As a result of the news highlighted in the headline above, I have returned our website (which has recently been offline for maintenance and updates) to the public domain for a few days in order to publish the following article. I have attempted to summarise certain areas discussed within the article into the bulletpoints below for those of you who do not wish to read the following piece in its entirety.
However, in order for me to do this news and the events which have led us to this point justice, I have written the article below in an attempt to be as open as I possibly can be regarding the catering situation at Celtic Park, something I have been unable to do for sometime at the request of those involved with various contractual matters. Also, having read the article, I would ask for your thoughts and opinions on any and all matters discussed therein (here or on Twitter), as the views of the Celtic support are critical in this regard. I will also answer any questions and of you may have on Twitter as best I can. Thank you.
Please note, if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article and have not done so on our site previously, it will not appear until an administrator has been online and confirmed it is not spam. This may take a few hours in some cases.
Catering Improvements Promised For This Season?
- Centerplate UK will now operate kiosks and say they are committed to improving match day experience
- The UK branch of the American company recently acquired The Lindley Group
- Centerplate UK will provide significant investment at Celtic Park
- Refurbishments to be completed sometime around the end of this month, having been delayed by the Commonwealth Games
- Much improvement has been promised, but whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen
In the coming days, Celtic Football Club will confirm that they have recently signed a new stadium catering contract with Centerplate UK (the UK branch of an American company), having previously worked with The Lindley Group for the majority of the last decade.
Over the last eighteen months, I have met with representatives of Celtic Football Club and The Lindley Group on numerous occasions, as well as arranging several larger scale supporters’ meetings, in an attempt to highlight our concerns regarding the continually poor standard of catering on offer to paying spectators at Celtic Park.
Around the turn of the year (2013/14), I made the decision to no longer attend any such meetings in which representatives of The Lindley Group were going to be present. I did so for the following reasons:
1. Having spent hours upon hours discussing supporters’ concerns – both in general terms and with regards specific incidents (in detail which extended to the relevant match days, kiosks and timings in question) – I felt such concerns were falling on deaf ears more often than not. This culminated in one discussion which saw me explaining an incident whereby a father was forced to take his child home only minutes into their first Celtic match together after the child began to vomit repeatedly, having previously eaten a catering product which his father claimed was still frozen at points in the middle.
Subsequently, I was told by a senior member of The Lindley Group that as no incident report was filed by the father on the day, they could not take any action as there was no proof that the event ever took place. I considered this to be wholly unacceptable and, whilst I refrained from simply getting up and walking out of the meeting, from that point on I felt I could no longer maintain a healthy working relationship with The Lindley Group.
2. I knew Celtic’s contract with The Lindley Group was set to expire at the end of the 2013-14 season, and had been told the Football Club intended to put any deal for the following season out to tender. In this sense, I felt a victory of sorts had been achieved.
3. Representatives of The Lindley Group told me in no uncertain terms that issues such as pricing could not be altered mid-season, and thus no amount of arguing by myself could change that in the remaining months of the season. I therefore felt there was nothing more I could do until the summer.
Before continuing, for the sake of clarity, I must take this opportunity to mention the two employees of Celtic Football Club with whom I met regularly, David Stothers (General Manager) and John Paul Taylor (Supporters’ Liaison Officer). Speaking personally, I cannot praise either of these two gentlemen highly enough with regards their professionalism over the last eighteen months. During this time, they have both been incredibly helpful, accommodating and honest with myself and all of the other supporters involved at one stage or another. For this, I owe them and the Football Club my gratitude.
Returning to the matter at hand, whilst meeting occasionally with the aforementioned representatives of Celtic Football Club as the 2013-14 season gradually came to a close, I largely left the catering subject alone, simply waiting for The Lindley Group’s time to run it’s course.
However, during the summer of 2014, I became aware of Celtic’s intention to sign a new catering contract with Centerplate UK – Centerplate having acquired The Lindley Group a little over a year earlier with the aim of combining their UK operations and rebranding this conglomerate as Centerplate UK.
Now, as I’m sure you will understand, my immediate reaction upon hearing this news was one of disappointment and frustration, having spent the last year actively attempting to dissuade Celtic Football Club from having any future involvement with The Lindley Group. I also had the impulse to immediately tweet this information. However, at the request of Celtic, who had both legal and contractual issues in mind, I respectfully refrained from doing so.
