There is a question that haunts Celtic fans at the moment, and it’s this; when will we see football played again? It is a valid question. It is reasonable to ask it. But there is a greater one. What kind of shape will our club be in when we next play a competitive game?
It’s a complicated one to answer, and for a variety of reasons.
First, we don’t know when that is going to be. Our game is on sabbatical right now and there is no clear end in sight. We don’t have the first clue when it will be safe to play professional sports on this island. We don’t know what the situation will be in Europe. We don’t know anything, really.
There are various factors which could come into play here.
If the layoff lasts from now until June, then we’re all set. The club will probably suffer no serious financial effects, as long as season ticket sales are good. We also have players who would fetch a tidy penny in greatest need. We have assets. We have options.
All of this is especially true when one considers that we’re sitting on a major cash surplus and that it will be enough to see us through for six months with no income at all. Income will presumably come in during that six-month spell, but that will require season tickets sales and some kind guarantee as to when football is going to start up again.
We’ve lost cash from the way this season has ended; that’s a fact, and something we’ll have to factor in to our plans. But once the uncertainty passes we’ll once again be selling out Parkhead and playing in front of full houses. New kit will be flying off the shelves. European cash will be coming in, whatever UEFA’s plans for their two competitions are.
All of this, if we can get a handle on this thing in the next few months.
There will be an impact on the club’s finances in the short term, but what economists are counting on happening in the wider world is much the same as what Celtic will be; a sharp jump in income following the return to normality which puts us on the cusp of bigger profits than ever before.
It will be a one season boost, but one that will fill the hole.
The trouble comes if this goes on and on and on.
We have the highest footballing wage bill in the country.
If there’s no football by August, September … if we go into October and November and the world is still in this state, there are few clubs on the planet who can survive such a mammoth and continuous hit. By then we’d be in the realm of some difficult choices, unless the season ticket money was already in.
Scottish football is not as vulnerable to the shock of losing TV money as the game down south is. If the TV companies pull their cash, or at least delay it, that’s something Celtic could survive pretty comfortably. Other sponsorship doesn’t pay as big either.
Also, let’s not forget, one of the largest running costs for any football club outside of the wages is the actual staging of games. Match-days are a massively expensive business, and right now we’re not paying those particular bills and if this drags on we won’t be.
What can we do as supporters? Odd as this will sound, we need to keep giving that support to the club. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. Financially. Keep it all up even when there are no games. Even when the prospect of games looks ever distant.
This Family has been good at that. We have invested and nurtured and protected our club through good times and bad.
When the chips were down the fans saved the club and we bought into Fergus’ vision of it.
If we needed to recapitalise Celtic again we understand well that we are the beating heart of the club, not some board of directors.
In short, Celtic will be standing when things return to normal and the chances are very, very good that we will still be in good health and strong when we do. Barring something that last for more than twelve months – we’ll have a vaccine long before that; do you see the damage this is doing to the global economy? Even the Manhattan Project cut corners to get the job done on time – there will no real changes to the structure and standing of our club.
Not every club can say the same. One that considers itself our equal will certainly not be around if this lasts twelve months.
But what about six? Or three?
Well, that’s where things get interesting folks.
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