Celtic Club chief hits back at online 'smears'

The President of Melbourne’s Celtic Club has hit back at claims by an anonymous rebel group that has set up a website to air its grievances.

The so-called Continuity Celtic Club alleged online that the Celtic Club was in dire straits, with a declining membership, and was treating its members with contempt.

The Celtic Club’s president says the claims are unfounded smears and says the club is in the best financial position ever.

Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

“They’re full of lies and madness,” Brian Shanahan told The Irish Echo.

“The reality is it’s not dire straits. As I put in the letter (to members), you could hardly describe a situation where you’ve got $18 million in assets and no debts as dire straits. It’s a better situation than any Irish club in Australia and probably most clubs.”

The club’s old headquarters at Queen Street was sold to Malaysian developers Beulah for $25.6 million in 2016 but the club held on to the option to return to Queen Street when the site is refurbished in two to three years’ time. In the meantime, the Celtic Club’s temporary home is at the Metropolitan Hotel, Courtney St, North Melbourne with an administration centre in West Melbourne.

The move to the temporary home has been beset with problems which, Mr Shanahan acknowledges, has led to financial losses for the historic club.

“Any move where you sell a property and then negotiate to go back, the change of venue costs you money and we expected to lose money the year or so after the sale. We didn’t expect to lose as much. That’s the issue.

“We have stopped the bleeding. We’re not losing money now and we’re still in a situation where we have $18 million, no debts. The options before us are to go back into prize real estate and we’ve got a temporary place to operate in. We’re renegotiating the lease there in a beneficial way to us.”

On the claim that memberships are declining, Mr Shanahan said, “renewals have to be in by August 31. ... There’s no evidence membership is declining. I think most members will rejoin. We have a steady stream of new members as well.

“Are we trending differently to last year in actual membership? The answer to that is no. We’re going through a transitional period for a year or two. Facilities aren’t what we want at the moment but they will be.

“A lot of our members will stay members because of their commitment to the traditions of the club which we try to hold fast to, promotion of Irish heritage and culture and Australian-Irish history and culture.”

The exterior of the original Celtic Club before the site was sold to developers in 2016.

The exterior of the original Celtic Club before the site was sold to developers in 2016.

Asked if members were being treated with contempt and not consulted, Mr Shanahan said: “No. Every member’s treated properly. Ten members make decisions. Members have one decision, they can vote who they want in. Tell me any club, any government, any serious organisation that, before they make an administrative decision, calls a meeting of members to do it? It doesn’t happen. There’s a reason why it doesn’t happen.

“I don’t agree but people like Dire Straits (Continuity Celtic Club) that tell lies should be treated with some contempt. I do have contempt for people that lie and they lie.”

Committee elections are coming up on September 20 and Mr Shanahan will stand again for president. The new committee will take over after the AGM in November.

Mr Shanahan conceded that activities at the new site have been cut back to rein in costs.

“We found costs were out of control. We tried to transfer all our activities to the Metropolitan. It didn’t work,” he said. “We ended four full-time positions. Not an easy thing to do. We’re in negotiations with the state governement on conditions of operation at the Metropolitan. If those negotiations come off and I’m confident they will, we’ll be able to open seven days a week.

“[But] it’s not as if there’s nothing happening. We have a website, we’ve got podcasts going. We’re trying to reach out to younger members.”

The Irish Echo contacted the Continuity Celtic Club for comment but received no response.