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The Alternative Histories of Celtic and Rangers. ep4

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Simone Byrne Simone Byrne | 16:52 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

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.

Lesley Campbell

Lesley Campbell

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.

The Alternative Histories of Celtic and Rangers continues Wednesday 1130 on BBC Radio Scotland.


  • Comment number 1.

    Celtic and Rangers will always be there...

    But in each case, and at differing times over the not-too-distant past, it has been the consideration of public relations on the part of [notionally] Scottish banks - to whom the clubs owed many millions of pounds - which has saved the Old Firm.

    And, despite their respective protestations that they are 'too big' for Scottish football, being big fish in a wee pond has also saved them more than once when playing fortunes have dipped.

    Any Glasgow club playing in the English Premier League (or Championship) in hock to a global bank - one which could easily afford to alienate a sizeable chunk of its Scottish customer-base - would almost certainly be allowed to fail, yet that is the direction in which successive interested parties have sought to propel the two clubs.

    With the possible exception of Martin Edwards (late of Manchester Utd), has ANYONE ever made money from owning a football club?


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