the proposers, who were not the Celtic Trust, as some out there appear to think. We supported the motion and allowed the proposers to use our experience and expertise to bring it to the table but we were as surprised as most of those present when it was withdrawn. It would appear that a deal had been struck to refer this matter to another time and place. We will await further developments but not whilst holding our breath.
The Q&A that followed covered a variety of topics such as team tactics, share dividends and the cost of season tickets. The Chairman was asked pointedly whether Celtic owned all assets such as the stadium and training facility, he stressed that this is correct but he also stated loud and clear that he was not about to show anyone the deeds. In reply to a question about the status of another club Mr Lawwell commented that “Rory Bremner can pretend to be Tony Blair. These jocular comments gained more publicity and coverage than any other aspect of the AGM. However, those present will long remember the board squirming in their seats as they realised that the rejection of the Living wage proposal not only brings shame to them but flies in the face of the wishes of the majority of shareholders. Unfortunately it is the number of shares held that actually count and not the number of people who hold them.
The Trust will continue to campaign on behalf of the support and shareholders on these and other issues, not only at the AGM but wherever and whenever they arise
Now the speeches referred to above:
Resolution 10 Moved by Joe di Paola, Chair of the Trust
I am here to propose Resolution 10 on behalf of not only members of the Celtic Trust but also those many Celtic supporters who although not trust members agree with resolution 10 and have pledged their support to us.
Put simply Res.10 seeks to establish a working party comprising representatives of all our supporters groups,board appointees and employees of the club. the working party would meet over the course of the next year and report to the 2014 AGM of Celtic PLC.
The remit of the working party would be to agree formal structures which would regulate how communications and discussions would take place between the wider Celtic support and the board and its officers and employees.
The board should be under no illusion .We are not proposing a talking shop.
The Trust and our supporters want a formal role and voice at board level in key PLC decisions relating to all matters Celtic.
We of course welcome the appointment of John Paul Taylor to the post of Supporters' Liason Officer and have already had productive meetings with him.However his post is not a substitute for direct involvement by Celtic supporters in the strategic management of the football club
I want to turn now to the Board's response to Resolution 10.
The response lists in some detail the many meetings, iniatives,conversations appointments etc it has organised. it claims to consult more widely and often than almost every other football club.
It even states how we comply with SFA requirements and EUFA regulations and that we are licensed at Gold standard.(I wondered if all Scottish Clubs had to adhere to these rules or if there were any exceptions).
I dont disagree with any of these statements but I absolutely reject the statement by the board that this resolution is unnecessary. this sweeeping assertion by the board is based a completely wrong premise. All the consultation in the boards response welcome though it is is entirely on their terms.
Entirely on a "grace and favour " basis. The board can cut off the dialogue with us in a moment. it is conducted in the context of a vast inequity in power between the board and the supporter organisations,all of them, from the oldest to the youngest.
The unvarnished truth is that as supporters we have no rights to be consulted or even considered when decisions are made about our club
So Resolution 10 is in fact very necessary if rights and obligations for ourselves and indeed the board are to be established and agreed and implemented so as to create and sustain a new and more equal and healthy relationship between the support and "the suits"
Lets be clear we are not talking about a fan on the board that is simplistic unrealistic and ultimately powerless. We need to agree ,using the working party, new ways and new rules for the way we conduct our business inside Celtic.
We make much of our claim to be " A club like no other" I think we would do very well to be more like one other. How about the Barcelona model as a guide to the way forward.
Finally I want to raise the issue of the committment of the Celtic support to the club from the very beginning.Much is made of the depth of our emotional support for Celtic over our unbroken history from 1887 to today.
What about the physical and financial support ? From digging the foundations for the first park to the share issue in1994 the Celtic support has never been found wanting through all social and economic hardships.
The current custodians of our club need to understand our experience and perspective as supporters and why because of these we feel able to offer our views to help shape the way forward for our great club.
Resolution 10 provides a way for us to begin to do that on a united basis
Please support Resolution 10.
Resolution 11 moved by Jeanette Findlay, Member of the Board of Trustees
Jeanette Findlay, standing to move Resolution 11 asking this Board to takes steps to become a Living Wage Employer.
For those of you who do not know what a Living Wage employer is: it is an employer who understands that if you pay your employees a decent wage – not a massive wage, not a wage that will allow people to live in the lap of luxury, but a wage that will allow you to attain an acceptable standard of living: if you pay your employees wages at this level then it makes good business sense: you retain workers, you save on retraining, productivity is higher and the paying customer (that is us) thereby receives a higher standard of service.
There are hundreds of Living Wage Employers in this country, some of them leading companies in their sector; large private sector companies, local authorities, the NHS in Scotland and the Scottish government. This is an idea supported by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnstone for God’s sake!
This is not some kind of madcap, crazy scheme which is going to put the club in the grubber. It is right, it is moral, it makes business sense and it is supported, in overwhelming numbers, by the people who support this club and who buy the season tickets, the merchandise and all the products and services which you as a company sell.
When we took this idea to you some months ago we were really quite pleased with ourselves. We thought we had come up with an idea which fitted right at the heart of who Celtic is; we thought we had found a great way to bring the 125th Anniversary year to an end: a year when we all proudly proclaimed ourselves as more than just a club. When Celtic PLC, after consideration, decided not to put this idea into action, I can honestly say that it was one of the lowest points of my Celtic-supporting career. I was genuinely knocked for six. Here we had the opportunity to become the first football club in the UK to become a Living Wage employer: to lead the way, yet again, and set a great example to other clubs. In this time of growing in-work poverty we had the opportunity to take a small stand against ever-increasing inequality. But the Board decided not to take up that opportunity.
You may note that I said that this decision was made ‘after consideration’. Think about what that means? It means that the people at that table up there, rich men one and all, sat there and said ‘no we are not going to pay our lowest-paid workers seven pounds and sixty pence per hour because we can get people to do it for less.’ How disgusting is that? The people who brought them in their tea while they were making that decision were probably on Minimum Wage and here were they deciding that it was good enough for them!
The elephant in the room here, is that there are people up at that table who could have paid the additional cost of adopting this resolution out of their own annual income and not even missed it! This is one of the grubbiest and most divisive decisions which has ever been made by a Celtic Board. A Celtic Board which produced, without consultation I might add, a Social Mission Statement some years ago in which they had the cheek to lecture us on behaviour and the hypocrisy to proudly proclaim their great good deeds (mainly using money donated by us), but who treat their lowest paid workers in this way: who leave us all open to the charge of hypocrisy when we make charitable donations both home and abroad while paying poverty wages to the employees of our own club.
There is still time to step away from this and if you are not going to do it for moral reasons then do it for the sound business reasons which I outlined earlier. But if you don’t then at least have the honesty to tell us all, in what way precisely are we ‘more than just a club’.
But here’s the thing: I believe we are ‘more than just a club’ and I believe that our ethos and our social values are not just a marketing ploy or a brand or an image; something to put on our publicity, our billboards and plaster across the front of the stadium; something we can package up and sell. And I believe that the overwhelming majority of people in this room and out there in the Celtic-supporting world agree with me on this. So I call on all shareholders here today, including the ones at the top table, to support Resolution 11 and show the world that we are people who put our money where our mouths are and who put the social and moral principles of our founders at the heart of everything we do. Our founders fought poverty then, we should do it now.
I move Resolution 11
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