More than a club?
Celtic’s AGM certainly caused a storm on social media yesterday with the two hot topics being the club’s continuing refusal to seek accreditation as a living wage employer and the ongoing row over Director Ian Livingston’s political affiliations. For some supporters the fact Celtic was refusing to sign up to the living wage scheme (despite actually paying their full time employees the living wage at the moment) was bad enough but to then have a Director seemingly in favour of cuts to Tax credits which would hit the poorest workers in the land compounded this. The Celtic board no doubt has its reasons for the stances they take but they continue to be poor at explaining those reasons to the supporters. The Living wage issue seems to be more about ensuring the club forces contractors such as catering and stewarding companies to pay their employees the prerequisite amount per hour. The club should surely state publically that while they have no power to force other companies to adjust pay rates of their workers, they can at least negotiate the point when contracts are up for renewal.
Most of us feel that paying low paid workers the living wage is the right thing to do and Celtic talk proudly in their Mission statement of striving to be the ‘team of the people.’ with a ‘wider role and the responsibility of being a major Scottish social institution promoting health, well-being and social integration.’ If that is to be anything more than empty talk then part of it should be about fighting for the poorest workers in our society and doing so publically. Health and well-being are, after all, often affected by low income.
That point isn’t lost on many who see the plans by the Conservative party to cut Tax Credits as another assault on the poorest workers in society and some at the AGM raised the role of Lord Livingston as a Tory Peer in this context. They are quite entitled to question the board on this issue although the balance of power among shareholders means that they were always unlikely to affect the board’s position that Lord Livingston brings considerable business experience and acumen to Celtic and his political views are not a consideration when deciding to confirm his position as a director of Celtic. This may tie into the club’s stated policy of having ‘no political agenda’ but it did cause some anger amongst a vociferous group among the support which was further exacerbated by Chairman Ian Bankier’s description of some of the abuse aimed at Lord Livingston as ‘Criminally racist.’ He said that Mr Livingston had been…
‘Subject to a torrent of utterly base personal abuse conducted over social media over recent weeks. The messages posted, in quite a few cases are criminally racist and in all cases the vocabulary chosen is base and highly abusive and what sickens me to the core is that the campaign is conducted in the name of (Celtic founder) Brother Walfrid.’
Powerful stuff from the Celtic Chairman and his words predictably set off a chain reaction on social media which had those who it seemed didn’t read his actual words misinterpreting them as a slur on all Celtic supporters. There were numerous comments on Twitter which gave the impression the Chairman’s ‘criminally racist’ comments were aimed at more than the foul mouthed minority who certainly did use extreme and abusive language about Ian Livingston. Mr Bankier then felt obliged to release a statement denying his comments were directed to the wider Celtic support and said…
‘Already there has been some media coverage of my comments relating to Ian Livingston and his proposed re-appointment and much of it has been wildly exaggerated or taken out of context. I have not branded our supporters racist and it is outrageous to suggest that I would ever do that. I was only referring to a small number of specific comments which have been made on social media, which I believe are unacceptable, and I know Celtic supporters would agree with me.’
In this instance Ian Bankier is correct. A small number of comments I have read from Facebook and Twitter have been contemptable in their tone and we fail in our duty as Celtic supporters if we don’t let the people who say such things know that it’s unacceptable. I am not for an instant defending Ian Livingston’s politics but I will defend his right to hold beliefs which differ from mine without him being called an ‘Ashkenazi cunt’ or a ‘Dirty Zionist fucker’ and I’m sure 99.9% of Celtic supporters would agree with me on that. I won’t embarrass the people who made these comments by naming them but they are genuine. Such intolerance is not the Celtic way and I know that the vast majority of Celtic supporters would argue passionately about issues affecting the club without ever stooping so low.
It remains laudable that so many Celtic supporters feel so strongly about social issues affecting our poorest people. Today’s foodbank collection at the stadium will be yet another demonstration of that basic decency to be found among them. It is only right that they challenge the club to live up to its founding principles but it is also important that supporters challenge those among our number who over step the mark.
If you’re going to the game today remember to take what you can afford along to the foodbank collection points. Perhaps as our Directors gaze out of the window and see the spirit of Walfrid alive and well among the support they will think again about ensuring all who work at the great man’s club are paid enough to live on. We claim to be more than a club, I hope we’re more than just a business.