The thorny issue of ‘Resolution 12’ meant that not everything in the Celtic garden was smelling of roses at yesterday’s annual general meeting. It has become a hardy perennial of these gathering, a stubborn topic with which chief executive Peter Lawwell has to wrestle.
Resolution 12 dates back to the Scottish FA’s decision to license Rangers to participate in the Champions League in season 2011-12 despite their failing to meet the criteria due to unpaid taxes.
This matter has vexed large sections of the Celtic support ever since and a motion was put forward yesterday for a requisition for Celtic to take the matter back to Uefa and/or the City of London Police.
The fans’ frustrations have been exacerbated by the lack on action on the part of the SFA who convened an independent judicial panel 18 months ago to consider breaches by Rangers over the licence application. Despite sufficient grounds being found to refer the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, this has not happened thus far..
One shareholder claimed that the inertia on the matter from the Celtic board – which the requisitioners want to put down to unfit governance from the SFA despite the 2011 licence application effectively being the responsibility of Rangers – was tantamount to them accepting “cheating” following the Ibrox club’s use of EBTs to pay players and their subsequent plunge into liquidation in 2012.
Lawwell bristled at such a suggestion.
“I think it’s really unfair to suggest that we’ve let this thing go,” said the Celtic chief executive. “We were actually on the case in 2011 – two years before the Resolution 12 guys proposed it.
“What we’re being asked to vote on today isn’t about whether or not somebody was cheating or what to do about it; what we’re being asked to vote on is whether Celtic should report the matter to Uefa or the City of London Police.
“In terms of Uefa, they have no interest in this. I spoke to Uefa again this morning – I don’t know how many times I’ve done this – and there was a telephone call to the man who was in charge of licensing in 2011.
“His view is that Uefa have no interest, it was the oldco [Rangers], it’s now outwith the five-year time period and no matter what had happened, if they had been found guilty then, the sanctions would have kicked in in the subsequent year when Rangers weren’t involved in European football [because] they had disappeared.
“Now we can challenge his position but I can tell you categorically that Uefa are not interested in this. So we, as a board, need to decide what is best for Celtic – and I would ask you what could possibly be our motive, while having all this information, in not acting in the club’s best interest?
“Why wouldn’t we do that in this particular matter?
“I agree that this is unsatisfactory on many levels and the way we wanted to address that is by asking for an independent review which would cover all these issues so that lessons can be learned and we’ve asked the SFA for that on numerous occasions.
“We’ve passed all the information given to us on to the SFA and Uefa and we are where we are today. There is a charge outstanding and we await the output on that. Just to summarise, I don’t think there is much more than we could have done as a club but the institutions who should be interested in this – Uefa, mainly – are not. We will continue to ask for an independent review and we will wait to see what the outcome is of the SFA charge from last year. We’re pushing for that but, unfortunately, you can’t force a decision out of them.”
As ought to be expected of a team chasing a ninth straight league title, a tenth straight domestic trophy and who have already qualified for next year’s Europa League knock-out stage, yesterday’s agm was a largely convivial gathering.
Warm tributes were paid to the late Lisbon Lions Billy McNeill and Steve Chalmers and Neil Lennon was lauded from the stage and floor – supporters glossing over the outcry that accompanied his being made permanent manager for a second time.
One shareholder had a gripe about Lawwell’s salary. How many goals, he wondered, had the Celtic chief executive scored to justify his £3.5m take home pay?
His remuneration was defended by chairman Ian Bankier -–“I would have absolutely no hesitation in saying Peter Lawwell is worth every penny” – and Lennon. “I’ve been in football for a long, long time as a player, coach and manager and Peter is the best and sometimes you have to pay for the best,” the manager said.
Lawwell himself had the best lines yesterday, the pick of them perhaps when a questioner seemed to lament that Celtic were a selling club without the ambition of Ajax who had built a team to reach last year’s Champions League semi-finals.
“The ambition is maximising potential of this great club, and going as far as we can go in Europe,” Lawwell said. “Celtic is not a selling club, if you get a player like Kieran [Tierney, pictured] the attraction of a teamlike Arsenal becomes too much.
“As much as we wanted him to stay, it’s our job is to get most money. I don’t believe Tierney was sold cheaply. Ajax hadn’t won the league for four years before their bold new dawn.
“Would you take Rangers winning the league for four years to maybe reach a Champions League semi-final?”