Published on Tuesday 16th December, 2014 by Celtic Trust
Better late than never!
A few personal reflections on the recent Celtic AGM.
The Celtic AGM which took place on Friday 14th November was the usual stage managed affair to which we have been treated over many years now. Once again noticeable by his absence was the absentee landlord, Dermot Desmond and this despite being paid £25000 per year for his ‘services’. Also absent was the gentleman known as Lord Livingston of Parkhead but as he is only paid a measly £13,500 he can perhaps be forgiven for not turning up. The warmest welcome was rightly reserved for the new manager Ronny Deila who probably wondered if he was in a parallel universe.
It was quickly evident from the well-rehearsed, pre-recorded interview with the Chairman Ian Bankier, that at least some of the concerns of the Celtic support regarding the refusal by the Club to pay the Living Wage to employees had reached the ears of Board members as he announced that the Club would ‘consult’ with full time employees on this issue with a view to increasing their hourly rate to £7.85 the current Living Wage rate. This caused some reaction as at last year’s AGM the same Mr Bankier had assured shareholders that only part time employees of the Club were paid at a rate below that of the Living Wage. Also it illustrated how out of touch he is in that he thought that those on less than the Living Wage needed to be ‘consulted’ on whether or not they would like a pay rise!
We then waded through the re-election of various non-executive directors, remuneration of the auditors and other similarly riveting standard resolutions before arriving at the two resolutions proposed from the floor by small shareholders, both of which this year had been sponsored by the Celtic Trust.
The first concerned the Supporter Liaison Officer whom Celtic had appointed recently in accordance with UEFA regulations. Just 36 hours before the AGM was due to commence the Chairperson of the Trust was contacted by the company secretary of Celtic Plc suggesting that as much of what was contained in the resolution was already agreed that the resolution not be put to the vote. Around 150 shareholders signed the form in support of the resolution, and as they may be wondering why it was not pursued the following is an extract from the email setting out the basis of the agreement which was eventually reached.
“As we discussed, the Board agrees that effective communication and engagement with all supporters is crucial. The Board welcomes the proposals from the Celtic Trust and has confirmed that a review of the role of the Supporter Liaison Officer and the Supporters’ Forum has been put in hand.
Since the role of Supporter Liaison Officer and the Supporters’ Forum were introduced, we have (in many cases thanks to suggestions from supporters):
· Generated a Supporter Charter;
· Generated a complaint handling procedure;
· Had greater levels of fan engagement through social media;
· Hosted two Fan Forums attended by a cross section of supporters; and
· Provided a presence at European away matches to assist fans attending those matches.
During our review, we will:
· Maintain the Fan Forums and consult on improving that format;
· Consult on further developments of the role of the Supporter Liaison Officer; and
· Create focus groups to work on key issues identified by our supporters and associations.
· Consult with a wide range of supporters, supporter organisations, partners, colleagues and shareholders. Nobody will be ignored.
The conclusions of the review, and the views expressed in the course of these discussions, will be carefully considered.
Given the substantial legal and regulatory issues and responsibilities involved, for good governance reasons, decisions on how to act upon the review must rest ultimately with the Board rather than with an informal working-group as suggested in the resolution.
For that reason, if the resolution were to be put to a vote, the Board would recommend that shareholders vote against it.
Given, however, that there appears to be common ground on the underlying purpose – review of the SLO role and the Supporters’ Forum to develop them for the better – we would suggest that, rather than the resolution be put to the vote, the Chairman propose to adjourn the resolution indefinitely, whilst committing to continue and implement the review process. In the future, if need be, questions could be asked about the review at an AGM (or other meeting), or a further resolution could be requisitioned.
If this suggestion was acceptable, the Chairman would give a brief introduction (touching on some of the bullet points mentioned above) and propose that a show of hands be taken to adjourn the resolution. He would ask a representative of the Celtic Trust to respond and to indicate that the Trust agreed to the resolution being adjourned so that the review process could be continued and implemented.”
Following the receipt of the above and some further assurances as to time scale the members of the Celtic Board decided, in spite of the last minute approach which precluded further consultation with those who had signed the resolution, that the best way forward for both supporters and Club was to cooperate in this review and so the resolution was not put to the Meeting. However it was made clear that if there was any slippage in the process we would raise it again in the future.
The Resolution requiring Celtic to become a Living Wage employer was proposed by Jeanette Findlay a former Chairperson of the Trust. While welcoming the announcement by the Chairman re consulting staff she pointed out that this fell far short of Celtic becoming a Living Wage employer. She then went on in her usual cogent and comprehensive way to illustrate how the claims by the Celtic Board that they would lose control of their cost base were completely without foundation and quoted from several very successful businesses and organisations who had become accredited Living Wage employers and who had found this to produce positive and beneficial results. She then reminded the Celtic Board that they had could no longer be the first football club in Scotland to become a Living Wage employer, as Heart of Midlothian had already achieved this honour.However she called upon Celtic to become the first Premier League Club to do so. In conclusion she stated that in this call she was not alone but supported by the 130+ shareholders who had signed the resolution support form and the further 10,000 supporters who had signed either online or in person a petition calling on Celtic to do so. She then handed the said petition to the Ian Bankier who immediately ‘recycled’ it under the table, perhaps summing up more eloquently than words, the attitude of the present Board to the wishes of ordinary Celtic shareholders and supporters.
Several more speakers backed the resolution from the floor before it was put to the vote where like last year it received overwhelming support. However as a poll was called we await the result which will be of course the usual total rejection by the large shareholders.
The question and answer session followed and despite the Chairman’s attempts to stifle discussion or even mention of the Living Wage issue, it is to the credit of successive individual questioners that they refused to be silenced and raised it again and again along with their questions leaving the Board in no doubt that this is still a live issue and contrary to their wishes it will not go away.
Footnote to the above.
Since the AGM officers of the Celtic Trust and Celtic officials have met together and at this meeting both the Living Wage and the Supporter Liaison review were the subject of further discussions. We hope to report on what progress has been made in the New Year.
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