With Celtic having one foot in the group stages of the Champions League thanks to their superb – yet somewhat surprising – 5-0 win over Astana last week at Celtic Park one would think that Scottish football would be on a high – you’d be wrong!
There are some in our game who see Celtic’s success as bad for the Scottish game, these same individuals struggled to make excuses for the likes of Rangers, Aberdeen and St.Johnstone being knocked out of the Europa League – falling back on the old Summer Football line.
Yet when the Scottish champions fight their way past three qualifying rounds – due to the lowly rankings that Scotland now has in the coefficient system thanks to other Scottish teams not pulling their weight – we get the usual suspects bumping their gums over the financial gain that Celtic will achieve by securing group stage football in Europe’s elite club cup competition.
Celtic, as their reward for winning the Scottish title and their qualifiers, will pocket over £30 million in revenue. Compare that to the £2.948 million they were handed for winning the Scottish title last season and you will understand why it is so important for Celtic to qualify and why some are crying into their porridge at the thought of their dominance continuing.
So while a bedwetting Hearts supporting journalist bumps his gums over Celtic securing a cool £30 million, while his club is still struggling to order some plastic seats from suppliers, you may have missed that there has been at least one chief executive breaking ranks to celebrate Celtic’s success.
Motherwell chief operating officer Alan Burrows has gone public with his delight over Celtic one foot away from securing Champions League group stage football and the parachute payments that the rest of the clubs in the league will receive.
If Celtic do secure qualification for the group stages in Kazakhstan tonight, then every Premiership club will receive a cheque for £365,000.
Burrows said: “Brendan Rodgers was right to say that every Scottish club should be behind them. People go on about how that will just widen the gap between Celtic and the rest but anyone who says that Celtic reaching the Champions League is bad for Scottish football is off their heads.
“It’s important for the prestige of our game that our teams are competing at the highest level and I just wish Aberdeen, Rangers and St Johnstone had done better in the Europa League.
“The great thing about the UEFA money is that it comes in one go. Next month we’ll get a cheque for Celtic making it last season and now we know there should be another in 12 months time.
“For us, that amounts to 12.5 percent of our turnover but for some clubs, it’ll be as much as 15-20 percent.
“That’s because it’s paid a year behind. This is the time of year when clubs are preparing their audited accounts and we need to be able to make projections for the future. So to know that you have £365,000 nailed on is fantastic.
“However, it’s also good for Scottish football that Celtic are doing well in Europe because, without them, our coefficient would be falling through the floor.”
Even Celtic’s closest rivals, Aberdeen, see the Glasgow side’s success as good for the Scottish game.
Dons chairman, Stewart Milne, admitted: “Celtic qualifying for the Champions League is great news for Scottish football.
“We all really want to see Celtic doing well and it would be fantastic if they could get beyond the group stage and hopefully they can if they get a decent group.
“It is going to be very difficult to rein in Celtic, especially with it now looking fairly certain they are going to qualify for the Champions League for a second season. That is going to give them a bit more buying power before the window closes.
“Brendan has done a fantastic job since he came in. He has turned the club around, and built an extremely powerful team there, which we were on the wrong end of last season.
“We want to be able to give Celtic a good challenge, and I think we have Hibs back, hopefully, see a strong Hearts coming through and a strong Rangers coming through.
“St Johnstone will be there and a few other teams, so I think it is going to be a really good season. I do feel excited about this season, Scottish football is in the best place it has been for a long while. We are going to see a very competitive league.”
The national team has failed to qualify for a major tournament since the World Cup in France back in 1998, our clubs have failed in European competition – damaging our credibility in the game and yet with Celtic propping up our coefficient thanks to their exploits on the continent, the green eyed monster rears its ugly head. All because their club isn’t pulling their weight and not achieving qualification success and the rewards that go with it.
No amount of bitter journalistic diatribe and no laughable petitions from disgruntled Rangers fans crying over Celtic having access to more money than they can only dream of, will dampen Celtic or their supporters celebrations if they do indeed complete the business against Astana tonight.
Scottish football has taken a battering over the years, especially when Rangers went tits up thanks to their own financial mismanagement and ripping up the handbook on sporting integrity to rig the game in their favour by using EBTs.
We should celebrate success when it comes to these shores – no matter the colours the team wears. Even more so when the club(s) in question do it the right way.
What is the alternative?
Breathe a huge sigh of relief at Celtic not reaching the group stages and not receiving the riches with it?
Our coefficient taking another hammering?
Our clubs not receiving monies that could cost people their jobs?
Our clubs having to play more qualifiers before securing group stage football?
The credibility of our league disintegrating rapidly?
It is not Celtic’s problem that the other clubs cannot challenge them domestically. It is not Celtic’s fault that the other clubs fail to muster a whimper in Europe. It is not Celtic’s fault that they can sign better players than the likes of Aberdeen, Rangers, Hearts et al can.
Celtic are flying the flag for Scottish football on the continent and they deserve the riches that come with it, despite what some bitter pundits and fans believe.
By Andy Muirhead