The Green Pound Bankers

The Green Pound Bankers

The Green Pound Bankers by Bhramblejelly

When Fergus came over from Canada to save the club from the ignominy of insolvency he was armed with a plan to grow revenues and to open up the club to a broad ownership model. This was a plan that he shared with anyone and everyone who asked for a copy. He went on TV and was a regular on the radio answering questions and making sure he was getting his message across. He was neither a comfortable public speaker nor a natural self publicist. He had a message to spread and he made sure everyone got it.

It led to many awkward moments on radio, in particular, and many unfair characterisations by most if not all Scottish newspapers. In fact, had he brought his idea to the Dragon’s Den I wonder how many of those great business brains would have shared his vision and said “I’m in”? Few, if any, would be my guess.

A central plank of his plan was to mobilise the latent support and energise the matchday regulars. Make sure the Green Pound was being spent at Celtic. He did this very successfully as we all know and as we all appreciate even more now than we did then.

I bought my first season ticket in the late 80’s and went to most games. In the early 90’s I went to fewer games but still managed most at Celtic Park. By that time I was as disillusioned as everyone else and it still sends a shiver down my spine when I see that Celtic View image of a smiling Kevin Kelly pointing to his own moonbeam in the derelict land at Cambuslang , Good Lord, the memories.

Then Fergus came to town as did the Weisfelds. Two camps with serious money and serious intentions of taking the club out of the clammy hands of the old board.

All through the campaign, Fergus McCann spoke directly to the supporters. His first enemy, our enemy, was the board. At times he castigated them, at other times he tried to woo. He was always better value at the former than the latter. He swatted aside snidey comments from the press and kept up the focus on mobilising the Celtic support behind a cause.

Later, when the club went back to the symbolic East End phoenix we had already bought into his idea with Season Tickets and merchandising on the up. For the first time in my memory, possibly ever, supporters were central to everything the club was doing. Season Ticket holders were to be treasured and do you remember the first books under this new regime? We had concessionary travel, discount vouchers and all sorts of little touches that made us feel that this was something of a reciprocal arrangement.

The share issue was a great success too; not only did we get a chance to own a bit of the club but we had our names printed on our seats at Celtic Park. We had watches, pens and discounts at the club shop. Little things, some even a touch naff, but important gestures nevertheless.

Roll forward nearly 20 years. Some of the Directors are the same – same Finance Director, same Weisfeld family involvement through Michael McDonald, Dermot is still there too. Of course we’re all still here – aren’t we? What about the feeling that Season Ticket holders are central to everything that the club wants to achieve? Yes, that is undoubtedly still the case. But treasured? Give me a break. Added value of having a ticket? Not a chance.

What do we get for our money these days? Clearly we get to see games at Celtic Park from the comfort and familiarity of our own seat; the same seat we may have had since we came back from our wilderness year at Hampden. My name is still on my seat so that’s a good thing I suppose. What about the club shop? Yes, I can spend £20 extra on a kids strip compared to JJB or Sports Direct. Great, that makes me a real fan too in the eyes of the club.

Somewhere, somehow the Celtic Season Ticket holders have become a group of fans wholly taken for granted. Very recent sensible ticket price policies for the UCL games and the Raith Rovers match suggest that there’s a stirring inside the club that has realised that people are voting with their feet.

I look at my club just now and all I see is a pale shadow of what it could have been and what it could be. I see opportunities missed in terms of customer engagement; Celtic TV, the Celtic View, matchday income from food kiosks. As for non-match days, don’t make me cry. Despite the fact that people are always hanging about outside Celtic Park, particularly in the last 20 years or so, some just wanting to be there while others waiting for a glimpse of a star or a photo next to a statue. What do we do to maximise revenue and enjoyment from that experience? We offer a burger van. Cheers guys.

There are some great things going on; the Johnny Thomson play, the Active Fans fitness stuff, the Disabled Fans stuff with the incomparable Peter Joyce, the widespread interaction on Twitter, the Kerrydale Suite initiatives on the last day of the season and the week prior when we blew it at Ibrokes. Obviously still some people with good ideas and some oomph to get things done. But somewhere along the line, it’s falling between the cracks.

I can see that the corporate seats behind the goal in the Celtic End are less than half full every game so why not try something different from the tried and tested and failing. Maybe the existing corporate facilities could be merged and reduced. Turn the Kerrydale Suite into a family suite as it was on the day the league was won.

