Every morning when I get up, the first thing I do after changing emails is I check the mainstream media and their reportage.
The press has an unerring ability to astonish me.
What I saw when I checked The Herald today sent me several degrees past astonishment and into anger instead.
It was an article on the announcement, yesterday, that we are furloughing all non-essential staff for the next three months, and doing so using the government salary guarantee scheme. This scheme assures that 80% of their salaries are paid for up to six months. It is good to a total of £2000 per month.
Celtic is making up the other 20%. So not one of those workers is going to be out of pocket, not by one penny. Celtic has said that all these non-essential personnel will be paid up in full. Ordinary working people will be spared any uncertainty.
The purpose of that government scheme is to protect companies great and small, all across the country, companies which might be feeling the pinch. It will be utilised by those which trade at the top end of the FTSE and those which operate with a handful of staff. Celtic is not just a football club, it is a PLC, which means it has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders. Not only has the club moved to protect its workers, but it has also protected its bottom line.
It is a smart move. It was the right thing to do from a corporate point of view, and it was the right thing to do from the point of view of the staff. None of those people will be sitting at home sweating over their pay cheques. They are taken care of.
You’d think this would be applauded. Yet The Herald has led off with the attack dogs and something tells me they will not be the last newspaper to turn them on us. This decision has been held up as something morally questionable, something “controversial”. Because we are well run and we’re sitting on a cash surplus.
Did people really expect that Celtic would not have a plan for dealing with this problem?
What should we do in response to this crisis?
Burn through those reserves until we’re balanced, precariously, as Sevco and other clubs are right now? Why do I read stories like the one in the Herald and imagine some people rubbing their hands over the deaths of thousands of people because it might act as an “equaliser”, cutting our mighty club down?
What Celtic has done here is not in the least bit morally questionable. Good business practices have allowed us to acquire our surplus and good practices will allow us to keep the bulk of it until the hour of greatest need. We have no idea if this crisis is going to last for weeks or months and it does not make a blind bit of sense to start leeching out cash that might be required to stave off more drastic action later on. It is the responsible thing.
The Herald frames this as a decision that protects pampered rich footballers. I hate to break it to the editors at that rag but those footballers are working men too and they have contracts that cannot just be broken. If players voluntarily take a pay cut then great, but they cannot – and should not – be compelled to do so.
Perhaps the writer would have preferred Celtic to take the basket-case course of action we saw attempted at Hearts; offer them an ultimatum and spark chaos, a decision which would have allowed top players to simply terminate their contracts and walk and thus make a difficult time far worse than it had to be.
That would certainly have provided aid and comfort to some.
In Scotland we are damned if we do and we are damned if we don’t. We could have embraced the Armageddon scenario and started cutting now, but we prefer to use whatever means are available to us to stave that action off as long as we can.
If this lasts six months or eight or ten or twelve the media will have plenty of opportunities to write about how Celtic has been shattered, but by that time of course three quarters of the clubs in Europe will have gone already, and all a handful will remain on this island.
Football itself will be on the brink.
They will take their comfort where they can I guess.
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