Peter Lawwell broke his silence on the SFA yesterday, and laid into the governing body over the way the association has become disengaged from the clubs and from the fans. He was right on every level. He hit every correct note.
His interview with BBC Scotland was fulsome and detailed and he said a lot of things I’ve wanted to hear him say for a while.
There were a number of curiosities in the interview, foremost amongst them when he said that he, personally, had no power to make decisions at the SFA. This is a not-so coded message to those who believe he has too much influence and who might be nervous about the possibility of Lawwell or Celtic acquiring any more.
I have three words for them which Lawwell, sadly, didn’t use.
“Get over it.”
Celtic will influence the future direction of Scottish football. Of course we will. Of course Peter Lawwell will be one of the men who decides what happens and how. It’s natural, and even necessary. And not everyone will like it.
Well, too bad for them. There was a time, not long ago, when almost every position of influence inside Hampden was held by someone with an allegiance to the blue half of Glasgow. There was never a point where these people raised any issue with that.
Celtic is still viewed with suspicion by a lot of people smart enough to know better. The so-called Glasgow axis is in their own imaginations. The era of Celtic and a club from Ibrox voting together to block reform ended in 2012, and the voting structure now means that our club, alone, can’t stand in the way of real change. Those who blame us for blocking the road haven’t done their homework, or are seeking to deliberately mislead others.
Has Celtic acted in its own interests at times? Of course we have, and we would have been stupid not to. But people forget how much we’ve left on the table ourselves over the year. The rights to do our own media deals is something we should have taken back from the financial illiterates at the SPFL and SFA years back, but we remain tied to their ridiculous deals, which bind our hands and limit our earning potential overseas.
Smarter people than we have running the game here would have recognised an opportunity in letting us take the lead on our own broadcasting rights; they would have let us negotiate part of it wholly separate from the league and taken a percentage. Not these jokers. Instead, the package for our top flight is worth a pittance compared to other countries; even tiny Denmark has a television contract worth twice what our current deal brings in.
This is a disgrace for which Doncaster and others should have walked the plank a long time ago. Things don’t look like improving much either. When the media talks about our chances of getting a figure equal to the deal we thought we’d secured back in 2009 you know how little ambition there is for our national sport. With the current crop in charge this might well be as good as it gets and the sport will continue to go backwards until it’s never this good again.
This is a crucial moment for our national game. Instead of sniping and bitching and falling into the usual trap, which is to say that this is Celtic doing what Celtic has always done, what a club called Rangers did, and looking out for ourselves, these people need to have a good look at what we’ve achieved within our own walls.
We’re going to be the first club in Scotland ever to achieve £100 million in turnover, despite the appalling television contract and the squeeze on our revenues that comes from our destiny not entirely being in our own hands. We’re a football club run on a sustainable basis; we didn’t luck our way into this. Professionals did this.
And Scottish football would rather leave things to amateurs? Out of pique? Out of ancient, tribal, nonsense? My own indictment of Sevco, and my own desire that their people do not hold high office, is not only predicated on what I know they’d do with it; these people are a joke. King is a man who built his wealth on being good at one thing; fraud. Stewart Robertson is not a leader by any stretch of the imagination. Others at Ibrox are clueless, mere box checkers.
Not one of them – save for the Parks – has ever built a business or sold a business as a concept or grew a business. The skill to do it just isn’t there, and Scottish football has had too much of clever little accountants when what it needs is someone who can pitch a deal, make a sale, someone with showmanship, someone who knows how to brand and market.
Most of it isn’t ground-breaking stuff. One of Scottish football’s best marketing stratagems was also one of its most simple; squad numbers. Before that, in the days when players starting games wore numbers one to eleven there was no scope for building a brand out of a club’s best players. There were no replica shirts with names and numbers on the back. We nicked that one from England, but someone sitting somewhere saw the value in it.
There’s no original thinking at the SPFL anymore. They struggle to find sponsors, largely, perhaps, because they appeal to the same stupid small bunch of companies instead of going outside of the usual bubble of bookies and booze. This is the image those running the game have of the average fan; how the Hell are we going to change that perception for other people? And Celtic, too, need to break out of that mind-set; the days of alcohol and betting companies on the front of the jerseys is almost at an end, and if we don’t voluntarily get in front of that then political action will put us behind the curve instead. Legislation on this is inevitable, and for everyone who bitches and moans about that will be two who get it and support it. We can lead the way in changing this, or be rolled over when the change comes; mark my words, it’s coming.
No club has a greater awareness of the strength and power of “the brand”; the Celtic Family concept is one of the finest conceptual developments in our history. Then there’s the Huddle, the way we turned the whole of this year and the 67 anniversary into a celebration of Celtic as a whole … the people we have running this stuff are amongst the best.
If other clubs, if people in the media, if fans of different teams, don’t want to utilise that and our knowledge and our expertise and have people from Celtic advising and assisting and taking positions of responsibility within the sport, harnessing their ideas … then Hell mend them and hell mend the whole of the national sport.
It will never get better.
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