Date: 28th August 2019 at 6:19pm
Written by:

When Ibrox fans celebrated as Celtic were knocked out of the Champions League, I said that it was a mistake, that it had come too early, that their own club still had to overcome some hurdles of its own before they had anything to be happy about.

That’s as true as it ever was as both clubs prepare for 90 minutes tomorrow which are of huge importance to them. Celtic is probably alright.

The two goal lead, and our ability to score an away goal, should see us through in Copenhagen.

If disaster struck the shockwaves would be felt in Cancun, and the board would have a lot of questions to answer.

But the crisis it would spark would not necessarily derail our season.

We would still have the best squad in the country, a team of winners capable of getting the job done over the long haul. My money would still be on us seeing it through.

It will be helped by the guarantee of European income and the attraction for players in taking part in Group Stage football, of course.

Across the city, the picture is very different.

If Gerrard’s team fails to go through then the next few days become a desperate scramble as the club attempts to offload whatever dreck it can in the a shrinking time it has left.

When that window shuts, the sound is going to be like nails being hammered into a coffin.

The financial gap, which would have existed even with Group Stage participation, will become a yawning chasm instead.

And directors will be asked to plug it, with their own money.

Let’s be honest, some of us didn’t expect the Ibrox club to get this far.

Four years of King, four years of losses.

But that man is good at finding people willing to carry the water for him. Yet those on the board who have shovelled their own cash into Ibrox only need look south, to Bury and Bolton, to see that football clubs are capable of swallowing everything you have.

Those guys must have expected a return on their money by now; instead, earlier this year, they got a pile of worthless paper in exchange. Shares. Big deal.

They are worthless unless you can sell them on later, and there will be few buyers for a holding in an indebted Scottish football team, mired in sectarian scandals and with fans who are intolerant of even the notion of living within their means and accepting their place in the pecking order for a while.

King can’t promise that any of his board will ever see their money again; even with the best will in the world, even with the club crest tattooed on your heart, the matter eventually comes down to what you can leave to your children and grandchildren and what you continue pouring into the unfillable hole of transfer fees and players wages.

Remember, the Ibrox club’s revenues for the last year they bothered to publish accounts were a mere £32.6 million … as compared to our £100 million plus earnings.

What’s worse for them is that the wages to revenue ratio was atrocious; the club spends 73.8% of its total income on salaries and costs related to the first team squad.

Nobody is building hotels over there.

Almost every available penny is being spent sustaining the football operation, and that leaves nothing left over for sustainable growth, which is the only thing that ever guarantees that an investor sees a return.

Celtic, at peak operating power, can earn between £70 million (on a bad year) and £100 million plus (on a good one, with Champions League income).

Their club will never come close to the lower figure far less the top end one; they are operating at peak right now, save for merchandising income which will remain opaque for some time to come.

It is doubtful that their earnings from last season will push £50 million, even accounting for the numerous European games they hosted at Ibrox. Costs will rise in direct proportion, and Gerrard and his squad were not assembled cheap.

If the Ibrox club were a normal commercial business, and it was staying afloat on the back of shareholder largesse and boardroom charity the company would be in peril.

Remember, this is still a club without a credit line from a bank. They may boast about having no external debt – they do of course, to Close Brothers – but relying on shareholder financing to get through football campaigns is a dead-end street and they know it.

None of the directors at Ibrox has sufficient wealth to carry on doing this forever, even if they wanted to and why would they? King himself freely admits this, amidst the bombast, but the taps won’t be turned off until it becomes absolutely imperative.

You look at their current situation and you see a club that’s betting everything on halting nine in a row … I don’t know what they have left in the tank if they have to stop ten.

Nothing, from where I’m standing.

A one-time share issue might raise £10 million or so but that’s a drop in the bucket next to what they need, and if it was spent on transfers then their wage bill would be even harder to sustain than it is right now. There’s no sense to any of it.

Tomorrow night, they need to beat Legia Warsaw and get into the Europa League groups. Anything else will be an unmitigated disaster for them, costing them millions they can’t afford and making the sale of a top player before the closure of the window a matter of life and death.

Even if they do get by the Polish club, there are big question marks over their ability to get through the January window without jettisoning at least one big earner for a decent fee.

And they are no closer to realising such a fee than they ever were.

Aberdeen’s precarious league form makes their striker Sam Cosgrove – whose goals to game ratio is as impressive as Morelos’, but without the attendant disciplinary issues – a much better bet for teams who want to shop in the SPL marketplace.

The club’s hopes that Morelos would find a place in the Colombian national team have again, today, been ridiculed; the national coach has left him out again.

Tomorrow night, we should have enough about us to go through in Copenhagen. As a Pot 2 team we can look forward to the Groups with some optimism, although it will always be tinged with the regret that we are not supping with the big boys in the premier competition.

In contrast, the Ibrox club faces a perilous 90 minutes, on which their entire season may hinge.

They celebrated our Champions League knockout as if they’d won something … actually, it bought them a smidgen of relief from the prospects of us having even more money to spend.

But I never really thought we’d spend much anyway … so even that hope was more a phantom than a reality. Through all of it, they failed to consider the thread on which their own doom hangs.

If the Poles shock them tomorrow night, it will all come crashing down.

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