The Alternative Histories of Celtic and Rangers. ep4
The Alternative Histories of Celtic and Rangers is a 4 part series which offers alternative opinion and discourse of Celtic and Rangers from Tom Devine, Graham Spiers, Ruth Wishart and Lesley Campbell.
In this fourth and final episode of the series, Commodity broker, journalist, author, and adviser to the World Bank, Lesley Campbell assesses the success of the two Old Firm teams as business ventures.
Investigating the finances of the Old Firm was an odd exercise. For some fans, it was even mildly disrespectful, like peering under the skirts of two venerable figureheads. For others, it was an irrelevance - Celtic and Rangers will always be there, playing football, even as the bailiffs hammer on the door and the accountants clamber onto the window ledge.
I started investigating the finances of football believing this to be a bloated, hysterical and self-indulgent market sector which relies on soft loans from egomaniacs and the unquestioning commitment of fans who expect no return on their investments.
And it was clear from a very superficial glance at the clubs' balance sheets that most of their profits were coming in and going straight out again without ever touching the sides.
Was I being unjust? There's a lack of predictability in football which would discourage most conventional entrepreneurs; you can never know if a team will justify its cost by attaining success on the field, but then again, you can't ignore the devoted fans who will continue to buy season tickets and £50 shirts even if it doesn't. With a panel of experts, I looked at the Old Firm as if the teams were 'normal' businesses, going through the balance sheets, trying to work out what had gone wrong and what could be done to make it right again.
While there was a broad consensus on the causes of today's problems, there was an interesting split when it came to seeing into the future. In ten years' time, I asked, would Celtic and Rangers be top of their game in a pan-European league, each with a pool of talented, loyal, home-grown players and a healthy balance sheet, or would they be bankrupt relics of a former age, playing second rate football in a parochial league?
I got some very interesting and complex answers from the football-loving experts and a very uncompromising verdict, delivered in true abrasive Dragons' Den style, from our dispassionate entrepreneur.