2004 Resolutions to Celtic AGM

Published on Sunday 31st October, 2004 by Celtic Trust

Jeanette Findlay on Resolution 9

(Can I begin by thanking the Board for their co-operation in the process of getting the resolutions on to the agenda and for their decision to distribute our supporting statement free of charge). Last year, I stood here at this microphone, and made the case as to why the Board should embrace the principle of a democratically-elected and accountable fan representative on the board. I set the argument in the context of the broader movement, backed by government, for a stronger voice for football fans in the running of the Clubs which they support. At that time we had just been given the UEFA Fair Play award. We were subsequently to be given the FIFA Fair Play award and demonstrated yet again what a fantastic support the Celtic support is and what an asset we are to this Club. We believe that we won that argument for supporter representation on the Board just as resoundingly, and just as inevitably, as we lost the vote. We lost the vote, not because we didn’t convince those who listened and took the trouble to vote. We lost it because, so far, the Board of Directors at Celtic Park, have failed to have the open-mindedness and the vision necessary to see that the same group of fans who represent this Club so well, both at home and abroad, have the talent within its ranks to add significantly to the running of this club and to help to shape its direction and future. But, don’t worry, Mr Chairman, we haven’t given up on you and we haven’t gone away. We gave notice last year that we would continue to make this argument until the Board grasped the seriousness and the sense of our case. This is not just a wee daft idea, thought up by a disparate bunch of numpties. Right around this country there are supporters’ trusts that are making a full and welcome contribution to their club. We are not just talking about the small clubs like Northampton Town, like Greenock Morton, like Partick Thistle, we are talking about the giants, we are talking about Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, where the Trust (whose numbers have gone up more than 5 fold since the turn of the year) are leading the way in protecting their club, its integrity and it’s tradition from the greedy hand of a businessman who has no love for football and no idea what a club like Manchester United means to those who have followed it all their days. We here are Celtic are just as vulnerable. Many of you here today were here last year when I moved a similar resolution. Those of you who were not can read our position in detail in the supporting statements send out by Celtic. I don’t want to repeat all that I said that day, so I will end by giving examples of some of the things that might not have happened had we had a supporters’ representative on the Board during the last year. We might not have had the unedifying spectacle of press statements from Celtic telling the fans that a new strip had been issued because the fans wanted it ­ when all the time the real reason was that it was part of a contractual obligation to Umbro in advance of the new Nike deal. We might not have had to wait over a year for Celtic to start putting on display in its shops children’s strips without an alcohol sponsor on it. We might not have had a new merchandise catalogue, with an insulting and degrading range of women’s wear which put smutty slogans and sexual innuendo alongside the proud name of Celtic. We might have had a different decision as to whether to provide adequate training facilities to our youth team or to lavishly upgrade the boardroom. We might not be here discussing, as we will be today, a perfectly sensible idea about dividend reinvestment ­ the details of that scheme could have been brought to the board and hammered out in a more appropriate forum. Most importantly of all, we might have seen a better reflection of the wishes of the fans fortheir money (which is still the greatest source of income for the club) to be spent on greater investment in the first team. These are just some of issues on which a supporter representative would have helped the Board to get it right. I hope, Mr Chairman, that I won’t have to come back here too many times to make this case. I very much hope that, as in other clubs, this Board can start to see the opportunity and the possibilities that this resolution offers to Celtic as a whole and that we can move forward with it in a spirit of unity and purpose for the good of our great Club. I move Resolution 9.

 

Jeanette Findlay on Resolution 10

This resolution calls on the Board to investigate and bring forward a scheme which would allow shareholders the opportunity to choose not to receive dividends in cash but to take them, instead, in the form of additional shares. An imaginative scheme such as this would bring in an additional source of revenue for the Club the details of which I will come back to later. Again, this is not a madcap idea, but a tried and tested route whereby fans can continually reinvest their money in the club and, in return, receive a greater ownership stake. Noone would be under any compulsion to take part in such a scheme. However, it is our view, that a very large number of people would happily reinvest their dividend in the Club ­ especially if the money were to be spent to increase our participation in the transfer market and thereby improve our chances in Europe. Many people would regard that as a wise investment which would meet the needs of the club both in terms of improving future revenue streams but also to meet the ambitions of those who love this Club to be back at the top of European football. In this year alone, the PLC paid out over £3 million pounds in dividends. Around £2.5 million went in accumulated dividends to the privileged class of shareholders created in 2001. Just over half a million went to the holders of the preferred ordinary shares held mainly by those who invested in 1995 and 1999. Had we had a dividend reinvestment scheme, that money could have been made available for a variety of uses. I’m sure the manager would agree with me that this would have been a welcome addition to his budget which we have recently heard was less than half of that. £3 million pounds represents 10 times as much as we have spent on transfer fees in the last two seasons. A fraction of that £3 million could have improved our youth training facilities and we would not be in the position we are in now, where our professional youth teams have to utilise the facilities of public parks to train on. An even smaller fraction of that budget would have greatly improved our record in terms of charitable donations and community projects ­ items which may be irrelevant to some but which are a source of pride for Celtic fans. Celtic more than any other club needs to retain a strong community focus, this was the reason for our formation and this is what makes us more than just a football club. We need to continue to maintain the sense of identity and social aspiration that instils a great source of pride to the hundreds of thousands around the world. This is what makes us unique! I won’t labour the point but we can all think of ways in which this money could be usefully spent. The Board have asked you to reject this resolution. They give two reasons. The first is that the administration costs would be too high. The Board provide no detail for this assertion and I would be very surprised if anyone at Celtic PLC has been asked to cost this in detail. I would go further and say that if administration costs are such a worry to Celtic then perhaps they could sort out the system whereby people receive two or three copies of the same letters, where families receive 3 and 4 copies of the merchandising catalogue to the same address, and where letters are received inviting you to buy tickets you have already bought. I would be even more surprised if the admin costs would turn out to be greater than the previous practice of offering us the option of buying discounted jumpers and trinkets instead of receiving a dividend. The second reason that the Board give for rejecting this resolution is that it is not outlined in sufficient detail. Well, there is a good reason for that. The resolution does not propose a detailed scheme quite simply because, as I suggested in relation to Resolution 9, the AGM is not the correct forum for doing so. What is proposed is an idea in principle and it is for the Board to take it away and look at the detail and come back to the various meetings with the fan bodies such as the Celtic Supporters Association the Affiliation, and ourselves with detailed proposals. For the record, our own preference is for what is known as a SCRIP scheme. That is a scheme where new shares are issued in return for foregoing a dividend as opposed to a DRIP scheme where the dividend is retained and spent on share dealings in the open market. The former scheme brings new money into the club while the latter does not. Brian Quinn has today talked of the danger of dilution of existing shareholdings of such a scheme. Well, that may be so, but whatever dilution it might cause is nothing compared to the dilution caused by the 2001 share issue which wiped out the value of the existing shareholdings and created a privileged position for Dermot Desmond and a small number of others. This is a sensible scheme with considerable merit which should, if run properly, have a small set up cost and an even smaller running cost. I ask the Board to reconsider this issue and not to look a gift horse in the mouth. There is no contradiction between voting for this resolution and the Board’s proposal that they are gong to go away and look at the idea, so I ask all of you here to support Resolution 10. Thank you

 
 

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