Russia sanctions

Celtic poised for Champions League group stage

Ange Postecoglou is heading directly to Europe’s top table (pic: SNS Group)

Celtic will be guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League group stage if, as expected, they win the Scottish Premiership.

The elevation of the Scottish champions follows a decision by Uefa to impose further sanctions on Russia as a result of the continuing conflict in Ukraine.

Russian clubs will be banned from participating in all Uefa competitions next season and as a result, Scotland, whose coefficient ranking sits at 11th for the 2022-23 season, will now receive a guaranteed Champions League group spot.

The second-placed side, currently Rangers, will now go into the third round of qualifying rather than the second.

Ange Postecoglou’s league leaders need just four points from their final three games to be crowned champions after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with nearest challengers Rangers.

The ruling also ensures Scotland will have three teams – Celtic, Rangers and Hearts – assured of European group stage football next campaign across Uefa’s club competitions.

The ban imposed on Russian clubs means the country will have no representatives in the men’s and women’s Champions League, Europa League, or Europa Conference League during the 2022-23 campaign.

Uefa confirmed last month that Russia had declared an interest in hosting Euro 2028 – as well as the UK and Ireland, and Turkey – and the 2032 edition.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russia’s interest was “beyond satire” and “beyond comprehension”.

Uefa said the bid was ineligible in accordance with a regulation that bidders should not bring the body, the bidding procedure or European football into disrepute.

Uefa’s latest sanctions also ban Russia from the 2021-23 European Under-21 Championship, as well as youth and futsal competitions.

The Parkhead, club, meanwhile has appointed the son of former chief executive Peter Lawwell as its new head of scouting and first team recruitment.

Mark Lawwell joins from his position as head of CFG scouting and recruitment, within City Football Group’s global structure, having spent the last 10 years there.

He has previously worked closely with Postecoglou on scouting and recruitment throughout the Celtic boss’ time as manager of Yokohama F Marinos.  

“I was very keen for Mark to join the club and clearly I am delighted that he has accepted this important role and that we have been able to bring him to Celtic,” said Postecoglou.

“Mark is someone who I worked closely with throughout my four years at Marinos, through which time we developed great trust and an excellent working relationship.  He knows the way I like to work, the way my teams play and the particular player profile which this requires.”

Peter Lawwell was Celtic chief executive for 18 years before standing down in 2021 after 18 years. Dominic McKay left Scottish Rugby to replace him but resigned within weeks for personal reasons, Michael Nicholson taking over.

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