Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has insisted the champions remain committed to strengthening their playing squad but “hyperinflation” in the transfer market makes it increasingly problematic.
The release of Celtic’s annual accounts have revealed the club achieved record revenue of £101.6 million in the 12 months to 30 June this year, largely as a consequence of a second consecutive season in the group stage of the Champions League.
That was an increase of 12.1 per cent on the previous year but Celtic’s operating expenses also rose, by 14.1 per cent, to £87.1m in the same period as salary costs increased.
Celtic made a pre-tax profit of £17.3m, compared to £6.9m in 2017, with a cash balance of £27m, net of debt, at the bank.
The accounts do not include the record sale of Moussa Dembele to Lyon for £19.7m on the final day of a summer transfer window which proved a source of frustration for Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and the club’s support in terms of the new signings brought to the club.
But Lawwell is adamant Celtic will continue to commit resources to the recruitment of players they consider are within a sound budget for the club.
“Our objective is always to bring players to the club who will improve the squad,” said Lawwell. “Given the quality of our existing squad that is a challenging task, made more difficult by hyperinflation in transfer fees and player salaries in the market.
“Nevertheless, our objective is to invest everything that we can into the football operation without putting the club at risk.
“The club recognises that success on the pitch leads to success off the pitch, which is why the board is committed to investing in our football operations. Our ambition remains to create a world class football club.
“Our success on the pitch this year has allowed us to commit, not only to fees for the transfer of player registrations (£16.6m, rising from £13.8m in 2017), but also to player, football management, coaching, recruitment, medical, performance, sports science and the youth academy costs.
“Total labour costs in 2018 increased by £7.1m, from £52.2m in 2017 to £59.3m (14%), largely due to increases in the football department. This has allowed the club to retain key football personnel including Kristoffer Ajer, Kieran Tierney, Calum McGregor, Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths on long term contracts.
“We continue to search the world for talented players to play the Celtic way, such as Odsonne Edouard who joined the club for a club record transfer fee. Player recruitment and development continues to be fundamental to the club.”
Celtic balanced the books in the transfer market for the period, with a net spend of just £100,000 on players. They received £16.5 million from sales, including those of Stuart Armstrong, Erik Sviatchenko, Gary Mackay-Steven, Liam Henderson and Saidy Janko. A total of £16.6 was paid out on player registrations, including those of Odsonne Edouard, Olivier Ntcham, Jack Hendry and Scott Bain.
Celtic chairman Ian Bankier welcomed the figures which he stressed will allow the club to compensate for their failure to reach the Champions League group stage this season. Bankier also states that Celtic are closely monitoring any possible future changes to the make-up of European club competitions which could significantly impact Scottish football.
“These results reflect a financial year in which everything went well,” said Bankier. “This allows the board to plan for the unexpected and manage the immediate disappointment of failing to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.
“In my last annual report I referred to our vulnerability to the growing financial power of a number of key constituencies within the European game. These circumstances are unchanged and we remain watchful of events that unfold.
“Through Peter Lawwell’s continued involvement in the board of the European Club Association, the Club Competitions Committee at Uefa and the Professional Football Strategy Council of Uefa, the club and the game in Scotland are well represented in this very important arena.”