2009 Celtic PLC AGM Report

Published on Wednesday 14th October, 2009 by Celtic Trust

The Mask finally slips...

Those of you who followed the Trust’s Twitter feed from the AGM (and those of you who read the press over the weekend) will have a fair idea of events from the AGM. However, for those of you who didn’t, the shortest summary would be: • Attitude of Board: don’t criticise us just look at Rangers • Attitude of Chairman: don’t ask awkward questions, if you are not happy just go and support Rangers • Attitude of Principal Shareholder: don’t know because yet again he didn’t turn up • Attitude of majority in attendance: don’t criticise the Board or ask awkward questions or we will shout you down • Plans to deal with current poor performance of the team: none • Outlook for the foreseeable future: same as now . Board says they are not obsessed with debt: mentioned it about 372* times . Board say they do not 'benchmark against Rangers': but mentioned (or alluded to) Rangers about 373* times * these are estimates.... This was, without a doubt, one of the more depressing AGM’s I have attended in the past 9 or 10 years. The unusually high attendance (which filled the Kerrydale Suite and required a spillover room) led me to believe that people were turning up to express the widespread discontent that we know is out there. Quite the contrary, in scenes similar to images of the Supreme Soviet of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, rows of elderly gentlemen (no offense to the elderly, I’m not that young myself!) clapped politely to every utterance from the top table and laughed uproariously at the comedy act that is the current Chairman. In extreme contrast, they barracked, very impolitely, the tiny number of people (2) who made criticisms of the Board’s policies and performance (or even just asked awkward questions) and who had the temerity not to preface and end their remarks with a few jokes. The scene was set, as always, by the traditional video presentations. First up, the Chairman, who was asked by Tony Hamilton, “What were the highs and lows this season?”. The reply: “well the high point is that we still have control of our own club….blah blah” . Well, who would have guessed it, the Board trying to use the predicament of Rangers to take the bad look off themselves? The dishonesty of trying to suggest that there is nothing in between running the Club into debt and danger and sensibly investing in the ‘product’ in order to reap the benefits in the future, is quite breathtaking; the more so since that line held without being breached throughout the whole AGM. The other two video presentations (Peter Lawell and Tony Mowbray) came and went with nothing of great interest to note in either (see The Celtic Trust Twitter Feed for details). The resolutions were dealt with fairly swiftly. The Trust called for a poll on the re-election of Tom Allison, John Reid and Dermot Desmond. This is a matter of principal in relation to membership of the Board and will be continued in future AGMs. This forces the Chair to hold an actual ballot rather than having a show of hands and then reading out the proxy votes. We are therefore given a better idea of what proportion of shares are actually voted and can say with a degree of certainty whether or not resolutions have any popular support. All of the resolutions were passed overwhelmingly, as expected). Out of 28000 shareholders, less than 2000 actually voted (a full analysis of the voting figures will follow soon on this site). The Dividend Reinvestment scheme (which was originally proposed by the Trust, defeated at the AGM, and then introduced in the same year) has been moderately successful in bringing cash savings of around £315000 in the past five years. The Trust intends to promote this scheme more vigorously in the future. Following the resolutions the traditional Q&A session began. I mention here only two contributions for reasons of space and because I can’t be bothered to list the queries about Samaras’s hair or whether or not Tony Mowbray should stand with his hands in his pockets at games! Eddie Toner the former General Secretary of the CSA and member of the Trust, reminded Reid that, for many people, the opposition to him as Chairman has not gone away. It was a lesson in the adage that being right doesn’t make you popular as the audience stirred into screams of outrage reminiscent of the House of Commons on a bad day. A bit later, I asked the following questions: 1. Did the Board recognise that there was a huge discrepancy between the laughing, joking and backslapping going on in the AGM and the widespread anger and discontent among the broader fan body? 2. Were we to take from the video presentations that it was ‘business as usual’ and that there were going to be no special measures taken to resolve the current problems? 3. Did they know of any comparably sized company, whose business strategy was to successively, year on year, weaken the ‘product’ on which they depended? 4. Could they offer any justification, in the year in which the performances on the park were so poor, and in which huge bonuses were given to senior management in the company, that the frontline staff were not given a single penny pay rise (these being the staff who have to deal with discontented and disgruntled fans who are discontented and disgruntled because of the policies of this Board)? For my cheek I was told not to ‘patronise’ the meeting and just because they were having a few laughs didn’t mean they were not dealing with the issues; and that if I wanted to sit with a ‘bunch of boring Holy Willies I could just go across the city’! Meanwhile, the serried ranks of loyalists laughed and cheered: seemingly ignorant of the fact that if the Chairman holds any shareholder in that degree of contempt then the likelihood is that he holds them in contempt as well but just doesn’t have any reason to show it at this point. In all the years that the Celtic Trust dealt with Brian Quinn we had very few issues on which we agreed. However, he treated us at all times with courtesy and dignity and he would never have dreamt of telling any supporter or shareholder that if they didn’t like how they were running the club they could just go and support Rangers. The fact that Reid feels that it is acceptable to do this in a public forum (without a murmur of disapproval from the rest of the Board) tells us all (not just the Trust) where we stand. We never, in fact, got an answer to the questions asked but it didn’t seem worth the bother of reminding him at that point. The only positive note was that for once the smile (and the mask) slipped and we got a sight of the true face of John Reid – an unedifying sight indeed. And that my friends, was more or less it. Next year the Trust will have resolutions on the PLC Agenda again and we will be organising support for them from this point on. To anyone out there thinking of joining us please note that you will be very welcome but don’t expect to be invited in to tea with the Chairman.


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