Last night, I read, in mounting horror, the story about how the English Premier League has reached a financial settlement with the English Football League, one that does immense damage to Scottish football.
The new deal puts an extra – read that word again; extra – £365 million into the EFL over the next three years. It is thought that each Championship team will earn an extra £10 million minimum.
And it is the sum which finally cements the gap between not only the EPL and our own league but, increasingly, between the English Championship and the top flight in Scotland as well.
When even League 2 clubs are going to get an extra £350,000 it’s obvious that our problems are just starting. The money is set to increase in increments over those first three years and to increase again, in more increments, over the three that follow.
God alone knows what EFL clubs will be earning before this ends, and that represents a clear and present danger to Scottish football which would be absolute mugs to ignore. The risks even to Celtic are obvious when Championship clubs can offer more for players than we’re able to. The task in front of us just got bigger. It will continue to grow.
Celtic plays regularly in Europe. It’s probably the case that we can guarantee to play Group Stage football every single season; I can’t see any circumstances in which that will change, and so it’s entirely possible than in time UEFA payments will make up some of this gap, but I very much doubt that it will do more than that.
Yesterday, the boss talked about Matt O’Riley and how much Leeds wanted him during the closing days of the window. Brendan told the board that they could not lose another starter, and I am glad he won that argument because if they had sold him the fan uproar would have been unreal. But we know the risk of losing key players is acute, and it has been for years, and it will continue to be in the future. Leeds are, of course, a Championship club.
The game in this country is being bled out by the influx of cash towards England. It has been bad before now but it’s on a one-way trajectory and in the long haul we won’t come out of this any better than the clubs south of the border will.
It will just take longer. But the game here is finished if it goes on like this.
The big collapse in the value of these TV deals is not coming any time soon, it’s something we’ve been hearing about for years and it’s not occurred yet. With streaming platforms suddenly in the mix the chances of it have shrunk to virtually nil. Companies now compete with each other to throw money at this, and that could go on for a long, long time to come.
Nothing is more dangerous to Celtic than the steady growth in power and wealth of the big league down the road from us. Other leagues are moving away from us too, though, and that’s also got dangers that are impossible to underestimate.
Whatever our future holds, it cannot go on like this.
Our game is devoid of leadership at the precise moment that it is more important than it’s ever been.