Last night, the European Champions League first leg game between PSV and Midtjylland took place, and the home side, who were the Dutch, resoundingly thrashed the team who knocked us out of that competition seven days ago.
Most Celtic fans I know watched that result as it came in with some vague regret, but perhaps with a sigh of relief; we’re not yet ready to play a side that good.
But a couple of hours before that match took place, the Danish side received a communique from UEFA and FIFA which confirmed something that they must have suspected all along; that their Brazilian defender, Juninho, was actually ineligible to play not just in last night’s game but in the games which preceded it, both domestically and in Europe.
Juninho was two games into an eight match ban.
Yet he played domestic and European matches before that was “confirmed” at a hearing yesterday at FIFA, including against Celtic.
FIFA and UEFA then informed the Danes of this and ruled him out of last night’s game.
Crucially, they also ruled him out of the next five matches.
They think they can waive this through and that it closes the book, but it doesn’t.
Celtic cannot allow that, and we as stakeholders in the club cannot allow the club to think that it can.
Someone screwed up, and the only thing that our club has to focus on, the only thing that matters, is that whoever that person was, they don’t work at Celtic Park.
The only fact that has a bearing on what we do next is that Juninho ought not to have taken part in our matches.
His ban in Brazil ruled him out of the games, but there he was both in the games and in the papers before them bumping his gums.
It is not Celtic’s fault that this has only come to light after the fact.
What matters is that it is a fact.
Such a violation of the rules carries an accepted, recognised, penalty; the forfeiture of any game in which he played, by 3-0.
We know this better than any club in Europe.
Twice in the recent past we have seen this sanction applied to our opponents, by UEFA.
There is no question that this should be the third such time it does.
The next 24 hours are going to be critical to this process, because to put bluntly, Celtic cannot afford to waste a second of them.
Because this is a complicated matter, as we’re in the middle of Champions League and Europa League ties which already materially affect later games as well.
There is due process to be followed here; all the clubs involved are entitled to that.
The fairest way to resolve this isn’t ideal for anybody, but we’re not living in an ideal world here.
There are clubs involved in this which did nothing wrong, and they can’t be punished in any way.
PSV won their first leg 3-0; they have a reasonable case for saying that they should automatically go through to the next round, with the Danes kicked out of the Champions League.
And we need to be realists; we’re not going to get to play PSV or stay in the competition.
That’s a done deal, and we’ll have to suck that up.
But the real prize for beating Midtjylland would have been a place in the Europa League Groups and we are entitled to that.
But here’s why this process has to be expedited.
Midtjylland broke the rules in a single tie; it is fair that they forfeit the Europa League Group place but it would be grossly unfair to kick them out of that competition as the breach didn’t happen in the Europa League.
They are entitled to take part in the qualifying campaign.
The sensible thing here is to have them play the Czechs instead of us, probably in a one-off fixture rather than a two-legged affair.
But our game with the Czech side is already scheduled, and the minute it kicks off that creates a whole vortex of problems affecting Jablonec – who did nothing wrong – and AZ Alkmaar, who play the winners at the end of all this.
If we pursue this – and we have no choice, we’re a PLC and the board has responsibilities to its shareholders which can’t be overlooked or ignored – we will be accused of trying to sneak in the back door.
I mean far be it for the Scottish press to take the side of the Scottish club; we know what their response will be.
I couldn’t care less who stands in our way or what their agendas are.
The sorry truth of it is that even in the event we get the Europa League group spot, we’re still the ones being disenfranchised because we weren’t given the opportunity to take on PSV, as we should have been.
We did nothing wrong here.
We’re the victims here.
PSV didn’t play against the ineligible player, we did.
Equally, it wasn’t our responsibility to make sure, in advance of this competition, that other clubs and their associations had dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s.
If there was the slightest doubt about his eligibility – and there clearly was – it should have been resolved before he took part in a UEFA competition.
If others were asleep at the well, too bad, so sad and hard lines.
The rules exist for a reason, and in this case the player was not eligible to take part in the Celtic tie and it doesn’t matter when that was discovered or “decided” or who brought it to light or what a tiny committee did without consulting us.
The rules were broken, and not by Celtic.
When Legia Warsaw pled mitigation UEFA rightly ignored it.
UEFA itself cannot enforce the rule in that case and in this one go a different way.
We are a member club and we have the right to due process here and if UEFA tries to wriggle around this they will be depriving us of that.
We are fully entitled – our board is required – to take that matter up with them, and to do whatever it takes to get restitution.
This is not a football matter; in an ideal world these things would be settled on the pitch.
It’s a matter of football governance, it’s a matter of the rules and regulations, it’s a matter of law and sometimes that trumps what happens in the games themselves.
In circumstances like this, it should.
Our board will rock this boat because they have to, but they should want to, first because it’s the right thing to do and secondly because they understand that even if there was no legal responsibility on them as directors of a PLC, the issue of illegally registered players is, to put it mildly, a touchy subject with the customer base.
As far as looking the other way on this goes, it’s a complete non-starter.
It is one of the few things that is absolutely non-negotiable with us.
So fasten your seatbelts, because this could be a whirlwind next 24 hours.