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Born In The USA? Does Celtic’s Key To Riches Lie Across The Atlantic?

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Over the weekend an unusual story appeared in the papers, and it’s been followed up today in a couple.

It’s been oddly unremarked upon by most of the mainstream media though, and it’s had very little discussion on the Celtic forums.

The idea is simply this; we’re supposedly in talks with the about opening up a “franchise team” in the States.

In other words, we’re trying to get a team called Celtic, playing in the Hoops, an official Celtic USA, into their league setup, with a view to making it to the MLS.

This is … fantastic.

And it’s visionary.

And it’s precisely the of thing we must do.

There was once a dream of Celtic playing in England. That won’t happen, and I’ve become more and more convinced of this as time has gone by.

The opportunity might have been there, once, but it’s long since gone by the boards.

An invite isn’t coming. We all realise that. So the only way we could do it would be to buy a struggling club, rename them, fight a lengthy battle with the FA over our stadium and registered address being in Scotland and then close the books on our club here.

Surely I don’t have to point out how wrong that would be?

First that we’d stolen another club’s future by strangling them.

Secondly, it would make us little more than a Sevco style phoenix club.

We, Celtic fans, know this; you can’t take the history with you. We’d be sacrificing our past for a very uncertain future.

It’s not on, and I’ve never been in favour of it.

There has also been renewed chatter about the possibility of some of Atlantic League, but in my opinion this is fanciful at best; there’s simply no mechanism for it, and to the best of my knowledge all talk of it, at an official level, has ceased.

league structure is the foundation stone of UEFA, and that is simply not going to change anytime soon, no matter how much we wish it would.

Celtic’s identity and future is in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean that our club shouldn’t have a presence around the world.

It will grow the brand.

It will interest people in us who otherwise might have had no stake in who and what we are.

You know, I sometimes get accused of knocking Celtic, but only by those who’ve never read some of my more upbeat articles.

This club is in my and soul.

I believe we’re special, that we’re not just a football team, that our roots and our culture and our past mark us out as being different.

Celtic has a mythology more than a history; I think the more people know of us the more they would want to know.

Our unique selling point is that we’re unique.

Put a Celtic team in the North American league setup and watch a whole generation of fans fall in love with us who might otherwise not have known we existed. Let them get interested first, then learn who the parent club in Scotland is.

We have an enormous following in the US, so a fan base is there already … but I’m talking about more than that, of course, of us reaching out beyond that established support and finding friends we never even knew we had. Once the side is established, watch what happens.

There’s money to be made here too.

The MLS TV deal is worth $90 million per year, and that number is only going to go up. NASL games draw decent TV audiences. They’ve just agreed a TV deal with a company called One World Sport, which goes out to 38 million homes across America.

These leagues, and the sport itself, are becoming sexy and exciting, especially with the number of European players deciding to close out their careers in the MLS.

As the demand for the sport increases over there, the TV revenues will, I believe, in time come to dwarf those in the EPL.

The United States has a chance of becoming a fully-fledged football superpower; the money is there, the infrastructure, the player pool.

Put bluntly, it’s where we ought to be.

This is a massive opportunity, one we can’t miss out on.

I am often critical of the board at our club, as you well know.

I think they’ve been tame on issues where they ought to have taken a lead and I think they’ve been slow to exploit obvious opportunities, especially in North America, like the proposed (and quickly forgotten) link up with the Boston Celtics basketball team of a few years ago.

We signed players from the Far East, and then stopped doing so, just as the idea was starting to bear fruit.

In particular, we let the inroads we’d made in the Japanese market – and they were significant – fade away to nothing.

I thought that was lax and stupid.

Nothing is stupider than our failure to try and crack America.

We haven’t even attempted to sign a US international although we’ve been linked with a couple, including the midfield anchor Michael Bradley, who’s now far beyond our financial reach.

I could never understand that; it seemed a no-brainer to me.

But this is a sign of life, and I that it’s not just a smokescreen but a serious undertaking, something that will produce.

The idea is brilliant, the moment is ripe for it and it will, in time, bring cash and the of international exposure we need.

It allows us to stay true to our roots whilst putting down new ones.

It is a fantastic, and long overdue, step in the right direction.

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15 comments

  • BillyBhoy says:

    You have absolutely zero concept of how difficult it is to enter the American market in general never mind the sport sector and soccer in particular. Significantly difficult. The market is already saturated with: American Football; College Football; Ice Hockey; Hunting; Fishing; School Sports…. the list goes on and on.

    Idiots from the UK seem to think all you need to have is a viable product and the land of riches and honey awaits. Don’t make me laugh. Not a bloody clue.

    • joebhoy1974 says:

      what about man city buying the mls franchise new york city- who play in man city kit,? what about david beckham starting a new franchise? celtic are in talks-supposedly- with the NASL which is the 2nd tier, which would mean the $100milion franchise fee wouldnt apply to us, its a great idea to have a celtic side based in say boston, with the massive expat community -we must at the least explore this, some great thinking from everyones favourite whipping bhoy peter lawell, sometimes he doesnt make the correct decisiion but i know for a fact,every thing he does is in celtics interest. and lets not forget he turned his back on double ,probably trebling his salary with a move to arsenal, he has his faults but i say one thing- if ronny was half as good at his job as peter is at his we would be last 16 in the CL EVERY year, hes damned if he does and dammed if he doesnt, people go on about us fans that question ronny as if we arent real fans but the same ones line up to put the boot in to lawell, question, in this logic where is the cut off, of being a “real celtic fan?”

