Celtic may break up squad after plunging to loss
Pressure: Neil Lennon (pic: SNS Group).
As a football club which prides itself on off-field performance just as much as on-field success, Celtic’s latest financial figures must have felt like an own goal for the board.
The half-year report showing a pre-tax loss of almost £6 million will have been anticipated by the Parkhead hierarchy but that won’t have made it any easier to digest.
Revenue to 31 December dropped from £53.3m in 2019 to £40.7m, while the pre-tax loss of £5.9m compared to a profit of £24.4m for the same period in the previous year.
Celtic’s loss from trading, excluding player-related gains and charges, amounted to £300,000 compared to a profit of £7.1m, with cash reserves at the bank down to £19.7m from £32.9m.
Chairman Ian Bankier said the deficit was due to a combination of the effects of the pandemic and the decision to retain “highly sought-after players” in a bid to win a tenth successive league title.
The strategy has failed, though, with the league challenge all but over with Rangers 18 points ahead having played a game more.
Odsonne Edouard (centre): believed to be in Arsenal’s sights (pic: SNS Group)
It would come as no surprise to see Celtic look to offset some of those losses by cashing on their prized assets in the summer.
Odsonne Edouard is understood to be on the radar of a number of high-profile clubs, with Arsenal thought to be at the front of the queue with chequebook in hand.
The striker, who has netted 15 times in the league this season, is under contract until 2022 but with little sign of any enthusiasm to sign an extension, the Frenchman could be one of the first pieces of summer business.
Just who will be conducting such business remains to be seen, though, with chief executive Peter Lawwell to be replaced by Dominic McKay in the summer. Bankier’s statement on the financials was notable for what it didn’t say about the managerial situation.
The Parkhead board has been under growing pressure from disgruntled supporters to replace Neil Lennon. Having overseen a disappointing league challenge, he also endured a dreadful European campaign and a shock League Cup defeat to Ross County this season.
He did manage to complete the ‘quadruple treble’ with an unconvincing victory over Hearts in the delayed Scottish Cup final in December and a review of the Northern Irishman’s position was to be carried out in early January, though Bankier said the club wouldn’t make “hasty decisions that we might regret”.
Big changes are said to be in the pipeline regarding how the club is run, including the appointment of a director of football – Juventus scout Matteo Tognozzi and former Bournemouth and Huddersfield recruitment chief David Webb are among those linked with the post.
With season ticket renewals yet to be launched, the board will presumably try to time any major announcements accordingly.
Commenting on the club’s financial performance, Bankier said: “The prolonged summer transfer window, the impact of Covid-19 and, crucially, the loss of our passionate support at matches have undoubtedly had a damaging effect on our performance levels in domestic and European competitions, but we recognise that our performance has not been good enough.
“Across all media platforms, we have been asked to communicate our reaction to events on and off the park and to reveal our decisions and intentions.
“It is acknowledged that the season, to date, has been a disappointment. We approached it with justifiable confidence. Having been crowned league champions for the ninth year in a row, we looked forward to making it a quadruple treble in the delayed Scottish Cup.
“We retained a number of highly sought-after players, so as to have the strongest possible squad going into this season. We supplemented our player pool by investing in new player registrations.
“We had in place a manager with a proven record and the core of a squad who had created history for the club. But the harsh reality has been that, thus far, we have not achieved the results we have sought. We do not shy away from these cold facts.
“Criticisms are instant. Evaluating our options in order to make the right decisions at this time in the club’s history cannot be instant.”
He added: “Gains from player trading were minimal. The effects of Covid-19 have persisted longer than many could have envisaged and, as a result, our crucial match day and other income streams derived from our stadium have been reduced to negligible proportions.
“These two factors largely explain the reduction in our profit before tax. No football club is immune from the effects of Covid-19. Looking forward, the football and financial environment is still volatile and very uncertain because of the ongoing effects of Covid-19.
“At the time of writing, it is unclear when the 2020/21 Scottish Cup will re-commence following its suspension.
“Neither are we able to say at this stage when we will be able to welcome our supporters back to Celtic Park, but we continue to work with the football authorities and the Scottish Government with a view to ensuring that fans are able to return to football safely as soon as possible.”