|Rebels in Paradise|
This book was written by one of the "Rebels" from the Celtic takeover days (David Low), and so from the off you will not get any objectivity. Partisan it may be but there are few who took the opposite side. On the other hand, the benefit here is that David Low gives you the behind the scenes lowdown on the events that led to the takeover, the difficulties and dramas to fight for shares against the old board's efforts, as well as the humorous stories and the thinking behind the "Rebel" money men.
However, this is also quite a narcissistic book for David Low. Painting himself as some kind of sage throughout when much was already obvious to everyone (bar the old board) on everything doesn't help his case. He comes over too often as vain (a really cheesy smug picture of himself in the original book doesn't help) and sadly there is too much emphasis on the big players in the game against the efforts by the man on the street. The general support and the Supporter groups like "Celts for Change" are given scant mention which is pathetic. Without their assistance, the club would not be here but it seems to Low that the club is only still here due to his ability.
Biscuit tin board member Michael Kelly rightly had some just criticisms of this book in his own book. This book is laddish at times and can sadly reflect poorly on the "Rebels" when really the book is not necessarily reflective of the general manner of all, especially that of McCann. The book thus can reflect poorest on David Low.
In a re-print 15 years later, Low claimed in the preface to the new updated edition that original copies of the book had gone for £200 in the second hand market. If only I'd known that then I'd gladly have parted with my copy of it!
A disappointing book despite the interesting behind the scenes notes. Sadly though there are few other books on the period, so you'll be stuck with this if a book is what you need. Best off with the Wiki I think.
On the 4th of March 1994, a small group of determined rebels finally took control of Celtic Football Club to end a 106-year family dynasty. This book documents the campaign to save the club from the receivers and wrestle control from the board.
David Low and Francis Shennan were both involved in the takeover, as the financial expert who witnessed the last document being signed and the business journalist who broke the story of the takeover plan respectively.
(from later reprint in 2009)
The McCann Years: The Inside Story of Celtic's Revolution
GOOD FRIDAY fell on April 1 in 1994, but to supporters of the "grand old team" it had already fallen on March 4. That was the name they gave to the Friday when the deal once thought impossible was done. The so-called rebels walked into the football ground the fans knew as 'Paradise' to end a 106-year dynasty and take control of Celtic Football Club.
It marked the end of a carefully planned campaign which became one of the most public stories of the 1990s, or so it appeared. Every possible angle of the story seemed to be covered in the papers, and on radio and television, not just in Scotland but throughout Britain, in Ireland and in Canada. But it wasn't, and beneath the avalanche of headlines the real story remained hidden.
The sheer scale of the media coverage actually helped to obscure the truth. When on 19 January 1992 the story first broke that a group of businessmen were putting together an attempt to take control of Celtic, vast numbers of people said it could never happen. The story was denied the same day in another Sunday newspaper. One of the two journalists who broke the story was Francis Shennan. The man denying the story was David Low.
It was a sign of how sensitive the situation was that he felt obliged to do it and it remained sensitive in varying degrees for the next two years. The media could only report the story as it unfolded, and distractions and diversions were constantly appearing. Names appeared which had no part in the story or had only a walk-on part. Public pronouncements were made while deals were done behind closed doors.
One man was at every crucial meeting in the battle to rescue Celtic Football Club. David Low conceived the takeover plan, briefed first Brian Dempsey, then Fergus McCann, and all of the many people who were essential to making the plan work, from the millionaire investors to modest but loyal shareholders.
He travelled Britain, Ireland and North America, signing up shareholders' support or buying up their shares. If there was a deal to be done, he would go there, whether to an international hotel or a cow shed. When the rebels fell out, he acted as go-between so they could unite again. When the two halves of the rebel coalition competed to complete a takeover deal, he pushed through the one which was successful. His signature is on the document that rescued the club from receivership with eight minutes to spare.
This is the inside story of the battle for Celtic Football Club, based on exclusive access to transcripts and diaries. It is not the historical overview, nor is it a business book. From the start we decided against having a dozen voices giving their accounts, re-interpreting their behaviour with the benefit of hindsight. We wanted to convey the excitement, the tensions, the pressure of the story as it unfolded. It is written in the third person, like a thriller, and events moved at that kind of pace.
Because we take you so close to the story, we concentrate on the central events of the last four years. There is enough to take in without re-hashing material already well covered in the papers. Similarly we mention, but do not go into the details of, earlier attempts at change.
In 1988, Fergus McCann tried to help Celtic Football Club to expand, to move into the modern era and give them a stadium to match, so that they could become a viable business. Long before the Taylor Report and Celtic's financial crisis he proposed increasing the seating capacity from 9,000 to 24,000, providing standing accommodation for 48,000 and offered a low-cost interest loan and marketing help to bring it about. This was the first of a number of ideas. He was ready to make an offer to all the shareholders but the board made it clear they would oppose it. The man whose money and determination saved Celtic from receivership was treated as a threat. Yet as he told shareholders in November 1993:
We are not enemies of Celtic. We are entitled to be as big supporters of Celtic as anyone. The fact that we are not members of two families should not disqualify us from financing and helping to invest in Celtic Football Club... The club was never intended to be a family business. It was started to improve the lot of poor families in the east end of Glasgow. It developed into an institution with which thousands of people feel they have a family connection ... more than that, they feel it is part of their identity...
On the field, as everybody knows, no success is guaranteed because of money only. However, I can guarantee you one thing: in professional team sports at the level Celtic are expecting to play at, with no money you are guaranteed no success. We the shareholders have a responsibility to the supporters, who pay their money every week, to deliver success. In fact, more than shareholders, we too are Celtic supporters.
Because we take you so close to the story, we take you close to the differences which emerged between allies. There were disagreements about the best tactics, the most direct route to their goal, how to achieve the fairest outcome for supporters and shareholders. We open with the race between the McCann and Weisfeld teams to clinch a deal, but they were on the same side. It was not a clash of factions, but two flanks of the same movement anxious to reach the same point. If the communications between the two flanks had been better, they might have saved themselves time and money.
There might be heroes in the story but no saints. There are certainly strong personalities: men who have become millionaires by their own efforts, used to having their own way. The surprise is not that there were disagreements but that there were not more. Yet they were able to submerge those differences for the sake of a near-bankrupt little company in the east end of Glasgow.
In part that explains why this is not a business book. The underlying financial position is central to the story but there is no need to be able to read the business pages to understand it. Business was the pitch on which the game was played; it was not the game itself. The game was the struggle to save the soul of an institution that was almost more of an ideal than a football club.
This book tells the story of the Celtic takeover as it has never been told before. It reveals the plan and the purpose behind the often confusing surface events. It explains why future events will unfold as they do, and it will give you an insight into the hidden world of the football business. But, more importantly, it will give you an insight into what men - rich and poor alike - will do in pursuit of their ideal.
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