Three Celtic fans groups have banded together to demand the resignation of Celtic chairman Ian Bankier, following comments made during Friday’s AGM surrounding the furore over Lord Livingston and his tax credits vote.
THE Celtic Trust, Green Brigade and Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters’ Clubs have rounded on Bankier, after the club chairman sparked furious reactions from shareholders after he branded a section of the club’s support ‘criminally racist’ over their demands for the Tory Lord to be removed from the Celtic board.
During Friday’s AGM, shareholder Jim Milligan called for Livingston to be removed from the board due to his role in the Westminster government and tax credit cuts in particular.
Milligan said: “His [Livingston] role in society is contrary to the ethos of this club and its origins and he should not be a member of the board. This is not Downtown Abbey – the days of tipping the cap are over.”
Bankier reacted less than calmly at Milligan, replying: “The core value that defines Celtic Football, the standard we proudly point to, is that we are inclusive. We welcome and include into Celtic, everyone, no matter their race, their religion, their social standing or what their politics may be.
“This personal campaign against Lord Livingston is criminally racist. He has been subjected to a torrent of base personal abuse in social media. Some of the messages are criminally abusive.
“We are grateful that he prepared to dedicate his time and considerable talents to the Celtic board. The fact he is a member of the House of Lords has no difference to the interests of Celtic.
“We play football and we are good at it. Our fans come from all corners of society. We are not a conduit for political statements or campaigns. Our club is not available to anyone for this purpose.
“I condemn this activity. Intolerance leads to hatred and hatred leads to a lot worse as we well know, That this campaign has been done in the name of Brother Walfrid is shocking.”
After the AGM, trying to play damage limitation, Bankier issued a statement following widespread criticism from shareholders and Celtic fans, claiming that his comments were ‘taken out of context’ and ‘wildly exaggerated’.
Bankier commented: “I would like to thank all our shareholders and supporters who attended today’s AGM. As ever, we enjoyed a healthy exchange of views and yet again it was fantastic to see the passion for all that is going on around our great Club.
“Already there has been some media coverage of my comments relating to Ian Livingston and his proposed re-appointment and much of it has been wildly exaggerated and taken totally out of context.
“I have not branded our supporters racist and it is outrageous to suggest that I would ever do that. I was only referring to a small number of specific comments which have been made on social media, which I believe are unacceptable, and I know Celtic supporters would agree with me.
“Celtic supporters are the lifeblood of the Club and I am delighted to say the best in football, with the best of values. I thank everyone again for attending today’s AGM to express their views.”
In response, a statement was released by the Celtic Trust, Affiliation of Registered Celtic Supporters’ Clubs and the Green Brigade, it read: “Following the disgraceful remarks made by Ian Bankier, Chairman of Celtic PLC to the Celtic PLC AGM on Friday 20th November, the undersigned organisations feel it necessary to express our anger at these allegations.
“Mr Bankier’s claim that fans opposed to the re-election of Mr Livingston to the Celtic board have engaged in ‘criminally racist’ social media postings is an unforgivable slur on the Celtic support. For him to then evoke the name of Brother Walfrid to justify his unfounded assertion is utterly shameful.
“We are now, since the AGM took place, aware that there were some postings on social media which we condemn and we would support the club, and Mr Livingston, should they take action against those individuals.
“None of this is a justification for the generalised smearing of the Celtic support and, in particular, those of us who voted against Mr Livingston’s re-election. Mr Bankier committed an error of judgement and showed a complete lack of control at the AGM and this is not acceptable in a Celtic Chairman.
“We would like to publically condemn his unprofessional behaviour and the subsequent attempts to suggest that his words had been taken out of context, as this patently was not the case.
“We call on all other members of the PLC board to denounce these comments.
“Ultimately, we are of the belief that Mr Bankier is no longer able to redeem himself following this attack on the Celtic support, and his failure to retract and apologise immediately afterwards, and we call on him to give serious consideration to his position as Chairman of Celtic PLC.”
Clearly facing the wrath of a powerful group of their own fans, the club issued a second statement on the subject.
It read: “Ian made his position absolutely clear on Friday when he thanked, praised and commended Celtic supporters and shareholders and clarified that he had not branded our supporters as some had suggested.
“Ian was simply referring to those individuals that the Trust in their statement have also condemned, so we seem to be in agreement.
“We are surprised and disappointed that a public statement has been made without any dialogue on the matter with the club but, as always, we will be happy to meet any of our fans groups to discuss.”
What is your take on Ian Bankier’s comments, Celtic’s two statements and the fans groups’ demand for Bankier to quit?