Celtic Shareholders who put forward a resolution to the Celtic AGM in 2013 are preparing for the 2019 AGM tomorrow and some of their conclusions are reproduced below. Celtic are planning to vote the current resolution of 2019 down after several years of kicking the can down the road after an agreement to adjourn the 2013 motion was agreed at that AGM.
Given the weight of evidence, and the prevarication that has gone on for this extended period of time, you don’t have to be a student of politics to infer that Celtic are failing their own shareholders over this.
There appears to have been, at best, a failure of SFA governance over this issue. At worst? Well that doesn’t really bear thinking about. That Celtic (and other clubs too) have been in possession of the evidence outlined below but have failed to act on it is a damning indictment of the quality of people running our clubs. Peter Lawwell’s words from 2008 about the integrity of competition seem hollow coming from the same lips as the man who has failed to pursue any kind of sporting integrity over upholding the rules of the game.
Of course we are talking about a fundamental difference in how people see the game. There are those of us who (some say naively) consider that upholding the aspects of fair play and competition are paramount, and those who see the commercial aspects of the game as the foremost consideration. A pragmatist might find a way to accommodate both, but there are apparently no pragmatists in boardrooms all over Scotland – just financial accountants.
It would be unfair to categorise the latter constituency as suffering from some kind of character defect of course. Doesn’t make you a bad person because short term financial gain is your thing.
But it puts you at odds with the paying punters – or at least some of them. As a Celtic fan myself, I’m not so sure that I can take any real joy from my own club’s success if I have come to the conclusion that they themselves are happy with a rigged competition. I am not so sure I can credibly throw stones at anyone who is caught cheating when I see that serious evidence of malpractice is being ignored and hidden under the rug by my own club.
I am sure there are those who feel the same as I do. Are there enough of us? Probably not, but the effect of it all from a personal perspective, is that it disconnects me from the process where common goals and objectives are shared between fans, players and clubs. That’s what clubs are for after all isn’t it?
In short, if the game is rigged, there is no common objective.
And consequently, many of us, deprived of that shared mission, that bond broken, will be forced to re-evaluate their relationship with their clubs.
We all have our own thoughts, but the urge to walk away forever is strong with me.
The Resolution 12 Story
In 2012, Celtic shareholders brought a resolution before the Celtic PLC AGM which asked the Celtic Board to refer certain matters to UEFA because they felt that the Scottish Football Association was compromised, no longer fit for purpose in relation to these matters, at least, and had failed Celtic and all the other football clubs in Scotland and in its duty as a Governing body, and it has separately failed UEFA as the Licensing Authority appointed by UEFA to grant licences to play in European Football in relation to Scottish teams.
The actual wording used was as follows;
“This AGM requests the Board exercise the provision contained in the Procedural Rules Governing the UEFA Club Financial Control Body Article 10 with jurisdiction and investigation responsibilities identified in articles 3 & 11 (Note 1), by referring/bringing to the attention of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), the licensing administration practices of the Scottish Football Association (SFA), requesting the CFCB undertake a review and investigate the SFA’s implementation of UEFA & SFA license compliance requirements, with regard to qualification, administration and granting of licenses to compete in football competitions under both SFA and UEFA jurisdiction, since the implementation of the Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations of 2010.”
The response of the Celtic Board was to argue that this resolution was NOT NECESSARY because the board itself had already recognised that there had been failings within the SFA Licensing process, and they were already in correspondence with the SFA in relation to much the same issue.
The difference between the board and the Resolutioners was that the board wanted to continue corresponding with the SFA rather than refer the matter to UEFA or anyone else, whereas the Resolutioners argued that the SFA were hopelessly compromised, were unfit for purpose, could not of themselves remedy the situation they had created, and so wanted to refer the matter to UEFA as an independent and overseeing body whose rules had been flaunted, broken, ignored and to be frank, completely manipulated as a result of SFA inaction and inactivity.
After much discussion between the board and the Resolutioners, it was reluctantly agreed that the resolution should be adjourned and to allow the SFA to be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they could operate as a proper Governing body should and to answer all and any questions put to them via the Celtic PLC board and , where appropriate, the Resolutioners and ,if necessary, their solicitors.
In the interim period, it has become clear to the Resolutioners that the SFA are not fit for purpose, just as they originally argued, and that they are not, and never could have been, the appropriate body to consider and determine the failings in the licensing system that the Resolutioners had complained of.
This is not merely opinion on the part of the Resolutioners but is the determination and judgement of a formally constituted judicial panel appointed by the SFA itself.
The Resolutioners complain that the SFA have failed, and continue to fail in the following areas;
- They failed to oversee a fair and robust European Licence application process before and after March 2011 in respect of the appropriate season.
They had failed to mount any sort of investigation despite being contacted by HMRC from 2006 onwards in relation to the unlawful activities of a member club – they should have had a watching brief and requested regular updates from HMRC directly but didn’t.
- They failed to properly apply the necessary tests demanded by UEFA in considering licence applications, and subsequently, through their then CEO, sought to justify their licensing process and the grant of certain licences on a number of different contradictory grounds – none of which stood scrutiny.
- They failed to monitor, update their records or make specific enquiries between 30th March 2011 and Mid May 2011 when the list of application grants was formally intimated to UEFA – and by which time there was widespread public rumour and speculation about the state of the tax affairs of a member club together with specific legal documents which outlined that there was indeed a tax bills due which would have disqualified that club from being granted a UEFA licence – had the rules been applied properly.
- They failed to grasp the situation between March 2011 and August 2011 when the Sheriff Officers were seen arriving at the same club and had still made no enquiry.
