FOOTBALL: Celtic act to end bonus controversy

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The Independent Online
CELTIC PLAYERS and management yesterday resolved to end the bitter internal strife that has rocked the Scottish champions by enlisting a top agent to act as a mediator on all future financial discussions.

The move, endorsed by the managing director Fergus McCann and the general manager Jock Brown, calls a truce on the row over bonus payments which marred the build-up to the club's recent European Cup exit. Paul Stretford, of Proactive Sports Management Ltd, is the third party who will now play a key role in restoring working relations between disillusioned players and the Parkhead hierarchy.

McCann, while not divulging what bonus agreement has been agreed ahead of the club's Uefa Cup first round tie against the Portuguese side, Vitoria Guimaraes, next week, stressed he hoped the matter would now be put to rest. "The recent dispute regarding bonus plans is no longer an issue of conflict and relations are good," he said.

"Indeed, Jock Brown has encouraged the players to appoint a representative to deal with any financial issues regarding their work as a group, and they have done so. I am assured by Tom Boyd that all future matters will be discussed amicably and in confidence, and the management will take the same approach."

Boyd, Celtic's captain, was also happy that, with the long-running saga now apparently reaching an amicable conclusion, he and his team-mates are free to concentrate on regaining their championship-winning form of last term. "The players welcome the approach taken by the management to resolve recent issues," he said. "In future, all matters will be discussed and resolved inside the club.

"Paul Stretford, of Pro-Active Sports Management Ltd, has been appointed to act on behalf of the players group on all future financial matters," Boyd added. "The players are pleased to move forward on the basis agreed. None of the players will speak any further on the issue of bonus payments. The players and management want the entire concentration to be focused on bringing Celtic success on the field, starting with Saturday's match against Kilmarnock."

McCann, meanwhile, insisted he has no intention of "selling out" to corporate investors when he relinquishes control of the club next spring. He admitted he had received several approaches to sell his 51 per-cent controlling interest in the Scottish champions. One report suggested a Japanese banking firm, Nomura International, were ready to offer McCann around pounds 30m for a majority shareholding in the club.

However, the Scots-born Canadian, who will end his controversial Parkhead reign by the end of the season, reaffirmed his commitment to placing the club in the hands of current shareholders and supporters.

"There has been a lot of speculation about companies and individuals claiming to buy my shares," McCann said. "I do not intend to respond to this. My position is that I will do what I consider is best for Celtic Football Club and I believe my divestment plan, namely to give first refusal to Celtic shareholders, fits that aim."