While fans waited for a possible injection of cash into Paradise, the

board sprang a surprise. Ken Smith and William Tinning report on the


THE Celtic changes were universally reviled almost as soon as they

were announced. Director James Farrell pledged to fight them all the


One group of businessmen claimed that deputy chairman David Smith had

''led them up the garden path'' by continuing to negotiate a possible

#3.6m takeover deal only hours before the latest scheme was announced.

Dispirited fans said today's boycott of the match at Celtic Park

against Kilmarnock would go ahead with pressure group Celts for Change

stating: ''They might as well cancel it for all the interest there will


The group will be holding further protest meetings, with chairman Matt

McGlone wondering what was to stop Rangers chairman David Murray and

every Masonic lodge in the country buying the shares when they were

publicly issued.

Former director Brian Dempsey said the scheme did not stand up to

scrutiny. It had been rushed through to try to take the pressure off the

board, but many questions were unanswered. He questioned whether there

would be any share flotation by the end of the year.

''In all their announcements, if you check six months later you find

that the reality is a different matter. This will be no different.''

The most unusual assertion in the wake of Celtic's ''visionary

package'' was that the group led by former stores chief Gerald Weisfeld

and refrigeration company director Willie Haughey believed that it was

negotiating to buy out the five directors in the voting pact for #3.6m.

Mr Haughey claimed that Mr Smith had been negotiating without saying a

word about this latest proposal.

''He led us up the garden path. If the current board members have

anything to do with Celtic when shares are offered then I personally

wouldn't want to buy them, and especially if David Smith was part of the

new board.

Mr Smith said last night that he had only been ''acting as a

messenger'' for other board members during his discussions with the

Weisfeld group. He said he had to confirm the substance of the #3.6m

offer before passing it to the other pact members.

He added: ''Ultimately the decision was also going to be up to the

individuals themselves. There was no enthusiasm to accept such an


Mr Farrell was the only dissenting voice among the seven directors

last night following a two-and-half-hour board meeting which ended at


He said he had registered his protest at not being advised of what was

happening and made it known he was not in favour of the proposals. He

added: ''The board will now consider the future of the club and I still

hope to be part of it.''

Mr Jack McGinn, the only other director not informed about the

proposal, said he understood the reasoning for it because the events of

the past week had been to do with the voting pact. He said he was

''perfectly happy'' with the situation as it stands now.

Director Michael Kelly said yesterday's announcement was the

fulfilment of plans that had been in place for a number of years. ''I

think all of the expectations that the genuine fans have asked for have

been met,'' he added.

Manager Lou Macari expressed his delight. ''The signs are good that we

are going forward in a direction that most football clubs appear to

be.'' Although Celtic Park was the club's home, it might be time to move

to a bigger and better stadium.

He added: ''Today has probably been the first positive sign that we

are attempting to do that.''

Yesterday's announcement by Mr Smith came before it had even been

discussed at a full Celtic board meeting.

Mr Farrell immediately let his displeasure be known, challenging

whether the package was comprehensive or visionary as was claimed, and

stating it was clearly designed to ''perpetuate the power of certain

members of the board''.

He said the suggestion that only Mr Smith of the present board had the

necessary qualifications to serve on the main board of Celtic plc would

be unacceptable both to the supporters and a significant number of


''The proposals have all the appearances of a last ditch attempt to

save the faces of certain directors,'' he said. ''They will only serve

to prolong the continuing agony which this great club is undergoing.''

Clearly upset because he had not been informed about the proposals, Mr

Farrell added: ''In any other circumstances a director treated in the

outrageous manner in which I have been treated would resign.

''But because of my duty to our supporters I intend to remain and

fight this battle to its final conclusion. I pledge to the Celtic

support my undying determination to do just that.''

The reaction of many fans was also unsupportive, with many believing

that the scheme would leave the current directors still at the club

after making a considerable profit on their personal shareholdings.

Mr Mike Dunning, secretary of the Affiliation of Registered Celtic

Supporters' Clubs, said: ''It's the same old story. The directors are

still going to be there in some capacity. The reason behind the boycott

is to get rid of them completely.''

He questioned whether anyone would want to buy shares in Celtic if the

current board was still involved.

At the pressure group Celts for Change, Mr McGlone said the fans would

be very angry with the latest moves. They would believe they ''had been

sold down the river''.

Mr Dempsey, who has been linked with a number of possible takeover

bids, said the proposals did not stand up to scrutiny, and wondered if

they had been put together hastily as a panic reaction to deflect

attention from the fans' boycott.

He could not imagine many people being interested in the shares' deal

without a lot more information being forthcoming, and he doubted if a

public share issue could be accomplished by the end of the year.

He wondered whether in the ensuing period the directors would change

their minds again and postpone the public share issue. He also

questioned who would underwrite the share issue.

Mr Dempsey said more information was needed about the terms for the

so-called #20m cornerstone funding of the Cambuslang project.

He would be seeking the answers to the questions at the extraordinary

general meeting.

Mr Patrick Nally, managing director of the Oxford-based Stadivarious,

the marketing arm of Superstadia Ltd, which along with Celtic submitted

a planning application for a #50m stadium at Cambuslang, was in no doubt

that the project would proceed.

''Throughout the past nine months since achieving outline planning

permission, we have reviewed and amended our ideas in order to make sure

that we have produced the best possible scheme for one of the world's

great clubs.''