I’ve gone on record numerous times since I started writing and podcasting about Celtic, that I neither like nor particularly trust Peter Lawell. I’ve never met the man personally, but his attitude in how he speaks to fans, to the media and indeed how he conducts club business, suggests to me that he and I probably wouldn’t see eye to eye.
However, as our former General Manager Jock Brown was once quoted as saying of Wim Jansen: “He’s the best coach, even if he’s not my best pal”.
Whether I like Peter Lawell or agree with how he and the board conduct their business is irrelevant. Up until this season, he could say “the results speak for themselves”, and I wouldn’t really have been able to argue with that. However, as much as I hoped I was wrong, I suspected a reckoning like this could be on the horizon and I have thought as much for a number of years.
Ever since Rangers died in 2012, Celtic have been presented with multiple opportunities to take diverging paths. On one hand there was the path of safety, of consolidation and of spending only what was needed to maintain our domestic dominance and perhaps spring the occasional surprise in Europe. Down the other path, where had we chosen to speculate to accumulate, digging a little deeper into the bank balance in the short term could have allowed us to move completely out of sight of the reanimated corpse of Rangers and for that matter the rest of Scottish football.
A few years of consistent UEFA Champions League Qualification and the riches and exposure that come with it, could have put us on another plane entirely. We could have established a permanent foothold among the “best of the rest”, the European elite outside of the big 4 leagues of Germany, Spain, Italy and England.
However, I’m sure the penny is finally starting to drop now with even the most ardent Lawell defenders that, at every turn, he and the board chose the former. They chose to play it safe, they chose the cheaper option. They put short term profits ahead of long term gains. Now the chickens have well and truly come home to roost. On top of that, they have the audacity to talk down to us as if we are children when we, rightly, express our annoyance at this attitude.
Lawell’s stage-managed question and non-answer session, hosted by Celtic TV’s resident spin doctor Gerry McCullough, was a complete waste of time and an insult to our intelligence. Honestly, when I look at the Celtic board now, and see some of the statements they have come out with this season in response to poor results or fan protests, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of successful businesspeople so embarrassingly unable to read the room.
It’s day one stuff for anyone who has ever studied journalism and PR. Rule number one: don’t patronize your audience. Rule number 2: When something goes wrong, take ownership of it and explain exactly how you’re going to set it right at the earliest opportunity.
Lawell said sorry during his Pravda-esque script-reading exercise, but nobody seems quite sure what he was apologizing for. There was something very Japanese about it all.
Having worked in Japan for a number of years, one of the most infuriating things about doing business here is the way people, especially politicians, constantly apologize, yet never actually assume responsibility for anything. The way Peter Lawell is carrying on, I think Prime Minister Suga might offer him a job soon.
Meanwhile, the only communication we fans hear from the club is when they have a sale on at the club shop or they want your money for season tickets, Celtic TV or some other cheap and tacky promotional tie-in.
Read the room Celtic, for god’s sake, read the room!