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Apr 99- Sep 2000
In early 1999, Fergus McCann, in preparation for his departure from the club after five years, appointed Frank O'Callaghan as new non-executive Chairman. O'Callaghan, McCann and the rest of the plc Board then set about appointing a new Chief Executive. In mid-March '99 Allan MacDonald was appointed Chief Executive / Managing Director designate by an appointment committee and took over after McCann left at the beginning of April '99. An initial 2 year contract was to be followed by a rolling 1 year contract.
MacDonald, 49, was a life long Celtic suppporter. He had graduated from the University of Paisley with a joint degree in engineering and business studies and joined British Aerospace. During his time with BAe he had been involved in all aspects of the aviation business and was responsible for the development of BAe's business interests at Prestwick. Prior to joining Celtic he was managing director of BAe in the Far East. He held Honorary Doctorates from Glasgow University and Glasgow Caledonian University as well as an OBE awarded in the 1996 New Year's Honours List for his services to aviation. A family man originally from Ayr with two sons and three daughters, he had maintained five season books in the newly developed Celtic Park.
- When he took over as chief executive, he was aware that Celtic had to get away from their image of being tight, both with money and with information. He immediately extended Henrik Larsson's contract and put the striker on a reputed £23,000 a week. He tried to break down the perceptions of 'us' and 'them' between the fans and the Club which had been further fostered during McCann's five years and was keen to establish ties to supporters groups, rallys, overseas clubs and even fanzines. Aware of the rapid growth of the internet he was keen to develop Celtics media and website access and was the major developer of this side of the club.
- MacDonald also had the vision to see that a European League could one day be set up - and he was adamant that Celtic had to be at what he called "the top table" in Europe.
- He has stated that he was 'deceived' by Fergus McCann on two matters before he took the job at Celtic. These were capitalisation at the club - MacDonald recognised that the club was seriously under-capitalised and McCann assured him that there were plans to bring in new investment. The second issue was over a get-out clause (similar to Wim Jansen's) in Jo Venglos' contract which might allow the then Head Coach to leave. He was assured there was no clause when in fact there was. Discovering this is what lead him to the "birl" of appointing Kenny Dalglish.
- The decision to bring in his golfing buddy Kenny Dalglish as Director of Football, who then brought in his buddy, John Barnes as a first-time head coach / manager, backfired seriously - both were gone within a year.What he said at the time of their appointment was , "Appointing John Barnes was a high risk but hopefully not too high a risk. We have put in place an enormous insurance policy in Kenny Dalglish. We want this management team to grow with Celtic. What we now have is a team in place for the next five, six, seven years." What in fact he had appointed, however, was a team that would be in place for the next five months only.
- He was also roundly condemned for his decision to hire a psychologist to assess the performance of referee Hugh Dallas during the controversial Old Firm clash in May 1999.
However, after a UEFA Cup exit to Lyon and Old Firm defeat, MacDonald found himself having to face the media to defend Barnes' inexperience at management level. Two months later, MacDonald axed Barnes after the disastrous Scottish Cup home defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle and ordered Dalglish back to Glasgow from a holiday. With the end to the poor season approaching, MacDonald was at the head of the chase to find Barnes' successor and raced off to Spain to talk to Guus Hiddink. Just when it looked as though he had secured Hiddink as the new Head Coach he appeared to be over-ruled by chief share-holder and board member Dermott Desmond, who had been working privately to bring Martin O'Neill to the club. Eventually, however, it was genial Irishman O'Neill who took command, as MacDonald unveiled him at the start of June 2000.
MacDonald believed that, if Celtic wanted success, they had to spend like their neighbours across the city, who had spent in the region of £80million on new players over their last 10 years of dominance. Part of his belief in bringing Hiddink to Celtic was the necessity to provide the new Head Coach with a good budget (figures up to £30million were suggested) to beat the indian sign over Celtic of continual Rangers success. Parkhead chiefs needed to increase their own investment in playing staff to reap the rewards off it, argued MacDonald. Some of this high spending was predicated by MacDonald's strong belief that Celtic would be soon either playing in a pan-European League or would gain entry into the English Premier League (and he was more than likely supported in this belief by Dermott Desmond). However, financial statements proved the MacDonald era was as disappointing off the field as it was on it when a £6m loss was announced. He was also proved wrong on both the pan-European League and early entry to the English Premier League. With the much lower level of investment by television and media companies in Scottish football (as compared to the Premier League south of the border) this major capital spend looked to be a quite serious error of judgement.
This no doubt played on MacDonad's mind - his investment plan for the future had failed to come through, his belief in European or EPL football was still-born and his gamble on a golfing buddy (albeit one who had also been a Celtic legend in his own right) and an untried head coach was seriously flawed. His attempt to sign what he had believed to be the best coach for the club had been over-ruled by the Board Appointments Committee only to see the principal shareholder's favourite installed. He resigned quite suddenly and unexpectedly at the beginning of September 2000 but stayed on till the process of finding a new CE was determined - or rather he didn't and was asked to leave after some rather pointed exclamations in the press over what must have amounted to behind-the-scenes machinations by Dermot Desmond in January 2001.
To paraphrase Mao, it might be to early to make a fair and decent assessment of MacDonald's time as Chief Executive. He was certainly a change from the stultifying distance shown by many of the Board both before and since. His ideas were challenging and fresh and showed a great deal of ambition. Sadly it looked as though many of those ideas were ahead of their time and it might be said that he was too much of an idealist fan and not enough of the cold business realist - quite an assessment of someone who had joined the club from the very height of industry and commerce. He was an exceptionally approachable and likeable individual open to all ideas and he subsequently joined a Swiss financial institution.
He was succeeded by Ian McLeod in early March 2001.
- Allan MacDonald and the Atlantic League
- Article on Allan MacDonald, August 2000 - relationship with McCann, revelations on Venglos, O'Neill, Hiddink, Eriksson and Barnes and Dalglish.
- Allan MacDonald resigns, 2nd September, 2000
- Celtic sever relations with MacDonald
- It came out in an interview with MacDonald in August 2000 that he never took a pay rise from Celtic and that he had by contrast given a £60,000 bonus awarded to him by the Board back into the Youth Development programme at the club. (Sunday Herald, 13/8/2000
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