Like every anniversary, the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Celtic Trust was a time for reflection, for assessment, for remembering and to think about the next step. In our case, the year running up this occasion was also marked with the sadness of the loss of our Chairman Tommy McGonigle, who died after a short illness having served the Trust with energy and determination and who, to this day, is greatly missed. There was also a sense that we had reached a point where we needed to think about what we were really about and whether we served the purpose that we set out to serve two decades ago. On top of all of that, we there was a sudden realisation that those Celtic Supporters below the age of 40 were very unlikely to know exactly what the Celtic Trust is and how it differs from other Celtic supporters’ organisations.
The period from the inception of the idea of the Trust (the first supporters’ trust in Scotland) to its inaugural meeting in 2000 was a lengthy one – almost two years – during which we worked very hard to ensure that the legal framework for the Trust was watertight. The Trust was never intended to be like any other organisation because what it actually was meant to be, and what it remains to this day, is a legal and financial vehicle which would allow the Celtic support to be the legal owners of Celtic. It was intended to be the mechanism to combine and mobilise the shareholding of Celtic supporters in common to ensure a meaningful say in the running of the club which we all love.
It is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society and is overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority – in plain language it is a mutual and all its assets (ie shares in Celtic) are held in common by its members whose democratic rights are enshrined in its lengthy and detailed constitution. In those early years, we spent a huge amount of time explaining this to the Celtic support, many of whom were very suspicious of this newcomer on the block. It was a case of saying, no we are not saying we will own Celtic; we are saying we all will!
I would like to think we overcame the suspicions initially aroused – many of which focussed on which one of us they thought was angling for a seat on the board! In the intervening years, I would also like to think that we have established ourselves with the Celtic support (and with the Celtic board) as a truthful, honest, credible organisation with a reputation for integrity and an openness to working with other Celtic organisations and individuals, and Celtic, in a spirit of mutual respect.
It is fair to say that we have also become known as more of a campaigning organisation than as one which focussed on representing (small) shareholders. We make no apologies for that and take great pride in some of our achievements such as being a founding member and a driving force behind the phenomenally successful, Fans Against Criminalisation campaign; our work on the Living Wage; being the original proponents of the standing section; our contribution to the development of the disciplinary policy and the European away ticket scheme; our work in relation to the review of facilities for disabled Celtic supporters and the longstanding, day-to-day, behind the scenes, role in representing fans who get into difficulties with the club.
At this point though, and on reflection, we realised that the original aim of the Trust was still valid and that our Club, being a PLC, remains vulnerable at any point to what we might call, a malevolent takeover. We are not saying that such a thing is imminent – although there are some interesting, recent incursions by American money into UK football. However, should we be able to mobilise a significant proportion of the small shareholdings owned by those who purchased shares in the 1994 (McCann) issue, we could still function as barrier against any move on our club by those with no understanding of the nature and history of Celtic.
For that reason, we have decided to relaunch the Trust by focussing on that aim ie to encourage small (and large) shareholders to vote their shares with us on matters of great importance and to further aim to build our own shareholding in the club – a shareholding which will be held in common by all members of the Trust present and future.
To that end, and under the direction of our new Trustee Board, led by our new Chairman, David Low, we now have a new website under development and we will be embarking on a significant membership drive over the coming months with the sole aim of building up our ownership stake in Celtic. As a service to Celtic supporters, we will be operating a share certificate recovery service for those of you who have lost your original certificate; we will be offering advice and guidance to those of you who have any difficulties administering your shares – bearing in mind that, for most of us, Celtic shares are the only shares we ever have, or ever will, own.
Unlike other supporters trusts which came after us, the Celtic Trust has never achieved the membership we would have hoped for. In part, we are the victims of Celtic’s success. Most large Trusts have built their membership on the basis that their club was in crisis and they rallied supporters to the cause. We have the luxury of never having had a crisis during our existence and long may that continue to be the case. However, we need members in order to raise funds, in order to increase our ownership stake in Celtic so that we can be in a position to defend our club should the need arise.
We won’t be giving up our campaigning or representative role. Indeed, at our 2020 AGM we voted to support and take forward the Twenty’s Plenty campaign initiated by The Bhoys in order to argue for more reasonable and affordable ticket prices. However, we do want to go back to our original purpose to a greater extent because we still think that this is the best way to protect our club and the interests of supporters in general.
We look forward to the next twenty years and to updating our friends at More than 90 Minutes on our various activities as we move forward. As always, if you want to find out more or to join us please contact us via our website www.celtictrust.net or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You should be able to join directly online very soon and we hope you will seriously consider doing so.
Thanks and here’s to the next 20 years!
Jeanette Findlay is a founder member of the Celtic Trust. She travels to all domestic home and away games with the Dennistoun No 1 CSC and, now that her weans are becoming ‘less dependent’ she hopes to get back to going in Europe also. She was active in FAC until the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour Act, is part of the Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór which is planning to build a memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow and she is part of the Call it Out campaign against anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic bigotry. Once the memorial is up and there is peace and harmony between all religions and races in Scotland she hopes to retire from campaigning and just enjoy the fitba!