The Celtic Trust has been championing the cause of the Glasgow club’s legions of supporters since being set up back in 1999 and has, like Callum McGregor and his team mates once again this season, celebrated many noteworthy victories.

The group pushed for the construction of the safe-standing section at Parkhead, led the calls to abolish of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 and lobbied for the introduction of the SCRIP scheme which now enables shareholders to reinvest their dividends in exchange for new shares.

They threw their weight behind a campaign to create “The Celtic End” and turn the Jock Stein Lower Stand into an “iconic safe-standing section” that rivals “The Yellow Wall” at the Westfalenstadion in Germany when it was launched last month.

However, the trust, an Industrial and Provident Society which has around 1,000 members who pay a minimum of £5 a month and own in the region of 150,000 shares in the PLC, has an ultimate and far more ambitious objective.

“Fan ownership is an aim,” said Celtic Trust member Mikaela McKinley. “That is a long-term aspiration. We feel it is our club and we want to own it. I don’t think there’s anybody better placed to run a club than fans.

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“There is a widespread misconception that if fans own a club then fans are going to be sitting making all the decisions and signing all the players. But that is so far removed from the reality of how fan ownership works. It is 100 per cent realistic.”

Off-field turmoil prompted supporters of Celtic’s top flight rivals Hearts and Rangers to set up fan ownership schemes which have raised millions of pounds and enabled them to buy substantial shareholdings in the Tynecastle and Ibrox clubs.

There is no prospect, with Ange Postecoglou’s men performing well on the park and the Scottish champions posting healthy annual profits off it, of any uprising taking place in the East End of Glasgow imminently.

The trust’s attitude, though, is very much “never say never”. They are cognisant of the growing number of major clubs across Europe who are being acquired by fabulously wealthy overseas investors. They want to be ready to act if a situation that concerns fans arises in the future.

 “A lot of trusts are either borne out of crisis or develop through crisis,” said McKinley. “That is not a point we have reached at Celtic at all.

“But there is still a need for the trust to be there. If that day ever came, who would step forward? You would hope it would be the trust who would be at the forefront of any issues.

“Whatever the crisis was, a hostile takeover or whatever, then that is when the trust would step up. You would hope a lot of people would come to the trust.

“It is unrealistic to think Celtic are not in line for that sort of hostile takeover or that sort of situation. We definitely need to think about that, to take a long-term view and to be prepared.”

Celtic Way:

Fans of Newcastle United took to the streets of their city in their thousands to rejoice in 2021 when the £305m Saudi Arabian-backed purchase of the James's Park club was completed despite the Gulf state's appalling human rights record.

Would their Celtic counterparts be comfortable, never mind jubilant, if their major shareholder Dermot Desmond sold his stake to an obscenely rich foreign individual or consortium with the same kind of baggage? It is highly unlikely there would be the same response. 

The Parkhead club was founded by Brother Walfrid in the East End of Glasgow in 1887 for the “maintenance of dinner tables for the children and unemployed” and has, despite becoming one of the biggest and best-supported in the world since, retained its charitable intentions. 

“If that happened, how would we feel about that?" said McKinley. "If you look at the trust’s objectives, that is something we would struggle with. I don’t think it would be something that would be welcome.

“We want to make sure the club really serves our community and promotes our ethos. If you look back at how Celtic was set up and the social purpose of Celtic, we are really aligned with that. Fans should be really concerned they can counteract anything that comes our way, any kind of situation or scenario.”

The Celtic Trust are also keen for supporters to have a greater say in the day-to-day decision making at Parkhead and set up the “Drive for Five” initiative in 2021. They hope that over time it will increase their sway. 

“In simple terms, we are looking to influence the running of the club,” said McKinley. “There are different ways we are trying to do that.

“One way is buying new shares to make sure the trust own a bigger chunk of the club. Another way is uniting existing shareholders, people who already own a bit of the club, but aren’t using their voice.

“Something that goes under the radar a bit about Celtic is that fans do already own quite a significant part of the club already. The problem is, those fans are out of touch.

Celtic Way:

“There are around 28,000 small shareholders, ordinary fans who have bought a small amount of shares. But how many vote in the AGM? Hardly any. That is partially because the last share offering was so long ago.

 “When I was born, my great-grandmother bought me shares. There are a lot of situations like that. People think: ‘That is a sentimental thing’. They don’t think: ‘I can use that at an AGM’. They don’t realise the power that comes with shares and the power they already have.

“That is why the trust has come up with the ‘Drive for Five’ – we are trying to get five per cent of those small shareholders to reactivate their shares. If we hit that target we would be able to call a general meeting. That gives us a bit of extra power. If we have that ability and option, it is more than we have at the moment.

“Overall, we want to get people using their shares, having more of a say and showing more of an interest. People have opinions. They will talk about Celtic all day on Twitter. When it comes to taking action and doing something, we need them to step up.”

Research is also being carried out at Glasgow University, with the help of funding from the British Academy Leverhulme, into fan and shareholder engagement at Celtic and a wide-ranging survey is set to be launched imminently. One of the topics which will be covered is a fan advisory board. 

The independent Fan Led Review of Football Governance set up by Westminster in 2021 in the wake of the European Super League fiasco recommended “shadow” boards being formed at clubs so that fans can be consulted on important issues.

Liverpool launched a 16-strong Supporters Board run by the Spirit of Shankly, the official supporters trust, in August last year and the chairperson of the new group is invited to attend board meetings when fan-related matters are being discussed.

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Manchester United put in place a Fans’ Advisory Board back in 2021 in order to “facilitate in-depth consultation between the club and a group of fan representatives on strategic matters” including football governance and share ownership.

And Chelsea this month announced, in the wake of the government’s white paper on football governance being published, that they would follow suit by appointing six “supporter advisors to the board” and become “pioneers of fan engagement”.

“The independent review stated that where 100 per cent fan ownership isn’t feasible at a big organisation or a PLC, a fan advisory board is the way to go,” said Glasgow University academic and Celtic Trust trustee Marco Guidi.

“All of the bigger clubs in England are starting to put fan advisory boards in place. The survey is about improving fan engagement and finding out what Celtic supporters think about a fan advisory board.”

McKinley said: “The formation of a shadow board is something that is definitely a key agenda and strategy point for the trust. We have not taken it to the club. But we are looking into it at the moment and doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

“It is something we feel should be in place. If you look outside football at other PLCs, this is something it is quite standard to have. Having a separate advisory board is something that is good practice. It is happening a lot more down in England.”

She added: “There is good ongoing dialogue with the club. There is definitely a way of us raising matters with the club. If it is something the club want to take on board, there is a chance they will see it through.

 “The club does listen at times. But it is dependent on what type of thing you are trying to push forward and get them to pick up. Things we have put forward at the AGM have been voted down. There is not enough power in the hands of fans to push things through.”