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Down To Business
Evolution of the club from charity to business...
In a perfect world Celtic would have never existed. Why? Because in a perfect world there would be no poverty. There would be no squalor. There would be no prejudice.
In a perfect world people would offer charity without expecting the recipient to renounce their faith. Glasgow in the 1880s was far from a perfect world.
Brother Walfrid created Celtic to aid an impoverished community. A community often shunned because of their religion and nationality. He was a man driven by a desire to not just rescue them from hunger but to help them retain their dignity.
Through the Poor Children’s Dinner Table and Celtic Football club he wanted to put food in the belly and pride in the heart. That’s not romantic revisionism, that’s the reality behind Celtic.
However, the club’s rapid success on the pitch would see it quickly steer away from these original and honourable off-field aspirations.
Celtic had quickly established themselves as one of the best supported sides in Britain. On and off the field the club was a significant success. That should have meant a welcome financial boost for the charities the club was originally formed to assist but Celtic’s contribution to these worthy causes was not generous enough for many members.
As victories and gate receipts mounted up there emerged a growing tension within the club about its future. AGM’s and interim meetings were regularly the scene for intense and fiery debates about the direction Celtic should take.
By 1892, with the influential Brother Walfrid now in London, those in charge began to put profit before charity. That year, for the first time, no funds were given to the Poor Children’s Dinner Table.
Senior members of the club’s committee argued that the rapid success of Celtic meant that if the club was to maintain its place as a football force then it would have to move away from its formative charitable goals. Some members however resented the intent to turn Celtic into “a mere business”.
At the AGM of 1893 committee members John H McLaughlin and Joseph Shaughnessy proposed the club ”... take immediate steps to become a limited company”. After an emotive meeting they were defeated 86 votes to 31.
For McLaughlin and co it was however but a temporary setback. They continued to press for change and directed Celtic in an increasingly business-like manner. Over the following seasons thousands were spent on improving Celtic Park as well as paying players and officials. Charitable donations were, in contrast, negligible with many requests for support refused.
The battle for the future of the club had been a war of attrition and it finally came to an end, somewhat ironically, at St Mary’s Church Hall in March 1897.
Using a supposed need for stadium improvements to further their argument - the committee once more proposed that Celtic convert to a limited company. This time the vote was successful.
Less than 10 years after the formation of Celtic the club’s original aims and principles had all but been abandoned. In reality the move to a limited company had to be made if Celtic were to remain a competitive and thriving football club. That however did not make the decision any easier and for some members it was the ultimate betrayal of the club’s origins.
Today the origins of Celtic are alien to a world of football more concerned with multi-million pound transfers, lucrative TV rights, sponsorship deals, executive boxes and tacky merchandise.
Yet these roots remain a source of great pride for Celtic supporters. Whatever the priorities in the boardroom, for them charity and community will always remain at the very heart of the club.
Latest page update: made by joebloggscity
, Jun 29 2012, 6:02 AM EDT
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