CELTIC’S assistant-manager John Collins upset his Premiership rivals last weekend when he claimed that their players were neither quick nor clever enough to provide them with a proper test ahead of ties in continental competition, writes Ewing Grahame.
He argued that it is more difficult for Celtic to progress in Europe as a result of the lack of competition available to them at home, where opponents mostly lack the wit and the ability to punish them for errors.
Yet, even allowing for that lack of diplomacy, Motherwell’s general manager Alan Burrows, pictured, has revealed that he and the other Premiership administrators will be praying that Celtic prevail over Malmo in their Champions League play-off.
The reason for the cheerleading is a potent mixture of pragmatism and patriotism, with each top-tier club receiving a six-figure bonus should Ronny Deila’s men qualify for the group phase.
That money will be distributed equally between the 11 clubs from UEFA’s Solidarity Fund but their bank balances won’t be boosted by nearly as much if Celtic fail to eliminate the Swedes.
Indeed, being parachuted into the Europa League will see them collect less than a quarter of the sum that they can expect if Celtic progress to the primary tournament.
“Last year, when Celtic didn’t qualify for the Champions League and dropped into the Europa League instead, the Premiership clubs each received a five-figure sum from the fund,” said Burrows.
“The forecast for this season, if that was to happen again, is that we would get £35,000. However, if Celtic can get past Malmo then the payments to each of us will be £150,000, which is a massive difference.
“Consequently, no-one will be supporting Celtic more on Wednesday than the 11 other chief executives.
“For clubs like ourselves, St Johnstone and Hamilton Accies, £150,000 is a huge amount of money – it’s like a transfer fee.”
But, for many of the Premiership outfits, it will be like Christmas coming early if Celtic are playing Zadok The Priest at Parkhead this season.
“It’s all upside because you can’t budget for this cheque arriving,” said Burrows. “No chief executive or managing director could risk including that in their annual projections because you have no control over it.
“We’ll all have our fingers crossed for Celtic to do well in both legs but it honestly isn’t just about the money.
“If they can get back into the group stage then it’s good for Scottish football in general because it raises our profile and improves our co-efficient.”
Celtic, meanwhile, will move further ahead of the domestic opposition financially if they can compete in the Champions League proper for the sixth time in 10 seasons.
Beating Malmo will earn them £1.48m and then they will be guaranteed another £8.57m just for taking part in the group phase.
They will then be able to collect £1.07m for each victory win and £356,781 for every draw in the group – and that’s before broadcast money, ticket sales and corporate hospitality are added to the pot.