      • James Forrest says:

        Joe, if this isn’t just smoke and mirrors he and the board will deserve every credit they get for it.

        The idea is a stormer.

      • John says:

        PL picked Tony Mowbray and Ronnie Deila as manager. He stumbled across Neil Lennon by accident. Are you sure Joe that your name isn’t really Peter?

  • BillyBhoy says:

    One last thing: If you can’t be an unmitigated success in your own country, where social, religious, language and support is prevalent what makes you think you can be a success in a country where nothing is going for you?

    • James Forrest says:

      Lol mate, just because your own phoenix newco is a provincial West of Scotland football team …

      You know this would work. That’s why the tone of your post is naked fear.

    • Monti says:

      Sillybilly,
      Go home ya Hun!

  • Gerry says:

    In principle I agree with almost your entire article however the cynic in me is not quite convinced this is any more of a goer than the floating pitch with a casino on the side. The fact that it was leaked to the press (i’m assuming) a few days after what was one of the worst European performances in a long time strikes me as coincidental at best.
    Like you, Celtic is in my heart and soul but I will need to see the holes in the hands etc before I buy into this story.

  • Jon says:

    This is a very interesting proposition but I can’t get excited by it just yet. Has there been any official word from either the US league or any Celtic officials? The timing of the rumour stinks to me, coming right after another embarassing European display and the commons outburst it has traces of a Level 5 (not that we’d employ them) type PR excercise.

    I’ll believe it when theres some official confirmation (if there has been, forgive me for being pessimistic, I’ve just not saw it)

  • QuietmanRM says:

    The focus shouldn’t be on the TV revenue. That is shared among teams. The focus should be on the team, the experience of going to the game, and the area the squad is in. MLS teams are thriving based on what the squads do for fans. The experience of going to the game, tailgating, singing and such. Good ratings for a game on TV mean folks aren’t going to the stands to watch. That hurts the club. If you provide a unique experience when attending the games, you’ll thrive. Make them support their local club, but also give them a chance to become part of something bigger, global, i.e. Glasgow Celtic. There’s enough Celtic fans in the US that will support such a venture. Look at how many CSC’s are in NYC. Put another NASL team in NY and it works. They get to build a rivalry with the Cosmos. That helps too…

  • Dr. J says:

    As a Celtic supporter in the US, let me help you with a few myths and supply a few facts.

    1. MLS attendance is at around 22,000 per match, compared to the EPL at 35,000. The reason for this is that the soccer-specific stadia that MLS are building are meant to be this small. Even still, attendance is up 12% from last year. That is in the face of MLS being a minor player for TV money compare to football and baseball.

    2. If Celtic go NASL and avoid the MLS $100,000 franchise fee, they will always be in the second tier because there is no promotion and relegation in the US soccer leagues. The NASL attendance is almost 6,000 per match in the second tier which is only a few thousand less that the SFPL average at about 8,000 a match in Scotland.

    Yes, soccer is growing in the US and it would be great to have the club do almost anything to grow the brand in the US. The population is here and so is the money…

    BUT, the question is… Is there money in US Soccer for Celtic to make on the cheap? The answer is “Maybe”, but you have to be in MLS and pay the $100,000 to get it. And even then MLS owns the players and the clubs don’t (except for the “designated players”). That is NOT a typo – MLS league owns and negotiates all player contracts.

    We talked about this at the end of our podcast last night on Hail Hail Media. We ask if US fans would support a team here in the US AND where should it be located. Check it out here: http://www.spreaker.com/user/homebhoys/stg-live-fire-and-ice

  • Dr J says:

    Here are US Tims discussing this last night on our Hail Hail Media podcast.

    https://www.spreaker.com/user/homebhoys/stg-live-fire-and-ice

  • Joe Murphy says:

    Several years ago when the SFA decided that our under 21 side would never be allowed to win 10 in a row and disbanded the Reserve league, I was in conversation with Peter Lawwell. Busy man that he is, he surprisingly gave me ten minutes of his time to hear out my suggestion.
    At that time Darlington FC were a fully paid up member of the 98 club English football Leagues. They were also a fourth tier member club in financial melt down. If my memory serves me, they were up for sale at a figure around £2m. This price included the whole shooting match of players and Stadium etc.
    My question to Peter was simple. “Why not go down and buy them and take their FA membership along with their player pool and Stadium title deeds”. You surely cannot lose buying real estate if nothing else.
    I argued they are the most northerly club in England in immediate peril, less than two hours from Glasgow. Why not put our under 21 side in against the Barnets and Burys instead of bussing them all over England to play friendly games. You never know some of their players might be worth developing, if not would it not be possible to throw a modest amount of cash at it to establish the under 21 side in English football. It was the entrance to English Leagues we were told would be our dream, was it not ?. I suggested that if we were to gradually increase the financial support as the team progressed, it would not be long before we would definitely see ourselves climbing up the ranks in the English game.
    By the time the Championship was reached, a decision would have to be made by the board as to what team would now represent Celtic in England. Could we swap places and bring the colts home to play up here and maintain a team in the Scottish Leagues, and register the first team as players in England, changing the home games from Darlington to Glasgow and vice versa.
    The idea to me was at least worth investigating. To me you couldn’t lose. Not financially, as a developer or supermarket would turn you a profit on the land sale if it was not possible to progress the football dream. But if it was possible, what then ?.
    Peter listened for a minute and said it was logistically not possible. No reason was given why the logistics were too difficult to overcome which disappointed me, and I don’t know if my suggestion was ever aired in the boardroom, never mind enquired into.

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