One of the many snarks this site has to deal with on a regular basis is that we do not exclusively write about Celtic, in spite of the name.
This is a Celtic site, but it has never been exclusively about Celtic.
This site is about football as a whole and Scottish football in particular, written from a Celtic fans perspective … it’s as simple as that. If people – or Peepul – want to moan about it they are welcome to. They are also welcome not to read anything they don’t want to.
But the writers here have never shied away from writing about events elsewhere, and especially not across the city. We never will.
The snark this week is that this blog and others have constantly banged on about Sevco being skint, and yet Sevco keeps spending money. I want to tackle that issue head-on, and let me start by saying this right off the bat; the bloggers are correct.
Sevco is skint. Yet, undeniably, Sevco keeps on spending money.
We constantly predict that this will lead to disaster.
People continue to slag us for it, because that disaster has not yet come about.
But the keyword there is “yet.”
I cannot tell you when this will occur, because that depends on so many different variables … but not one of them changes the fundamental fact of it.
Not one of them makes it less certain.
All they do is bring it a little closer, or push it a little farther away.
The certainty of it remains.
I wrote my first article about the coming death of Rangers in 2008.
It would be four years before that club circled the drain and left the world.
For almost every day of those four years myself and the handful of other bloggers – the boys at E-Tims, Paul Brennan, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and a few others – all heard variations on the same theme; they were “too big to fail.”
They would be protected by the establishment.
They would “never be allowed” to go under.
It was all “wishful thinking.”
And we knew then what we know now; all of that was bollocks.
We knew Rangers was going to collapse back then, because we did what apparently proved too difficult for the Scottish media and their supporters. We looked at the numbers. We looked at the global financial crisis and understood how that was going to affect the situation at their club.
It wasn’t complicated, or terribly difficult to do.
All the information was out there just waiting to be threaded together, much of it in the club’s own published accounts.
All through that period they were signing players.
Indeed, they won three titles in a row between the publication of my article, The End Of Rangers?, and their eventual collapse.
When I wasn’t being hyper-critical of Celtic on various blogs because we couldn’t finish them off I was sitting patiently, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So were others. Paul Brennan over at CQN must have got sick fed up of the number of times he had to hear folk tell him he was totally wrong to talk about it so much.
For well over a decade, Rangers had been run on debt.
No organisation that is run on debt can continue to evade the consequences indefinitely.
Football is a weird industry in that it sometimes seems to buck the laws of financial gravity, but in fact this is a false belief. Eventually, the consequences do come.
It can take years. But it never, ever fails to happen.
Sometimes those consequences manifest themselves in the club having to making swinging cuts in all areas, and to limit their ability to challenge their rivals. Sometimes they manifest themselves in the sport’s equivalent of a fire sale, with every first team player available for transfer for under the market value. Sometimes harsher consequences arrive, and clubs go into administration. Occasionally, clubs die. Which is exactly what happened at Ibrox before.
Looking at the club which plays there right now, I can give you one absolute certainty.
A combination of those things is going to happen over there, and the longer it’s delayed the harsher the effects are going to be.
I can say that with no doubt in my mind at all.
It is not supposition. It is a stone cold fact, and there is nothing on the horizon which will change it.
How do I know this?
I know it because the numbers don’t add up over there and they never have.
I know it because it doesn’t matter whether it’s a commercial bank letting them live on loans and overdrafts or if it’s the directors pulling money from the mattress that’s keeping the lights on right now. It cannot last. It will not last.
Sooner or later the well will run dry.
What Sevco is doing is not just unsustainable, it is insane. They are chasing Celtic by spending more than they can afford and that will end only in one of two ways; they either get their spending in line with their earnings or they will go to the wall. If they spend only what they earn they will have to reduce costs, including salaries and transfer fees, to a level from which they could not hope to compete with us. To continue trying to is to court disaster.
Sevco just spent a major chunk of money on two footballers; this is being held up in front of the Celtic bloggers as “proof” that the Ibrox club is financially solvent, or at least in better condition than we’ve been saying. What does it actually prove though?
It proves only that the board over there is a reckless as they are incompetent.
Still, we bloggers get the stick because the Ibrox board is every bit as dysfunctional as we said it was, and every bit as desperate to catch us as we predicted they’d be. Their acting crazy has somehow convinced people that they are in fact sane.
