A change is gonna come

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell believes further change is coming in European football and that his club are well-placed to take advantage.

Celtic qualified for the Champions League this season as one of five countries from middle-tiered nations who emerged from the champions route, but there will be one less such place up for grabs from 2018, while 16 teams from the top four nations will automatically qualify.

A number of leagues have expressed concern with the increasing polarisation of wealth in European football, while the likes of Bayern Munich’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had warned the changes were needed to prevent a breakaway from UEFA by elite clubs.

And Lawwell expects further change before the subsequent three-year cycle comes into force.

Speaking at his club’s annual general meeting, he said: “You have probably noticed in recent months that there is a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction at European changes.

“You have the big clubs from the biggest nations looking towards some form of elite competition. Clubs from the second tier, like ourselves, clearly want to be part of that. Changes to the Champions League format were favoured by elite teams from the big countries, but one of the important things for us was to retain the champions route.

“There is nothing definitive at the moment, but the environment is around change, there is movement for change from the bottom, the middle and the top. How that pans out, I don’t know. Where there is frustration and dissatisfaction, I think that will lead to change.

“We are in a very good place to be involved in discussions about that change.

“Come the 2021-2024 cycle, there will be changes in Europe. Whether that’s an elite competition, an expanded European league, transnational leagues, a North Atlantic league, we will have to wait and see. The important thing is we are in place to make sure we influence what happens in the future.”

Chairman Ian Bankier believes returning to the Champions League group stages will help the club do just that.

“Fortunately we are represented at the European Club Association, which is the body where a lot of the change is formulated, debated and discussed,” Bankier said.

“And also we are competing again in the Champions League so we are meeting the boards of the clubs that we play and are able to discuss with them, able to get across our point of view. All of these things can at the very least do no harm but I think will be quite helpful to Celtic.”

There was widespread agreement throughout the meeting with all resolutions overwhelmingly backed, including a requisition by shareholders to establish a supporters forum to help fans engage with the club.

Bankier also revealed the club would hold further talks with shareholders who raised concerns over the award of a European licence to Rangers in 2011 and whether the Ibrox club had fully disclosed details of a tax debt. The issue, known as Resolution 12, from a previous AGM, looks set to continue to run, despite previous statements from the Scottish Football Association and UEFA that the matter was effectively closed.

Bankier said: “In the past year we have continued to work with the shareholder representatives. The shareholders have corresponded with the Scottish FA and UEFA and have recently informed us that, having taken legal advice, they continue to have concerns.”

Bankier stated the club would have a meeting with the representatives next week and added: “This is important, it’s about governance. It relates to football and the club will continue to work with shareholders in this regard, that you can be sure of.”

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan stated in June that he understood the requisitioners had accepted they had no issue with the granting of the licence, while UEFA declared there was no need to investigate because Rangers were unable to compete in Europe in subsequent years.

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