If you are 30-years-old or above, chances are you have been going to Celtic Park since a time when the stadium itself and the area around Parkhead was derelict and economically challenged. The Parkhead Forge and Barr’s factories, large local employers in their day, were long gone.
In the early 1970s, the government attempted to regenerate inner-city areas across the country, with the Glasgow Eastern Area Renewal (GEAR) project first to launch, followed by Docklands projects in London and Liverpool. GEAR ran for almost 20 years, but when it shuttered in 1987, the east if the city was still hopelessly impoverished. That’s not to say it would not have been worse still, were it not for the limited impact of GEAR.
What the area lacked was an anchor project but one arrived seven years after GEAR when the foundations were laid for the new Celtic Park.
The regeneration of Celtic brought improved management to all aspects of the club and associated business, while visitor numbers increased. A seven-day-per-week retail operation was the first step in bringing people to the area out with match days, as Celtic continued to acquire adjacent land and make improvements to the stadium environment.
This anchor sporting facility soon drew the Commonwealth Arena and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, build directly opposite Celtic Park. Glasgow had a sporting quarter, drawing athletes and well as spectators from across the globe.
Progress has not stopped. Celtic have outline permission for a hotel to be built onsite, with a museum to follow and continually petition for a fan zone, where the tens of thousands who arrive on match day will be able to buy refreshments and access toilet facilities.
Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute’s report on the economic impact of Celtic, published yesterday, outlines the enormous importance of the club to the economic success of the city and beyond:
Equivalent of 2820 full time jobs created.
£165m contribution to Scottish GDP.
A net inflow to Glasgow of over 1 million people in one season.
Celtic are a successful Scottish exporter, 47% of revenues come from outside Scotland.
What is happening through Celtic in the east of the city is not the only story in Glasgow. The SEC Centre, with the Exhibition Centre, Clyde Auditorium and SSE Hydro has turned the Finnieston area into a world-leading venue for conferences, exhibitions and concerts. Glasgow is now a destination city.
Much of this happened organically. The success of the SECC encouraged more development in the area, while Celtic have had several iterations of insightful planning since the mid-90s. In different parts of the world, cities compete to bring economic icons like Celtic to their patch. In Glasgow, the Council heard objections to the Celtic Superstore plans as it may compete with the local Tesco. Public transportation infrastructure caters only for local resident volumes, with no plans to move into the 21st century, while Glasgow City Council are planning to drive visitors away by insisting the nearest they can park will be 1 mile from the stadium – displacing the parking problem and increasing the time cars will be left in the area as spectators walk to and from the stadium.
The report was issued ahead of Celtic’s AGM, which is currently underway. It is an explainer for those in positions of power who carry an economic responsibility, but seem to have little grasp of how to Let Glasgow Flourish. The subtext to why the club asked the Fraser of Allander Institute to undertake the report is one of frustration. Things are going well for Celtic, for Parkhead and for Glasgow, but so much more could be done if others worked with the club.