My love of football was sustained from the mid 70s when I started managing my office football team at the National Savings Bank in the CS Saturday morning league (where post match recovery in The Alhambra pub took all day). I eventually gave up that involvement in 1982 to go overseas for a couple of years and by the time I returned the kids were growing up and, being fitbaw daft (including one of my daughters) I took them to their games and stayed to support them. One of the highlight of that time was my daughter playing for Scotland U 16s v England at old Wembley, but mixing with the company of all of that younger generation, seeing my sons and daughter and their friends grow into adulthood was a very enjoyable period of my football supporting life.
I was always interested in what was happening at Celtic during all of this time but more as an observer than a full supporter. I attended and loved the Champions League games at Celtic Park in Martin O Neil’s time. I remember telling my oldest son at the start of the 4-3 Juventus game that this was an
“I was there night” such was the atmosphere generated. It was good to see it making a comeback v Helsingborg this year.
So my connection to Celtic was always there but what started to draw me in deeper was frequenting internet blogs and forums. Kerrydale Street at first then, when I understood the blog format, Celtic Quick News. It was the time of the Happy Clappers v The Mineshafters, when, had we all kent then wit we ken noo, we would have realised that the support and club together were the ones being shafted by a club on the soo side wearing blue.
In my advancing years I had become more of a TV watcher or radio listener than match goer, being an early contributor to what was the audio Channel 67 version where it was great to hear commentary from Tims madder than I was, than some of the snidey stuff on mainstream radio.
However that changed in late 2009 when the only explanation for some of the refereeing decisions against a struggling Tony Mowbray’s team was shenanigans and skulduggery behind SFA curtains. Fed up with moaning ineffectually on line, a few CQN bloggers met up around Christmas to see if we could do anything other than just moan. As it happens the CST/ CSA had the second of a series of Open Meetings in St Mary’s Calton coming up in early 2010 so we (Mark McGee’s Eyeliner, “haud me back” Terry O Neil, throwing him up front Canalamar, Ten Men, Rogue Leader, ParkheadCS, TBB and Paul B) all weighed in. (with apologies to any I missed)
I like to think that the voice of a united support coming from those Open Meetings played a part in challenging the SFA and helped bring about changes in the Disciplinary system in particular, although there is clearly some way to go. However the unforeseen impact of going to those meetings was two fold:
1. A much greater understanding of what Celtic meant to each and every one of those attending. It wasn’t just the passion they had that impressed me but also what they spent in pursuit of that passion. This was not expressed in any resentful form, indeed it was the matter of fact way it just came out in conversations that made me realise just how much I depended on these great folk, nearly but not all season book holders, for giving me a team to watch every weekend on TV.
2. The match goer centric way in which the support viewed itself. This struck me whilst writing the article “After The Ball” which was a report on the first Roadshow meeting at Celtic Park in 2010 and it was whilst drawing up this graphic:
(Note Ch67 now Celtic TV.)
I saw the support as one but looking from the outside with their imagined division circles shown. As a result Celtic were approached with the idea of a membership scheme to try and bring more cohesion and, along with a couple of other supporters with a similar interest, there were a number of collaborative meetings over the months to look at the kind of benefits a Membership Scheme might deliver sufficient to get a good response.
However whatever way we all sliced and diced it, and after consultation with official supporter groups as part of the collaboration, it was clear that anything that was going to add the burden of support on the central core of match day goers, SB holders and casual attendees alike, was not going to work. Somehow the burden had to be shared in a truly Celtic Way.
Meanwhile, given the financial dedication of others I had witnessed, I decided to take my share of the load of supporting Celtic and got a Season Book and joined the Celtic pools to bolster my meagre Ch67 monthly contribution. This made my contribution much more financial as well as emotional, I was now contributing as much to what my fellow supporters were watching (and so to them) as the next match going supporter.
The season passed (and we won the title – Hail, Hail) but the determination to find a Celtic way of sharing the load more equitably across the Celtic Diaspora did not pass and it was advanced by one of life’s ironies – this season I was going overseas!
So back to the drawing board and more discussions to see if a Celtic Way could be found to enable someone who could not afford to go to matches to use the Season Book of someone who wanted to support in person but could not. The outcome of those discussions with Celtic was The Overseas Season Book initiative.
What is attractive about this initiative is that it embraces the charitable ethos on which Celtic is based with the reach of technology which is part of the future and the need to grow our own support at home and abroad.
Crucially it allows individual supporters overseas in the fortunate position to be able to do so to be charitable, not to Celtic as such, who only divide what the existing support already, provide anyway, but through Celtic to fellow supporters who as one dictate the club’s ethos. This is not about helping Celtic, it’s about helping ourselves AND each other, which is surely why there is a Celtic in the first place? The scheme has been devised with this in mind, to give those who can, the opportunity to help others, but with real benefits to themselves, benefits that can be added to if the take up and feedback merits it.
The response to the Overseas Season Book by overseas supporters will be crucial in helping set the future course and establishing just how far the load of supporting can be shared. That response does not necessarily mean becoming an Overseas Season Ticket Holder, although if like me you are fortunate enough to be able to join please do.
What the response from both those who participate and those who cannot but provide feedback via the e mail below will do, is allow Celtic to gauge the appetite for this kind of reaching out to our overseas support. Could Celtic do more? What else is needed to make an Overseas Season book attractive enough to get involved?
It is an attempt to think differently, by seeing differently. It is about ways of sharing the load of supporting Celtic in a world where every supporter, no matter where they are, really depends on each other for putting a team on the park. One we can all applaud, criticise, blog/podcast/tweet about or even sing and dance with in huddles, wherever we are.
It is about replacing the original graphic with this one.