Football: Celtic plans scorned

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The Independent Online
CELTIC'S beleaguered directors discovered yesterday that while they are willing to take the club, which has been owned for more than a century by three families, to the stock market, their own stock in the football community remains low.

They had thought that by announcing breaks from tradition the sins of the past would be forgotten, but their radical proposals were greeted with widespread scepticism. The majority of the club's fans, who had vowed to boycott yesterday's home Premier Division match against Kilmarnock before it fell foul of the weather, are scornful of boardroom utterances.

On Friday they heard David Smith, vice-chairman and financial guru, say that the share capital will be increased to secure short-term funding of between pounds 4m and pounds 6m and that the club would go public towards the end of this year.

A public limited company will then be set up with a board of directors who will oversee the football club's board. Also, Smith said, corner-stone funding of pounds 20m was now in place for the proposed new stadium complex in Cambuslang, a couple miles further to the east of Glasgow than Celtic Park. A 40,000-seat stadium with an adjacent 10,000- seat indoor multi-purpose arena is the key to the flotation.

The directors are claiming that Cambuslang, which most people had dismissed as a dream, has now been delivered and that everyone should be happy that the present seven- man board would eventually be replaced. However, Cambuslang is still little more than a portfolio of glossy artist's impressions and there is no deadline for the directors' departure.

The fans see only a team woefully short of genuinely skilful players. They know also that the club's bankers have said no more money can be spent because of debts of around pounds 7m.

It is unlikely that millionaires like Brian Dempsey, Fergus McCann, Gerald Weisfeld, and Willie Haughey, who have all tried to buy into the club, will want to inject money while the directors remain in place.

While Rangers' commercial arm may be strong, the team struggled to overcome the relegation candidates Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy yesterday, one of only two matches played in the Premier Division. Steve Crawford put Raith in front, but goals by Ian Ferguson and Gordon Durie secured the points.

Hibernian's misery continued when they lost at home to Dundee United, whose import from Trinidad, Jerren Nixon, scored his first Premier Division goal.