Open it up to ST holders at 12 o’clock where they can bring the kids to meet Hoopy, hear some music, get the tvs on showing goals and games and advertising the latest dvds, sell food, have a stall of goods from the shop including the dvds that have just been shown and open the bar. Stop selling beer at 2.30 if you want but fill the place and give fans somewhere to go early.

Do the same at the other end of the stadium too if you can. Those who watched the Ibrox and RugbyPark games in the lounges last season will know how many places there are in the ground that could be used for a wider population. To encourage folk to get there early, to spend their lunch money, pint money in the ground and keep it with the club.

If that’s a no go, why not fill the Corporate seats by rewarding a few ST holders for each game. They can then use their season ticket to bring someone else along to CelticParkfor free. You never know, they might even like it and want to pay to come back again.

Bottom line – make sure the Green Pound is being spent at Celtic

I’m still a Season Ticket holder and for the last 3 seasons my son has been too. My Dad and his brother are, their Dad was before him, way back when it was neither popular nor necessity. However, none of us any longer buy a Celtic View nor subscribe to Celtic TV anymore. No one buys a programme and generally nothing from the overpriced, undervalue kiosks inside the ground. I don’t buy much in the club shop. I did try to buy the black home strip for my boy at the CP Superstore – but they had no socks in his size….on day 1 of the strip release. Same day I got it £20 cheaper (and complete!) from another retailer.

During those heady summer days of Armageddon chat I heeded the call from the club to renew our 2 tickets prior to the initial deadline prior to the SPL decision to give the deadco share to Dundee. Subsequently, a couple of weeks ago, we received a crass letter telling us that a minority of fans complained about the absence of a refund following deadco’s share transfer but that most have been “fully supportive”. By clear implication those sensitive souls who had objected to paying £70 for kids for (potentially) 2 games againstDundeeare less than fully supportive.

As a result, just to show how good the club is, all junior non opt-out fans would get a £30 voucher to spend in the shop. All you had to do was go to the Ticket Office or write in for it. No point enclosing it with the letter was it? Nah, that would only encourage uptake.

No matter, when I realised my son wasn’t in the auto ticket scheme I popped into the Ticket Office to buy and collect his Helsingborgs ticket and to arrange for him to go on my mandate so that he gets a ticket for all matches (whether he wants to go or not!). I duly collected my ticket and the £30 voucher; only to find later that it is valid until the end of September. Damn, can’t really use it to offset a Christmas spree in the shop then. Will I find another £40 for the rest of the strip or is it coming at the same time as a Season Ticket instalment and a European ticket instalment? Damn again. Great timing. Thanks Celtic.

Ok, decision made. I thought enough’s enough. Stick your voucher; give me my money back so that I have an opt-out ticket for my son as I think he’ll get over not seeing Dundee. While I’m at it I’ll just opt out of the auto ticket direct debit scheme myself (so I’ll no longer get tickets for all those non ST matches whether I want to go or not). I’ll continue to buy club merchandise where I get best value and I will watch the European & Cup games on TV or go on a match choice basis.

I put that in writing and quickly received a letter back from the Ticket Office Manager. Unfortunately it was wrongly addressed to my 10 year old son rather than me but hey ho.

Although it completely ignored my observation that a wider, creeping cynicism surrounds the club in the way it treats supporters and that the whole voucher exercise was further clear evidence of this – in terms of the club not sending it out with the letter offering it, the short expiry date and most importantly the adjoining implied criticism of those fans who sought better value when deadco became Dundee – it helpfully pointed out the terms & conditions of my pre deadline purchase meant that I could not now change it. To paraphrase – you paid early and we’ve got your cash so get it right up ye, Bhramblejelly.

That may be a perfectly acceptable line to take, especially if it was directed at one off purchasers. But to your core, repeat customers? Interesting strategy.

Ironically two of my brothers in law also received letters from Celtic that same week; this time asking if they had any friends who would be interested in buying season tickets. A noble plan that suggests the penny is dropping, albeit somewhat slower than the attendances as the ground appears to be 25% empty on most match days this season.

At the same time I have 3friends who have 6 x £50 kids tickets between them. They tried to add the Dundeegames onto their Season Tickets only to be told that the kids would be required to pay the full matchday ticket price rather than a pro-rata deal per the season ticket price. Guess how many of the 5 kids will be going to the game? Correct, not a single one of them.

While many have been looking at deadco and arguing over their right to claim that they are or aren’t the same club, I fear the body snatchers have been in at Celtic Park too. In summer 2013 I’ll make a final decision on what I’ll do for next season but if I was being asked right now to renew for something like the 20th year in a row, I’d be quoting the Dragon’s Den millionaires – “I’m out”.

 

Bhramblejelly