Celtic chairman Ian Bankier described some Hoops fans’ online treatment of fellow director Lord Ian Livingston as ‘criminally racist’ at the club’s annual general meeting.
Livingston, a Conservative peer and former minister for trade and investment, recently voted in favour of the UK Government’s tax credit cuts policy in the House of Lords, which prompted a section of the Celtic support to start an online petition calling for his removal.
Almost 10,000 signed it but on the poll taken after the AGM, Livingston was re-appointed with 99.46 per cent of the votes cast while majority shareholder Dermot Desmond, Tom Allison and Brian Wilson were also re-appointed on a show of hands at the meeting.
One shareholder was given a rousing round of applause when he claimed Livingston’s “role in society is contrary to the ethos of the club”.
Bankier rounded on some of Glasgow-born Livingston’s critics but his parting comment on the issue – “I am very disappointed” – was met with calls of “shame” from some in the hall at Celtic Park.
Bankier claimed the former BT Group chief executive – whose full title is Lord Livingston of Parkhead – had been “subject to a torrent of utterly base personal abuse conducted over social media in recent weeks”.
Celtic chairman Ian Bankier brands the "utterly base personal abuse" of Ian Livingston on social media as "criminally racist".— Matthew Lindsay (@MattLindsayHT) November 20, 2015
Not only is Bankier highly unimpressive, if Celtic fans feel strongly about Livingston then fair play to them. They're allowed that stance.— Ewan Murray (@mrewanmurray) November 20, 2015
If Bankier believes the abuse towards Ian Livingston was racist, he should provide evidence to the police. He won't tho, because it wasn't.— Kieran (@Kieran_Celtic) November 20, 2015
“The messages posted, in quite a few cases, are criminally racist and in all cases the vocabulary chosen is base and highly abusive,” the Celtic chairman added.
“And what sickens me to the core is that the campaign is conducted in the name of (Celtic founder) Brother Walfrid.
“Ian Livingston is a consummately able business executive. We are grateful that he is prepared to devote his time and considerable talents to the affairs of this club.
“The fact that he also happens to be a member of the House of Lords creates no conflict of interest with the business of Celtic.
“We are a football club. We play football – and we are good at it.
“Our fans come from every quarter of society and share the common bond of supporting the team.
“We are not a conduit for political statements and campaigns. No fan or section of fans has the right to set up a stall that proclaims political intolerance in the name of what they invariably cite as ’their’ club.
“Our club is not available to anyone for that purpose. I condemn this activity and appeal to you to see it for what it is, because intolerance soon leads to hatred and hatred leads to a lot worse as we well know.”
The Celtic board was again criticised by some shareholders for refusing to sign up as accredited living wage employers but Bankier said it was “not in the interests of the business or the club”.
Manager Ronny Deila was present at the top table but his European record was not overly scrutinised.
Celtic have failed to reach the Champions League for two successive seasons under his tenure and after back-to-back defeats to Norwegian side Molde in the Europa League, only victories in their final two group games against Ajax and Fenerbahce will see the Scottish champions progress into the knock-out stages.
Deila claimed afterwards that he was not surprised to get the backing of chief executive Peter Lawwell, who, while admitting in a European context that “we must do better, we have to improve” said: “I don’t think you can have a knee-jerk reaction to something that has happened over two or three games.
“We tend to look after our people here at Celtic and we look after our managers in particular and give them time to progress.”
The Norwegian said: “It was very good of course but I talk with Peter every day so it is nothing new for me, but now it is now in the public arena and in the media.”