President challenged in Celtic Club election

The candidate challenging incumbent Celtic Club president Brian Shanahan in the forthcoming election has told The Irish Echo that he does not want to smear his opponent.

But Peter Donnellan, who heads up a group of concerned members dubbed ‘Dire Straits’, does believe the club is being mismanaged.

“None of our pieces of work say anything about particular individuals. None of the things that we put out say bad things about people,” he said.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

“I think if people felt like they were included, there wouldn’t be the level of antagonism and name calling and this sort of stuff that has been going on in the place for a long time.

“If the sale [of the club’s premises] had gone according to the way sales should proceed instead of trying to bluster and force their way through it like some sort of rugby pack, you would say, ‘right, we’ll probably give it a go’.

“I think a lot of the dissension is caused by the methodology and the abuse and so forth that happens simply if you disagree. You’re perceived as an enemy by nature if you disagree. Because our team don’t agree and they put their heads above the barricades, they’re there to be knocked off. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s productive for the club in the long term or in the short term.”

Mr Donnellan also says his team is just looking for greater transparency within the club. Mr Donnellan says his ‘Dire Straits’ team want to open up club meetings to all members and provide information of these meetings to members who are not present. They also promise to provide regular financial statements and protect members’ rights.

“We’re pretty sure that Brian probably has the numbers and good luck to him but we have a responsibility to say, ‘this stuff can’t keep going on’.

“At the moment we can’t get a list of club members to send stuff to. That’s against the spirit of the act and it’s not within the spirit of the club rules so it’s very hard to get anything directly to members.”

In response to Mr Donnellan’s comments, Mr Shanahan insisted that material put out by the ‘Dire Straits’ team had mentioned people by name.

On the topic of getting electoral

information to members, Mr Shanahan said all candidates had the same opportunity to connect with members. “All members standing for committee are invited to provide a statement of up to 200 words and a photograph to the returning officer and it will be sent to all club members at the club’s expense,” he said.

“This is a long standing practice at the Club, and all candidates should have received this information.

“The mail out of this information would be expected to commence some days after the draw for ballot positions is undertaken by the returning officer or his representative. The ballot draw has not yet happened. The assistant returning officer. has advised that all candidates will have their 200 word statements and photographs (once provided) sent to all members in the next two weeks, as is the usual practice.”

On the suggestion there was no business plan and that members are given no indication of how the club is doing and its plans, Mr Shanahan said: “The Club has a budget for 2019/20, which is break even, or a small profit. On top of this, we have assets in excess of $18 million and no debts. After considerable efforts, we were successful in reducing our operation losses, and we are confident of a small profit in 2019/20.

“Furthermore, at the recent confidential members only meeting, attended by ‘Dire Straits’, the Celtic Club’s future strategy and business plans were discussed in detail by me and other committee of management (COM) members. Club members can be allowed to attend COM meetings if they request to do so, there is no blanket ban. Obviously there is a need for discretion as some matters are sensitive and confidential.”

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

The club’s headquarters at Queen Street were sold to Malaysian developer Beulah for $25.6 million in 2016 but the club held onto the option to return to Queen Street when it is

refurbished in two to three years’ time. In the meantime, the Celtic Club’s temporary home for functions and entertainment is at the Metropolitan Hotel, Courtney St, North Melbourne with an administration centre on William St, West Melbourne.

Mr Donnellan insisted that the members were concerned about the lease arrangement.

“We’re told the Metropolitan lease is now on a month-to-month basis whereas we thought the club had a five-year by five- year lease,” he said.

“However, if we’re on a month-to-month lease, the club has lost money on the Metropolitan. It’s not regularly open [so] why don’t we get rid of the Metropolitan and find ourselves a better venue?

“There hasn’t been a business plan, not to my knowledge. There’s been nothing that says: ‘This is what we plan to do, this is what we’ve got, this is how we plan to make some money and move forward.’ The club’s capital is just disappearing. There is no allegation other than mismanagement that we’re making but we have no knowledge at all how things are going and why we’re losing money.

“The sale of the club caused a lot of anxiety within the club and a lot of fighting that probably could have been handled better by every side,” said Mr Donnellan, who served on the committee as secretary.

“I resigned over the non-implementation of governance and accountablity and financial reforms. People wanted to carry on and get things back to some sort of new normal but it didn’t work so I left. There’s a degree of disarray at the club.”

Committee elections are coming up on September 20. The new committee will then take over after the AGM, which is usually in October.

“I expect our votes to go up and from Brian’s team’s reaction, I would expect that they do feel challenged, Mr Donnellan said. “I think they’re concerned that what we’re saying is biting into their base.”

The Irish Echo reported last month that grievances against the Melbourne Celtic Club were coming from a website called The Continuity Celtic Club and that this and the ‘Dire Straits’ team were one and the same. This was incorrect. The website had just posted the ‘Dire Straits’ team’s newsletters and the ‘Dire Straits’ team has nothing to do with the website.