My friends in Celtic, for the first time in four years we start a league campaign as champions. We carry a slender-but-hopeful lead into the second leg of our Champions League third qualifying round tie, and we are hotter favourites to win the league this season, than North Korea’s Supreme Leader’s favourite Pyongyang team would be, if he was to playing as striker.
Quite simply, the return on money placed on Celtic to win the league this season more accurately reflects a tax-free savings plan than a gamble. The bookies will hold your money until March or April then return it with some interest. Your rate of return will directly reflect the interest they can earn elsewhere.
This is the ninth eve-of-the-season we have reported on the state of the club. During this time we have gone toe-to-toe with a competitor who tried so hard to get the better of us, they ran up unsustainable debts, which could reach £134m, and which will never be paid or forgiven.
Celtic ran a better operation, were commercially sharper, had by far the best scouting system in the country, but paid their bills and ‘lost’ five leagues in this time.
Living with this was hard. In fact, it tore the Celtic support apart. The question was simple, “If they can, why can’t we?”
They couldn’t, and now the ideological debate is over. Mantras we have heard for decades have proven to be false. ‘Speculate to accumulate’ and ‘For every fiver Celtic spend….’ were suitable for an inflating market, where player values, TV contracts and match day revenues rose consistently, but this strategy was fatally flawed.
Whatever was accumulated in Scottish football it was never financial reserves, so when revenues dipped, or the vagaries of sporting fortune denied the wealthy their anticipated earnings, Armageddon happened – for one club!
Students of economic history will be able to tell you that even the most obvious economic lessons are eventually forgotten. New people arrive, achieve some early successes which reaffirm their ideological beliefs (in this instance ‘We deserve more money to be spent on footballers’), make no provisions for the inevitable change in circumstances, before disappearing into the obscurity from which they came, leaving others to live with the consequences.
Here is the true State of your Club. Celtic will continue its trajectory without changing what has been orthodoxy since the last century. Over any business period we will spend whatever money comes into the club. In normal times debt levels will trend downwards, providing space for the afflictions of fortune to be accommodated. We will most likely promote more players from our precocious youth system and buy fewer squad fillers than in the past.
The blink-junkies, who still believe in the values of Sir David Murray, will be reminded on these pages of their consequences *.
When this period of our history ends, we will reflect back on what, by then, will be the most successful period of any club, in any country. Ever. Those of you who lived through Lisbon are now enjoying the second Golden Generation of our club, but this time, nine years will not contain it. This Generation will stretch from 2000 as far as your mind’s eye can see, if only someone would coin a catchy phrase to encapsulate this successful period!
The Battle of the Ages is over, Celtic have prevailed, as did every Scottish football fan who wanted the madness to end. We won!
Thanks to everyone who bought a raffle ticket to help with our summer charity causes. Enjoy the season. I will.
*At the moment I’m reading End this Depression Now by Nobel Economics Laureate Paul Krugman, an excellent insight into how even the most eminent allow what they want to believe to obscure some of the lessons every economics under-grad is taught. It’s also a fine retort to the political classes who believe there’s nothing we can do for the economy but strangle it a little tighter.