Of course, now that the contract has been signed and I have informed the Club of my intention to do so, I can publicise that piece of information, as well as offering as frank an account of what has gone on over the last eighteen months as I can.
In truth, I still hold several reservations regarding the connection between Centerplate UK and The Lindley Group of old, albeit there has been some significant changes in the structuring of the company’s hierarchy and the new contract requires Celtic’s caterers to meet much higher standards than that outlined in their original agreements with The Lindley Group. I must also highlight that Celtic are treating Centerplate UK as a new company.
However, reservations aside for the moment and having seen more detail regarding Centerplate UK’s plans for Celtic Park, I am quietly hopeful we will begin to see things improve in the first couple of months of this season.
With the significant level of investment in facilities being made by Centerplate UK, various kiosks – the vast majority of which will be given a makeover both aesthetically and functionally – should offer Celtic supporters a broader product choice than that which was available in previous seasons, with everything from soup and stovies to fish and chips on offer, and even Domino’s Pizza if you happen to have access to the lower tier of the North Stand.
Kiosks within the upper tier of the North Stand and the South Stand as a whole will be the first to see such improvements, with other areas following in the coming weeks. Both parties had hoped to see such refurbishments completed across the stadium prior to our first home game, but the presence of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Celtic Park has delayed this process slightly. As an aside, it is noteworthy the upper tier of the Lisbon Lions Stand will be the last area of the ground to be addressed as it is not currently open for most home matches.
Certainly, if the rhetoric from Centerplate UK is to be believed, queues at Parkhead should begin to move faster, customer service improve and product quality rise notably. Should these improvements happen, I have no doubts that they will be roundly welcomed.
However, one matter of potential concern which I am afraid I cannot elaborate upon at this time is that of pricing, despite having asked the question during my last meeting at Celtic Park. I suppose then this will only become clear on Saturday 16th August when Celtic play at home for the first time in the 2014-15 season.
I have previously asked Celtic, in conjunction with Police Scotland and their stewards, to provide me with a list (agreed on by all parties) of food/drink items which fans are allowed to/prohibited from bringing with them into the stadium in order to clarify such matters. I have yet to receive such a list, but I will be attending a meeting in the next few weeks where this matter will be addressed. I shall publish this list once I have attended this meeting and received it. For those supporters who are not in a financial position to purchase products inside the ground, or simply for those who do not wish to, I felt this was the least I could do on their behalf.
I have also spoken with the Football Club once again regarding plans to potentially use much of the leftover food from match days in order to help the homeless people of Glasgow. Initially, such proposals were rejected by The Lindley Group, who cited both health and safety regulations as well as several other logistical matters among their reasons. However, Celtic remain open to ideas and are committed to putting some level of planning into action in the relatively near future in conjunction with Centerplate UK, who have been more receptive to the idea than their predecessors, which is encouraging.
As for my own role up until this point in time and any future involvement of mine, I will leave that to yourselves. Many of you may recall this whole saga spawned from an online survey which I, perhaps naively, never thought much would come of. I certainly did not expect thousands of people to reply and subsequently to be writing about it eighteen months on.
Now, whilst I am ready and willing to continue to attend meetings with the Football Club in order to relay any concerns which supporters may have to them, I am also aware that I have no divine right to do so. I hold no official role and possess no official mandate, I have simply worked on the back of a survey which was very strongly supported in an attempt to accelerate some level of change and improvement at Celtic Park.
With a new contract signed and a significant level of investment forthcoming in accompaniment, a change of sorts has come, but whether or not any rise or fall in standards will be apparent remains to be seen. With this in mind, I feel I must ask you all for your thoughts. If a significant number of you wish me to continue as is for new season then I will, but if the majority of you would rather see someone else take up the reins then I shall happily allow them to do so.
In closing, I sincerely hope that both Celtic Football Club and their new partners Centerplate UK listen to the views of the Celtic support and accommodate them as best they can. For too long, football supporters have been served up varying levels of dross at matches across the country purely because the stereotype which dictates that football food is generally poor allows caterers to drop their standards in order to increase their profits.
Nobody expects fillet steak or lobster at Celtic Park, only reasonably priced, well prepared products of a good quality. When fans of all ages and backgrounds are handing over their hard earned cash on a regular basis within an enclosed retail environment, I feel that is the least we should demand.