'Quite the lashing' - Celtic chairman Ian Bankier reacts to protests from the floor at heated AGM as he faces re-election opposition

Celtic chairman Ian Bankier is set to survive a bruising annual general meeting which saw a significant majority of shareholders in attendance oppose his re-election as a director.

Celtic chairman Ian Bankier took centre stage at the top table for the club's 2021 annual general meeting in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park on Wednesday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The 68-year-old whisky industry executive, who has been the club’s chairman since 2011, faced an often hostile audience in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

When the resolution relating to his reappointment was put to the floor, an overwhelming show of hands against the motion forced it to be put to a formal poll of all shareholders.

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The result, which will be announced later, is expected to be a formality in Bankier’s favour as he continues to enjoy the support of his fellow board members - most significantly, that of the club’s largest shareholder Dermot Desmond who owns a near 35 per cent stake.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou attended his first club AGM as he sat alongside acting chief executive Michael Nicholson. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Irish billionaire, whose appearances at the club’s annual general meetings have been rare ever since he joined the board in 1995, his most recent attendance coming in 2006, was again absent. He was represented by his son Ross Desmond.

The reappointment of Brian Wilson as a director was also opposed by a show of hands from the floor and subjected to another formal poll.

The chairman of Harris Tweed and a veteran journalist whose output includes a weekly column for The Scotsman, Wilson was criticised by one shareholder for stating in the obituary of former Ibrox manager Walter Smith he recently wrote for The Guardian that Rangers were ‘punished with demotion’ in 2012.

Wilson told the annual general meeting that it was ‘an error’ and that he had already corrected it and apologised for it.

Celtic's major shareholder Dermot Desmond was represented at the club's AGM by his son Ross. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The events relating to Rangers’ financial collapse in 2012 formed the basis of another resolution which had to be referred to a formal poll. It was a continuation of what has become known as ‘Resolution 12’ - although this time it was resolution 11 - with the requisitioners protesting against the manner in which the Celtic board dealt with their request for a UEFA investigation into the granting of a European licence to Rangers in 2011.

The Celtic board again opposed the resolution, along with one pushed by the Celtic Trust which called on them to satisfy shareholders that non-executive directors are ‘genuinely independent’ and to set up a ‘relationship agreement’ with Dermot Desmond.

During the meeting’s Q&A session, one shareholder asked: “When are you going to stand aside and let people who care take over?”, prompting Bankier to strongly defend the competence of the current board in response.

"I'm not going to win any applause from this room,” he replied. "I understand the disappointment but to condemn the board on wide generalities, one that's delivered football and financial success over 10 years, is short-circuiting.

"Our style is to do business behind closed doors and you might not like that, but it's the way it works. I know you can't see it but the progress we're making and the extent we're competing is good at the moment.”

But earlier, in a pre-recorded video played at the start of the meeting before the formal business got underway, Bankier accepted that he and his colleagues had been culpable for the failures of last season which saw Celtic’s unprecedented period of domestic dominance come to an end as their bid for a record 10th consecutive title was comprehensively crushed by Rangers.

“Frankly, it’s hard to see the positives,” he said. “The reality is we didn't achieve our primary objective and the bottom line is we are accountable as a board.

"We are accountable for that as we were accountable for all the other seasons - there's just no shying away from it.

"Now, we've analysed in great depth what happened, what went wrong, how we got to the position we were in.

"Obviously there were lots of things outwith our control, but there were lessons and we've learned them.”

Bankier faced his loudest show of dissent from the floor when he was challenged on the rumoured appointment of Police Scotland assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins to a senior security role at Celtic.

Higgins is an unpopular figure among the Celtic support for his role in enforcing the Scottish Government’s controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act which was introduced in 2012 before eventually being repealed six years later.

Led by the Green Brigade fans’ group, a silent protest against Higgins was held during the 0-0 draw at home to Livingston last month before Celtic’s visit to face Dundee at Dens Park ten days ago was temporarily delayed after tennis balls were thrown onto the pitch.

Bankier was subjected to loud boos and cries of ‘shame’ during the annual general meeting when he refused to either confirm or deny whether Higgins will be taking up a position at the club.

"It won't surprise you to know that I am not going to give assurances on what would be an operational role,” said Bankier. “I am not giving any assurances, not for today.

"What I will reiterate, health and safety at big arenas is a massive issue. It's a big topic, it is high level, it is strategic. It is not a role that polices Celtic fans, that is not the role we are seeking to fill. When we are ready to announce it, we will announce it."

When it came to call the meeting to a close, which must have come as something of a relief for the top table, Bankier said: “You’ve given it quite the lashing today”.

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