I read Celtic’s financial returns just then with great interest, and wry amusement.
£40 million before tax. The last thing that other people in Scottish football, already living in the shadow of Celtic, and gravely concerned by our financial muscle, wanted to see.
The profit of £33 million after tax is a record.
Even accounting for “exceptional items”, we’d still have secured a massive sum of money here, and with next season’s Champions League bounty in our sights there’s a chance that in the next financial year we might go higher still.
The figures, I’ll break down properly in another article. But there are more than just numbers to be found in these figures. There is a lengthy Chairman’s report as well, as is standard with financial returns, and it is there that one of the more interesting little nuggets is to be found, if it’s a proper representation of what those inside the club intend.
It’s a nod and wink towards the manager, and towards some of us as fans.
“Our successfully proven strategy has delivered stability and footballing success over many years and remains the same,” Lawwell writes. Which I read and felt rising anger about.
But then comes the next bit, and the next bit is a littler bit different.
“We must balance the signing of players that can be developed and sold when conditions are optimal alongside the need to sign players who are able to make an immediate impact and deliver footballing success. The execution of this strategy is increasingly challenging owing to wage and transfer inflation, but this formula has underpinned both our footballing success and financial stability over a number of years now and it is vital that we adhere to it.”
It’s right there in the first sentence, and although he puts his little caveat on the back and tries to camouflage it as part of the current strategy, that line about “the need to sign players who are able to make an immediate impact” is not even a particularly coded way of assuring us that there is a recognition that the projects are not enough.
I think it’s a step towards the manager, although Lawwell doesn’t want to just say that, because that might mean admitting that the summer didn’t deliver all it could. That we have an incredible £72 million sitting in the bank, and not out on the pitch, will rankle with some people … for me, I understand why big cash reserves aren’t a bad thing.
We live in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. COVID is the lesson we ought not to have needed and would rather not have gotten, but it happened and we dealt with it because this club was in rude financial health.
Whatever our challenges are, the club will be able to deal with them. Our recently announced infrastructure spending is only possible because Celtic has that cash to hand, and days like this are how we got there.
Still, that part of Lawwell’s statement stands out a mile; “We must balance the signing of players that can be developed and sold when conditions are optimal alongside the need to sign players who are able to make an immediate impact and deliver footballing success.”
Because he clearly makes the distinction between those players and the projects, and so it cannot be anything other than a tacit acknowledgement that the policy needs to change with the times.
This is the thing that we were all asking for this summer – and when I say all of us I include the manager in that – and did not get, and I don’t care how that message has been conveyed, I’m just pleased that it was.
In January we’ll see if they live up to it.
More on these numbers tomorrow, but for tonight I think the club and the fans can be rightfully proud. We have been successful without spending more than we earn, and I have always taken an immense amount of satisfaction in that, and I always will.