Celtic released their financial results yesterday, and the headlines weren’t great. The top lines were a post-tax loss of £11.5m, a drop in revenue from £70.2m to £60.8m and a fall in player trading revenue as we chased the ten. Positives could be found in our diversification of revenue streams, which saw merchandise sales spike by 50% as a result of the new Adidas kit deal, as well as continued backing from supporters in ticket sales.

The statement accompanying the results was met with derision, largely due to the questionable language used by Chairman Ian Bankier in parts of it. Mentioning coming second in a list of ‘operational highlights’ is not a great look, but concentrating on that solely – as more than one media report did – misses the point somewhat.

If truth be told – and there is no greater truth in football than results – last year was historically bad. There’s no greater truth in finance than the bottom line, too, but a loss of £11m is not actually as bad as that sounds.

Taken in the context of the ongoing pandemic – and the entirety of these accounts come from the pandemic season, unlike last year’s accounts which covered just a small part of it – then that £11m suddenly doesn’t look that bad at all. Everyone has lost money, and it might just be that we haven’t lost as much.

Certainly, when seen in the wider context of just how much other clubs are losing, such as Manchester United’s £92m, it starts to look positively brilliant. We await news from across the city for the best possible comparison, but given that they lost the thick end of £16m last season with fans in the ground, they’ll have had to have sold some weight of Castore gear to make anything like the losses that we have.

In the past, Rangers* have made a habit of announcing their results so that nobody gets to read them: 15 minutes before kick-off in a league game and on Friday after everyone has left the office are just two of their previous efforts. When they come out, we’ll have a clearer view of the context in which our numbers should be taken. 

Perhaps most concerning from Celtic’s side is that our revenue is way, way down. £60.8m was a drop on the previous years’ £70.2m and perhaps can be written off as pandemic losses. What can’t be explained away is the continual failure to qualify for the Champions League that has seen £100m become £70m. 

In short, off the field, we have been left behind and are now paying the price. Rangers* posted £59m in revenue in last season’s results, leaving us now close to the same size, when we could have been miles ahead. The length of the lens through which one views these things is crucial.

Lost revenue is a hard thing to quantify. We don’t think of what we don’t have and never thought that we would have. That can also be seen in these accounts. The Edouard, Ajer and Christie deals do not feature in these results, but the Frimpong and Klimala sales do: therein lies a story. 

“Our strategy of balancing player development and player trading is fundamental to our self-sustaining business model,” wrote Ian Bankier in the Chairman’s statement, and he’s sort of right. The purpose of the model is sustainability as a football club, but it could and should also be growth, and we absolutely haven’t grown.

Standing still can be a good thing when everyone else is falling, but we’ve barely progressed on a model in which our main competitors – not Rangers, but other similarly-sized European clubs – have outstripped us and other, previously smaller clubs have caught us up. We used to breeze past qualifiers, now we struggle against them. We think that because we are big, we don’t have to be smart, and it’s starting to show.

The sale of Edouard, Ajer and Christie for £25m combined – £14m, £13.5m, £1m respectively, minus a few sell on clauses – should not be weighed against what they cost us when they arrived, but what they could have made us. By holding onto them, we left probably double that £25m on the table. 

Of course, had we sold them and lost the ten, we’d have blamed the board for not backing the team, but that’s because we’re fans. The board are keepers of the purse strings and are supposed to see things differently. Now that we’ve lost the ten anyway, it seems even more silly not to have cashed in.

Ruthlessly selling at maximum value, as we did with Jeremie Frimpong, is as much a part of the player trading model as scouting. If we want to succeed at it, we need to learn to kill our darlings at the best possible time.

The Adidas march sales, and the continual season book renewals, have shown that the goodwill of Celtic supporters, and their willingness to invest materially in their club, is near-endless. Or, from the perspective of the board, the fans are a bottomless well of cash from which they can always tap. 

Celtic supporters are investing as much money as ever into a materially worse product, both in terms of results and in terms of financial results. If the purpose of Celtic is to compete at the highest level of football possible, evidently we are failing: we haven’t competed regularly in the Champions’ League for years and allowed our previously much poorer main rival to catch us up. 

Our business model has only marginally changed since the early 2000s, but our conditions have, both in Scotland and in Europe. The fans’ commitment, as displayed by continually paying for something that gets worse, has shown this board that they can keep going as they like.

These results may yet turn out to be good, or at least comparatively good when taken across Scottish and European football as a whole. The underlying conditions, as seen through these numbers and those of the last five years, however, show managed decline at best, and asleep at the wheel at worst.


  1. The figures are not bad at all, nor are they reflective. We have taken in over £50m in player transfers and this is not reflected in the accounts. Also the season book money is not there, and that’s before we sell a single strip. We are financially strong and excuses won’t cut it. Just look at Sevco, their shares are more diluted than the urine running down the Copland Road. Thank God we are not them.

  2. The most important aspect of the accounts yesterday has not been touched upon – despite losing 11.5m we only produced 3m of negative cashflow on that loss i.e. year on year our cash reserves were only 3m depleted. Thats a stellar outcome in the circumstances. I guarantee Sevco will have lost 20m+ and will do their usual tricks of trying to bury bad news after the markets have closed on a Friday and arbitrarily revaluing their playing pool assets upwards to prop up their balance sheet. All of which goes unchallenged by the Scottish MSH of course….


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