Yesterday, a report in the newspapers revealed that the Ibrox NewCo has more debt from loans than exists at all the other clubs in the country put together. If that club had to live within its means it would still be a second tier side.
Celtic published its own accounts some weeks ago, as we all know.
We have generated a bigger annual profit than all the other clubs in the league put together.
Celtic prides itself on the way it does business. We wear it as a badge of honour that we do not take risks with our future, that we try to live within our means. Other clubs understand the fiscal sanity of doing so, and they, too, have made a virtue out of it.
All of it is for nothing if one other club refuses to play by the same rules.
Not that I blame them; until those “rules” are actually clarified and written down, until they are official, they aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on.
That is a huge problem for Celtic.
It is a huge problem for the whole game here.
European football FFP regulations exist for two reasons; first is that it’s in the interests of sporting integrity to prevent individuals from funding clubs from their own resources. This prevents wealthy owners from bankrolling success and artificially inflating teams.
As we’ve seen around Europe, this has not been wholly successful.
Yet even in the most famous cases, clubs have been put under pressure to break even.
Every major club in Europe is willingly heading that way, driven by regulations both at UEFA and with their individual associations. With the money sloshing around in the top leagues there’s limited need, and no excuse, for clubs to run up huge debts.
The second reason FFP exists is because UEFA was grievously concerned by the number of clubs that had gotten into trouble living beyond their means. They wanted a set of rules that would limit what teams could spend; wage to earnings ratios were amongst the issues they identified as being problematic.
That and clubs paying excessive transfer fees.
In other words, those rules exist for the good of the sport and for the good of the clubs within it.
I cannot believe the appalling lack of respect in Scotland for those regulations.
Our national leagues are amongst the only ones in Europe that have not voluntarily adopted FFP; even the Premiership did not need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, towards it. When the English Football League signed up the EPL announced that it would follow suit.
Scotland’s failure to do the same is inexcusable, and it is proving consequential.
Every club in the top six last season but one submitted positive financial results.
All of them have had to live with restrictions, all but the club at Ibrox.
I lost sympathy for those other clubs long ago on this issue; if they are content to be denied prize money and European places because they will not insist on the basic implementation of FFP then they are mugs who deserve all they get.
My concern is for Celtic, and what it’s future holds if they don’t at least get behind the idea.
Fans of those other clubs are, in many cases, troubled by the idea that their clubs are being disadvantaged, even if their directors aren’t.
Celtic cannot afford to be quite so calm.
With our financial advantage over the Ibrox NewCo, we should be out of sight.
With the financial results now in the public domain, it’s clear that we are on one end of the spectrum and they on the other.
If they are allowed to use loans as a way to supplement spending in a manner which is unavailable to other clubs, and thus threaten our own position and even our own financial strength, then why are we bothering to operate as we are at all?
If their club catches us then people will want to know how that happened.
If it happened because the Ibrox club was allowed to rack up debts via an unlimited number of “loans’, in a manner that would not be permitted if Scotland had Financial Fair Play regulations, then all Hell will be paid.
When the Ibrox club went top of the table for a brief time after last weekend, the abyss opened under our directors … if they missed that they better wake up. Celtic fans will accept everything except the perception that we’ve once again been cheated, or let down by lax regulations.
The game in Scotland is still not being played straight.
Once again, the Ibrox NewCo is thumbing its nose at the rest of the sport, but the rest of the sport has to acknowledge that and do something about it.
Because the club itself is not going to stop until it goes broke.
Celtic cannot be quite so sanguine, because if we’re beaten to a title via the current means being pursued by King then there’s no way that our fans will tolerate it.
Frankly, the fact that this is still happening at all makes a mockery out of our own fiscal policies; in Scottish football living within your means and pursuing sane strategies only seems to hamper your progress. If that’s the road our game is going to continue on, fans are going to chuck it across the boards.
But the consequences for Celtic, should the Ibrox club manage to win a title whilst pumped full of financial steroids, will be next-level serious.
You’d be asking fans to buy season tickets to watch a rigged game.
I would be very surprised if we sold the number we’re selling right now.
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