CELTIC have called time on their unified shirt sponsorship deals with Rangers for the first time since 1999 after announcing a three-year deal with Irish cider brand Magners.
The new contract, believed to be worth in excess of £1.5 million a season for the Scottish champions, will begin from the start of the 2013-14 season.
Celtic and Rangers currently have a joint shirt sponsorship agreement with Tennents, the Glasgow-based lager brand which is also owned by Magners’ parent company C&C Group. That deal, worth £1.5 million a season to both clubs, expires at the end of this season.
At Celtic’s most recent annual general meeting, some shareholders called for an end to sharing a shirt sponsor with the Ibrox club.
But Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has denied those protests had any influence in his club’s decision to switch to
Magners. “The deal was signed with Magners before the AGM,” said Lawwell.
“So we knew we were doing it but we couldn’t say so at that point because of commercial confidentiality.
“I guess our supporters, and the club to an extent, see them as different clubs with different values, histories, standards, traditions, different offerings in some ways.
“But, in the past, when Martin Bain was chief executive at Rangers, we always set out on our own looking for shirt sponsors but circumstances rather than a plan always brought us back together because it was a local sponsor who needed both and you ended up back there.
“We have our own story and traditions, a very powerful offering to a sponsor. I don’t really want to talk about other clubs. We are on our own, we are not defined by any other club. We are Celtic, with our own values and tradition.
“We should leave it behind, not the Old Firm tag, but the whole subject because there is positivity with this deal. Let’s not go back into negativity and talking about other people’s business and let everyone get on with their own.”
Celtic and Rangers first shared a shirt sponsor from 1984 to 1987 when the Fife-based double glazing firm CR Smith became the first company to have their names sported by the Old Firm giants.
Rangers went their own way from 1987 to 1999 with McEwan’s Lager, while Celtic retained CR Smith until 1991. The Parkhead club had one season with Glasgow car showroom Peoples on their shirt in 1991-92, had no shirt sponsor the following campaign, then returned to CR Smith from 1993 to 1997.
Umbro sponsored Celtic’s shirts from 1997 to 1999 before they again joined forces with Rangers in 1999 for a four-year deal with communications firm NTL. The Old Firm then shared lager brand Carling as shirt sponsors from 2003 to 2010 until striking the current deal with Tennents.
It remains to be seen whether the Dublin-based C&C Group will also extend their agreement with Rangers beyond the end of this season, possibly retaining Tennents on the Ibrox club’s shirts.
“We don’t want to talk about Rangers, we are here to talk about Magners,” said Magners managing director Tom McCusker at yesterday’s Celtic Park announcement.
“We currently are involved with Rangers, because we are their shirt sponsors through the Tennents brand. We started negotiations with Celtic quite a while ago and it was always our aspiration to have a three-year agreement with Celtic to take them through their 125 year anniversary which also coincided with the Tennents 125 year
“We sponsor Rangers because we are currently the shirt sponsors for Rangers and that will
remain this season.
“Negotiations we have with them or anybody else about
the future are completely confidential and we can’t talk about that.”
Lawwell expressed his satisfaction at Celtic’s commercial performance in the absence of Rangers from the top flight of Scottish football and was philosophical about the effect of having no Old Firm fixtures.
“Personally, I don’t really miss the games,” he said. “There are pluses and there are minuses clearly. You miss the pluses and you don’t miss the minuses. You miss the pros and not the cons, so it balances itself out. But
you wouldn’t swap it for the Champions League.”