Celtic can’t keep taking care of Scottish football’s future

CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 03: The Champions League trophy is seen prior to the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid at National Stadium of Wales on June 3, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 03: The Champions League trophy is seen prior to the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid at National Stadium of Wales on June 3, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Here’s the harsh reality of football — money rules the day.

While we can wax nostalgic over a by-gone era where footballing skill, and not so much your coffers, mattered, the reality is money matters a great deal in the modern football world. Celtic know that all-too-well after its near death experience in the 1990’s.

Today? You wouldn’t have a clue that this club nearly went belly-up just over 20 years ago. Celtic can thank a savior in the boardroom, but it can also thank European exploits since its saving for its position today.

Champions League money plus smart management has made Celtic a domestic juggernaut.

The other harsh reality of today is that Scottish footballing standards are not very good. One can easily see that by what has happened with the four clubs that got a chance at European football this season.

Celtic are the only ones to survive this deep, with Europa League participants Aberdeen, St. Johnstone and Sevco already out. Those three crashing out so early mean they cleared less than £1 million combined.

That kind of money does nothing to help erase the large financial gap at the top of Scottish football.

So, how does the domestic game get better? Apparently it is going to do so on the backs of Celtic, thanks to a reported £4 million payout coming to the other 11 teams in the Scottish Premiership once the Hoops’ Champions League group stage advancement is secured (and up 5-0 after the home leg that is all but a certainty).

That means each club will receive a £350,000 kick-back from UEFA just for Celtic reaching the group stage. But, here is where this money is going to be good for the Scottish game, and thus for Celtic’s future European exploits — all of it is ear-marked for youth development.

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If the domestic game is going to up its level of play, it needs to start with home grown talent getting better and being better prepared for the rigors of professional football. So, investing nearly a half-million pounds per team seems like a good way to get that going.

Of course, it is up to the teams to also invest that money in wise coaching, training and facilities to attract the best talent as well. So, as Celtic goes, so does the rest of Scottish footballing development these days.

But, there’s also the flip side of the coin, as we are also reminded that Celtic are going to be the richest club in Scotland by a long mile once again this season.

Celtic are set to rake in a cool £26 million without selling a ticket, any merchandise or win/draw any of the matches in the group stage. If success comes their way, that could mean a total worth £35 million when it is all said and done.

That total is more than enough to make Celtic profitable on the season and help raise player wages. In today’s world of insane player contracts, it makes Celtic an attractive place to play. Well, the money and the chance at European glory too.

No one that supports the Bhoys should be sad to see the coffers filling up to say the least. But, another two or three seasons in a row of this and where exactly is the challenge coming from domestically?

There is barely a challenge already, and an even more massive financial gap could create a situation in which the Hoops really have outgrown Scottish football.

Celtic would, in theory, be able to bank nearly £120 million in prize money if it makes a run to four-straight Champions League group stages. The whole of Scottish football won’t even rake in the one-time payment Celtic make in a few weeks time.

So, how do the rest of Scottish football figure this thing out? At least a few in the domestic game believe they have the answer — changing up the domestic footballing calendar. Yes, a summer season folks.

Motherwell youth coach Stephen Craigan had the following to say:

"“The sooner we do something different to give our clubs a better chance, the better. Money isn’t the answer as Rangers spent a lot and didn’t succeed. Is the problem that clubs haven’t started the domestic season? Quite clearly it is.“We’ve tried everything else. New leagues, promotion-relegation play-offs. Something has to change but it will be a brave person who makes that call and a brave decision by clubs to go with it.”"

As the saying goes, rising tides lift all boats, but in this case the only way the other boats rise is if they too are competitive. Losing to tiny Lithuanian and Luxembourgian sides is a crisis, and even the free-spending that Sevco did, did little to help them advance beyond one round of Europa qualification competition.

Perhaps if those signings were done in the middle of the season and not before, Scottish football would have a bit of an advantage on the continent.

For now, Celtic are the only boat capable of dealing with European challenges, but it sure would be nice if Celtic weren’t the only one being competitive in the not-too-distant future either.

Well…minus Sevco…because we all know no one in the Celtic family will cheer them on EVER.