To me, this is rather like having an argument in the pub with someone who believes he’s Napoleon and at first, everyone believes he’s off his nut. Then the guy goes home, gets dressed up and returns in a costume and suddenly there are some folk who start to have doubts. Their initial view of the argument starts to waver simply because he now looks the part. You just know that if he started speaking French, some folk would be entirely convinced.
Does that make the slightest bit of sense? Of course not, but all day yesterday the bloggers were being slagged off because we continued to insist that Sevco cannot afford this kind of largesse.
Yet it’s our reasoning that remains solid. It’s our view which is grounded in reality, both in where the club has been these last eight years and where all of football is right now.
It’s in the year on year debts they’ve posted.
It’s in the way the club is acting as if they are the only side in the world unaffected by the global health emergency.
It’s in statements from their own board, made just last year, when they said it was time to start cutting their cloth to suit, rather than spending what they cannot afford.
Sevco is not unique in behaving crazily whilst in financial trouble.
This stuff happens.
In October 2007, with much of the world already reeling from the initial shocks of the banking crisis, the RBS Group, already facing major exposure in that ever escalating situation, were part of a consortium which paid £49 billion for the Dutch bank ABN AMRO. It didn’t even take a year before the full folly of that decision was apparent even to their own directors.
This stuff doesn’t always have to make sense.
Remember that Rangers tried to buy Daniel Cousin whilst in administration, only for the SFA to refuse to register him.
The Celtic sites who focus on Sevco’s finances do so because we’ve already lost trophies and titles to a financially doped club and then saw the SFA trying to shove the NewCo with their name into the top flight. Nobody else seems to be paying attention to the very familiar film which is playing at the present time, one we’ve seen before and so know how it ends.
The media would rather pretend that nothing untoward is going on at Ibrox, when it’s pretty clear that there is.
They are cock-a-hoop today talking about this proving that Sevco is ready for a title challenge, and they might well be … but one slip and they are gone, and I don’t mean in the title race, I mean their club, I mean their current iteration.
How do we know it’s going to happen?
Because it already did, and the NewCo is behaving in exactly the same way and their fans are experiencing the same level of denial, the media is wilfully ignoring it and we have people in our own support telling us constantly that we should drop this because “it’s becoming embarrassing.”
Embarrassing to who?
The only people who should be embarrassed as those who won’t learn from history.
We’re watching a car crash here, but it’s in slow motion so it’s not apparent to some people yet.
Writing about this in an excellent piece yesterday, Phil quoted a famed line of dialogue from Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises, wherein one character asks another;
“How did you go bankrupt?”
The guy replies “Two ways; gradually and then suddenly.”
A lot of folk have described car crashes in much the same way; there’s that moment just before the collision when time slows to a crawl and you can see what’s about to happen but are completely powerless to stop it. Then it hits you.
For those who are still not convinced, I ask them this; if clubs could just keep on spending and ignore financial reality, if clubs could just keep on running up debts year in year out, without any consequences at all, how come so many have entered administration or gone bust?
How come the rest of us aren’t doing it?
Is it because Sevco is special? If that’s your answer, then remember you said it and not me.
Because to me, they are a two bob football club from Glasgow with no global reach, no major institution or sugar daddy propping them up and thus are ripe to fall in the current climate where fans aren’t allowed into grounds and every club is contemplating losses.
They are not special, they are not unique and so they are not immune.
The same rules of gravity, financial and otherwise, bind them as bind us.
If our board at times appears “less ambitious” than theirs or less willing to spend money it’s not because Sevco can, it’s because we won’t, and therein lies the difference.
We refuse to act insanely.
The bean-counters at Celtic Park know how this works, and believe it or not they are wholly aware of how close to the edge the club at Ibrox is. They know that, for example, one year without European Group Stage football will smash that club as thoroughly as it eventually smashed Rangers … and there’s a lot more than can go wrong besides.
Remember this folks, and I never get tired repeating it; it was not some great, crashing event that brought Rangers down.
They had over-extended for more than ten years and it was only ever going to take one bad year to bring the club to its knees.
Rangers simply ran out of money.
That’s what happened.
It wasn’t Whyte, it wasn’t HMRC, it wasn’t the Grand Conspiracy of the Unseen Fenian Hand.
They needed to pay a bill and the money for it was no longer there, and they knew that other bills were on the way and there was no money to pay them either.
You saw the list of creditors … that’s what brought them down.
The same dynamic is in play here.
Sooner or later, Sevco will run out of road.
It is a matter of certainty, and a matter of time.
The bloggers can tell you that it will happen.
We just can’t tell you when.
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