- They failed to carry out any monitoring duties at all post the grant of the licence, with then CEO Reagan telling Celtic that once a European licence was granted – which it was in April 2011 – all further compliance monitoring and any necessary action was the province of UEFA. This was later contradicted by UEFA themselves.
- They failed to monitor through the June 30th and September 30th, two key datelines specified with the UEFA regulations, and there exists a damning e-mail from one SFA officer to the offending club which effectively says that he hopes UEFA will be too busy to notice the deficiencies in the latest submissions sent by the SFA to UEFA in respect of the club concerned.
Throughout, the SFA denied that there were any failures in their procedures, that licences had been correctly granted, there had been no breaches of the rules and maintained that their procedures had been audited and approved by UEFA during the period.
According to the official UEFA website, no such Audit actually took place with the same website confirming which Football Associations were in fact audited at the relevant time. There is no mention of any SFA Audit.
The SFA claimed that not only was there nothing wrong with the grant of the licence, but that there was nothing for them to report during the post grant period as it was not their responsibility – and then added that even if something had been wrong, or was later found to be wrong with the grant, they could not report the matter to UEFA and could take no action because they were time barred from doing so.
Post the Craig Whyte Trial, where long held evidence was publicly noted and commented upon, Celtic and the SPFL publicly called for there to be a full independent Legal inquiry into all that had transpired during “the EBT years” and all aspects of how what had occurred, impacted on football Governance in Scotland.
The SFA rejected those calls and instead insisted on their own internal inquiry into the UEFA licence process for 2011/2012 – despite previously insisting that there had never been anything to investigate or report to UEFA who had entrusted them with the administration of their Licensing process.
The SFA wrote to every club in Scotland to say they were undertaking that investigation and later publicly announced that as a result of that investigation they had uncovered sufficient evidence to justify bringing formal charges alleging breaches of both SFA and UEFA rules.
This despite denying for a number of years that there had been any need for an investigation and despite reassuring Celtic that their licensing process was robust, had been conducted properly, and had not resulted in any incorrect grant of a licence.
The SFA appointed a judicial panel to hear those charges, determine whether they had been proven or not and then to hand out an appropriate punishment.
That Judicial panel have ruled that legally they (the SFA appointed panel) and the SFA itself cannot bring, hear, determine and act on those charges, nor consider the activities of the football club concerned in any judicial forum, because apparently the SFA had previously decided and formally entered into a contract which says that the SFA will not, and cannot, administer their normal Governmental and Judicial function (which would normally apply to any other club in Scotland and at any other time in the history of the SFA or UEFA) in relation to the acts concerned and the specific football club in question.
Instead, the Panel ruled that the charges concerned should be considered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as a matter of contract and law – and could not be considered by an SFA appointed panel.
In other words, it has been judicially determined that the SFA cannot as a matter of law enforce its own rules or those of UEFA in relation to one club, and have signed away their entire right to oversee proper football Governance and the implementation of SFA and UEFA rules in this instance.
Further, that contract must have been known to all the appropriate SFA officers who decided and took part in the inquiry that led to the SFA bringing the disciplinary charges – Stuart Reagan, Andrew MacKinlay and Tony McGlennan – and when the SFA rejected Celtic’s call for a fully independent inquiry.
In effect, those same officers mounted their own internal inquiry and brought proceedings which they knew, or ought reasonably to have known, which would end in a legal dead end.
Such a course of action amounts to professional incompetence on a monumental scale – at best!
Further, subsequent SFA officials, assured the officers of Celtic Football Club that following the decision of the Independent Judicial Panel there was no reason why the SFA would not take the matter to CAS and in turn used the officials of Celtic Football Club to relay that message to the Resolutioners in the knowledge, and with the intention, that Celtic PLC shareholders would rely on those assurances and would act accordingly. Those actions and those assurances should now be the subject of a wholly separate inquiry.
Since those assurances were made to Celtic officials, Solicitors acting on behalf of shareholders have written to the SFA on no less than three occasions requesting clarification on what the SFA is doing, whether or not the decision from the independent tribunal advising that the matter should go to CAS will be implemented, and requesting a proposed timetable when this will happen. All such letters have been ignored or avoided by the SFA.
Subsequently, the current CEO of the SFA has stated that whether or not the matter should go to CAS will only be determined prior to Christmas 2019 – some 18 months after the ruling by the independent judicial panel.
This position is a complete volte face from what the SFA told Celtic officials immediately after the 2018 panel hearing.
The conclusion to all of this can only be that the SFA is not fit for purpose and that the governance of Scottish football is so bad, so broken and so far removed from normal judicial and corporate business practice that it must be looked at by an independent body if the matter is not referred to CAS.
Further, all of this must be made public, must be out in the open and must be properly disclosed otherwise any future investment in any club whether by private individuals, stock market listed entities, banks, loan houses, credit houses or whatever is predicated on the wholly fraudulent notion that the SFA will consistently apply its own rules or those of UEFA.
Celtic, as a respected member of UEFA, should not and cannot, stand back and allow this shambolic governance to continue unchecked and without external examination as to do so would be doing a total disservice to UEFA, and such a course of action would potentially make Celtic a party to the entire shambolic administration we have seen thus far.
The resolutioners have stated consistently since 2012 that SFA governance is not fit for purpose and have requested that this entire matter should be referred to UEFA as the overall governing body for European football and as a footballing authority who has entrusted the SFA to oversee the fair application of its rules in Scotland.
Despite what is now accepted as continued and regular SFA failure, that request has met with obfuscation and resistance.
However persistence beats resistance and no matter what the outcome of the 2019 Celtic AGM this is an issue which will not go away and is worthy of consideration and determination in a more formal legal forum.