To properly analyse Celtic’s interim account for the six months to 31 December 2017, which were published yesterday, we need to take into account the same period for the last two seasons.
Revenue for the period was a staggering £71.5m, up £10m on the previous season (which also saw Champions League group stage qualification), but more notably, a remarkable £40m from the £31.4m recorded during the last Ronny Deila season.
Clearly not all of that £40 is directly attributable to Champions League qualification, but one division of a football club drives revenue to another. For example, merchandising revenue for the period to 31 December 2015 was £7.5m, this increased to £10.7m this season. On-field success drives footfall, which drives revenue across the business.
The attributable effect of the Champions League is contained within Multimedia and Commercial income, which to Dec 17 period was £34.0m, up marginally from £29.9m the previous season, but unrecognisable from the £9.1m to Dec 15.
Also within Multimedia and Commercial are the contracts with Dafabet, Magners, New Balance, Eden Mill and Intelligent Car Leasing. It beggars belief that some of the current deals were achieved in the months before Ronny departed. The multi-year Dafabet deal is comparable to a single-year Champions League qualification.
Although Champions League football remains of the utmost importance, these commercial partnerships fortified the club’s ability to speculate as they have since 2016. Don’t underestimate their importance.
I’ll come to how spectacularly successful a period this was in a moment, but the one area Peter Lawwell will be anxious about is the cost of football and stadium operations – which are primarily wages. Costs for the period to Dec 17 were £40.7m, up from £33.7 the previous season and £24.2m under Ronny.
In the space of two years we have come close to doubling our football costs. The revenue is there to support this growth, and the overall strength of the finances can withstand a season without Champions League football, but you and I know what happens to clubs who budget assuming they will always hit the Champions League jackpot (they sell to a spiv for £1 and liquidate).
It will also occur to you that it doesn’t feel like you are watching a more expensive football team this season than last. Put another way, we got better value for money last season than this. The primary reason for this is wage inflation in England, which forces a corresponding increase when contracts are being renewed elsewhere.
Most of the Celtic first team could earn more money in England. They stay at Celtic because they want to be here, but also because the differential is palatable. For some, the money available elsewhere will be irresistible (which doesn’t make them bad people, btw).
For a club who again retained all of their top personnel, this is an incredible set of accounts. I expect more player trading in the summer, as Brendan will try to build upon the team which has largely carried him through two season. Congratulations to the supporters, Peter Lawwell and his team, and to Brendan, his staff and players. As a club, we are probably more united than at any point post-Larsson – a period which had its own fragility.
I know Celtic continually risk-assess the future, but the level of professionalism throughout the club gives me confidence in the future. If I can attempt an understatement, things are going to be OK*.
*this does not indicate complacency about Partick Thistle tomorrow.