So yesterday, after much delay and speculation swirling, the Ibrox accounts found their way into the public domain. There has been a lot of to-and-fro on this subject over the past few months, and when the numbers were finally revealed there was a lot of mutual back-slapping over in Sevconia and even amongst the Scottish media.
And in other, less expected, places too.
One of the things that was quite disconcerting yesterday was seeing a smug, self-satisfied “Celtic vlogger” wetting his pants over those figures and slagging off other Celtic fan media outlets for making predictions which didn’t come to pass. Amazing that doing this should be the first thing that comes to this individual’s mind.
Makes you think, right?
Apart from the dissonance of watching someone on a Celtic platform cheerleading those accounts like the most rabid Daily Record reporter, he had a go at the smarts of those of us who have been saying that those accounts would not exactly be wonderful.
Of course, what he was really doing was having a go at you, our audience. It was your smarts that he questioned, and I found that amusing, as we, here, yourselves and myself, were all smart enough to spot what he had evidently missed; those accounts reported exactly what some of us had been predicting they would. Another annual loss.
Far from being the stuff of celebratory times over at Ibrox, those accounts were sobering and serious and a reminder that their club has been sailing close to the wind for a long, long time.
The numbers don’t lie, but the hacks have done a good job of at least massaging them a little, and blowing a little smoke. Not enough of it though, as it’s there in black and white.
In a European final season, in a season where they brought in big money from one player, in a year where they pushed new shirts out like a drug, where they flogged as much souvenir tat as they ever have, where they “celebrated” their big fake anniversary and where they brought in £10 million in additional cash for the departed management team the Ibrox club posted a loss of just under £1 million. The media did their best to spin it, but that fact is in the figures.
The media has focussed on another figure; their £5.9 million “operating profit.”
This is not a new trick, however, and many of us remember full well where we’ve seen it before. They tried this same stunt in 2017 where they “reported” a £100,00 profit but with a weird abbreviation next to it; EBITA. Which means “Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation & Amortisation.”
What was the actual figure for that year? A loss in the region of £6 million.
All “operating profits” are is another example of that; earnings before tax and interest. In short, once you add those figures to the books then the profit turns into a loss right quick. It’s a nice scam, if you’ve never seen it before and don’t know how it works. That the entirety of the Scottish media (and one Celtic vlogger) fell for it is pretty amazing.
We knew, of course, and we said so, that there had to be some pretty extraordinary things in those accounts for the delays and obfuscation and spin which was going on in the lead-up to them.
But the actual fine details are pretty astonishing.
Directors have taken back £10 million of the club’s money. Which they are fully entitled to do, having put that cash in to keep it afloat these past few years. According to Chris Jack, there are tens of millions more in repayments still to make, with many of the loans now generating interest. This will be hanging over them for years to come.
An absurd sum of money is being spent on “infrastructure”, most of it to their old ticket office which they are aiming to turn into a club museum.
People keep on asking me why Celtic has never moved forward with its own infrastructure projects in and around the Celtic Triangle; there is a perfectly good reason for that.
The financial upside is nowhere near promising enough to plough ahead with those plans. To do this stuff you need to be able to afford to take the hit in the here and now and not see a return for years and years if you ever even see one at all.
That’s why there’s no hotel on the Celtic Way.
There are things in those accounts which their fans will take heart from, but the overall picture is very unconvincing. You’d think subtracting those kinds of “exceptional costs” would pain a rosier, overall picture … but you also need to subtract from the equation the European run and nearly a dozen home games at Ibrox; the big hit in the merchandising which came from that and the anniversary; the cash they got for Patterson and what they brought in for the departure of the management team as well.
None of that is necessarily repeatable. Indeed, they went out of Europe early this term and although they’ve sold players they also – hilariously – spent money on utter rubbish to “strengthen” their team.
Look at the European form and the league table to see how well that has turned out so far. The likelihood here is that when Van Bronckhorst goes they will have to pay him, and the figure they’ll have to fork out will be eye-wateringly high.
On top of all that, of course, is the Ashley settlement and the final admission that their club has been lying to its own fans, and to the media, for years on this, just as we have reported time and again.
This is something else for which we in the blogosphere have been widely criticised by people who believe everything they read in the mainstream press.
Those accounts are a mess. For every up there is a down, and so much of it depends on results on the pitch above all else. The picture that’s painted at the end of it all is one that is pretty damning, and highly dangerous for them, even in this coming year when things, theoretically, should look even better.
The year after this? Well, that’s the question.
I’ll do more on the massive challenges facing them next.