REMEMBER the old days when football was played at three o’clock every Saturday? Peter Lawwell would dearly love a return but not out of any misty-eyed romanticism – it would make Celtic more money.
Indeed, having crunched the numbers the Celtic chief executive would happily scrap the paltry SPFL television contract and revert to the traditional kick-off time. Lawwell believes that Celtic could make more from ticket sales and other match-day revenues than the £2 million his club receives from the TV companies.
It further highlights the disparity between the English Premier League and the SPFL and how Celtic are financially hamstrung despite their commercial worth and widespread appeal, illustrated by last week’s new kit deal with New Balance. Lawwell knows his hope is a pipedream as the other Scottish clubs rely on the television money – even if it is small change in comparison to the millions lavished upon English clubs.
He said: “For me, we would like to play every Saturday at 3pm and forget the telly but we can’t because the other clubs are so dependent on it.
“I think we would have more people coming to games if they were three o’clock every Saturday and that would far outweigh the money we get for TV. But it is more vital for other clubs.
“The SPFL get a lot of stick on something that is a wee bit unfair because you can only get what people will pay for it. There was no other competition so that’s why Sky, ESPN and BT picked it up.
“The English Premier League is a different ball game because it has gone beyond the valuation of football rights.
“It’s two global communication giants with strategic objectives, vying for market share and they are paying way above what it is worth for their own purposes. But we are not part of that. The irony is that 10 per cent of people who help fund that are Scottish subscribers. This is nothing to do with football rights, it’s Sky and BT defending their customer base. Burnley could outbid us for a player now. They’ll get £100m if they’re relegated this season. Burnley now financially dwarf Celtic. It’s ludicrous but it’s a sign of the times.”
The return of Hearts and Rangers to the Premiership would probably lead to a small rise in TV revenues, but simply having Rangers back will benefit Celtic to the tune of £10m. Lawwell said: “There might be more money available going forward and that could depend on Hearts and Rangers coming up. It would certainly help. It’s about quality of product and competition. Hopefully there can be a new beginning here.
“Do I hope Rangers come up? The positives you miss the negatives you don’t. They have to sort themselves out. It costs us £10m a year without Rangers – if they came back up we’d progressively get that back.
“It depends on their ownership. Everyone would agree the ownership there has been questionable in the last three years.”
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