The news that a deal, in principle, has been agreed for CSC's in North America to show Channel 67 in the clubs is a huge relief to all concerned. As documented in this blog, it has been a worrying time for all North American Tims since June and here, for the first time, is how it all unfolded.
Around an hour before the NAFCSC AGM in Las Vegas in June, The Kearny CSC informed The Federation that they had struck a deal with Celtic for all games to come, $100 a game. Whilst this was welcomed by The Federation as a bold new step, alarm bells were ringing for some clubs. The figure of $100 a game simply wasn't affordable for a lot of smaller clubs who were struggling to pay their current $80 fee. On top of that, after saying they would be raising their prices and getting a lukewarm reaction from the clubs, Premium Sports, who had previously carried the SPL games, announced that they would no longer be doing so. This meant the very real prospect that a huge amount of clubs would fold and that everyone, bar the very biggest clubs, would be watching at home on the computer.
With it being late June still, panic hadn't quite set in but these were worrying times for a Federation who had put Celtic on the map in North America and were the first to provide coverage of Celtic in North America, something which, it has to be said, seemed to have been forgotten by a few people. Which no deal in sight, questions started to be asked of The Fed and President Tam Donnelly. There was abuse, lots of it, some on email, some on messageboards by characters with handles such as Green In Texas and Angus Og, whilst some gave abuse when they didn't realise others could see and hear, the general theme being that Tam wasn't up to the job and would sell us down the river.
Not the Tam Donnelly I know.
Then there was the fact that Celtic were not budging from their $100 a game fee which, it has to be said, a few clubs were considering taking, despite the fact it would kill many of the CSC's in The Fed. It also has to be said that Celtic showed very little understanding of what it is like to be a Celtic supporter in North America and must learn the lessons from that.
Setanta Canada then picked up the SPL and rumours were rife that Fox Soccer Channel would do the same in the States, further lumping pressure on the NAFCSC.
Tam continually asked for clubs to stay behind The Fed, have faith and we will get you there. Many remained unconvinced and some clubs seemed set to break ranks and go alone with Celtic. At this point all hell was breaking loose, certain people seemed to have an agenda against Tam specifically and were raising questions with Peter Lawwell, a strategy that could only ever end with failure and looked as if could cause a civil war within The Fed. Thankfully though there were supporters, clubs like The Bronx Bhoys, New Orleans CSC and Houston Emerald continually pledged support to Tam and The Fed, could the tide turn?
After some toing and froing, behind the scenes talks, some frantic phonecalls and at last a desire to bend a little from Celtic, at around 9am EST on Tuesday Aug 16th, Tam announced that a deal in principle had been agreed with Celtic for all clubs to show Channel 67. Game fees would be reduced considerably from what clubs were paying to Premium Sports, which was a massive relief to most in The Fed.
However, Tam wasn't finished.
He also said that the two clubs who gone alone with Celtic, at the higher $100 a game fee, were welcome back to The Fed and could also enjoy the reduced rate all clubs would now be paying. That there is the measure of a true leader. I've documented here on previous blogs the kind of skils Tam has in doing deals, and with a constant stream of abuse flowing towards him throughout, he never flinched, stayed strong and got a deal that saved The Federation all clubs, big or small, after all if we want to call ourselves The Celtic Family, you have to actually act like that too, that's the deal.
And what of the new deal? Well my club already stated that because of the very low fee we would be looking for day trips to other CSC's to give them a turn, and in turn, hope that they could come back to us as well. All helping, all supporting, the way it should be. There can be greater scope now for member recruitment and promotion of Celtic with much less pressure now on clubs and the finances.
And what of Tam? Well I hope The Castlemilk Cat is sitting with a wry smile today. Most would have chucked the towel in given the level of abuse he was getting and pressure he was under.
Not the Tam Donnelly I know.