Celtic on target for training base after £15m raised from share issue

CELTIC confirmed last night that the club has raised £15 million from its recent share issue.

The Parkhead club announced in October that it would seek to raise fresh capital to help pay for a purpose-built training facility - including a youth academy - and to strengthen the club's financial position. It has also emerged that part of the funds raised will pay for a major restructuring of the club's scouting operations.

Dermot Desmond, the club's main shareholder, agreed to underwrite the offer to the tune of up to 10 million, and the Celtic board of directors will be delighted to have hit their target figure.

A total of 50 million new ordinary shares at a price of 30p each were made available to existing shareholders and new investors, and these have all been taken up. Celtic have not revealed how much Desmond ended up investing, but it is understood that his input was in line with his original agreement.

Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive, described the share issue as a "tremendous success" and thanked investors and fans for their "overwhelming support". He added: "The response from investors has been outstanding and I'm delighted to say that the share issue was substantially oversubscribed. This is a measure of the faith investors and fans have shown in our strategy for the future of the club.

"Indeed, the demand for shares has outstripped supply and it's inevitable that some applicants, who are not existing shareholders, will not receive the full amount they applied for. But I'm delighted that all 1,000 applicants who requested shares of below 5,000 will receive their allocations in full.

"Dermot Desmond's decision to support the offers is an indication of his strong ongoing support for the club, and he is very pleased that the share issue was so warmly received."

Inevitably, Desmond's support will not be seen as sufficient by his critics within the Celtic support, who have reacted angrily to the way the club's major shareholder has criticised the rank-and-file in recent months. The third richest man in British football suggested this month that Celtic fans should jump in the "biggest river they can find" if they cannot accept his self-imposed limits of investment.

The success of the share issue is a major step towards the foundation of the club's new training facility, and this process took a further step in the right direction yesterday when Celtic received outline planning permission to develop the club's preferred site at the former Lennox Castle Hospital, after East Dunbartonshire Council planning board approved the application.

The planning application includes provision for a training academy, six full-size football pitches and a five-a-side area, goalkeeping and warm-up areas, and accommodation. If this vision turns into reality, it will at last give Celtic a base to compare with Rangers' state-of-the-art Murray Park complex at Auchenhowie.

Outline planning permission is followed by consideration of the full planning application for phase one of the development. This will require further information on access for the site, a tree survey, and drainage information.