In the first blog piece for his Celtic Fan Column, Sean Galbraith takes a look at Peter Lawwell and the impact he has had on Celtic Football Club.
Twelve months ago and for as long as anyone can remember before that, Scottish football had a familiar phrase: ‘Celtic need Rangers and Rangers need Celtic.’ Finding a single soul who disagreed with the mantra would have been as easy as fishing for trout off the Kingston Bridge. Should the unthinkable happen and the Glasgow institutions part ways, season tickets would lay unsold, sponsors would desert Scotland, television money would dry up and the league would spin into an uncontrollable downward spiral. It was no surprise then that the governing bodies attempted everything within their power to prevent this from happening. Who wouldn’t attempt to cheat certain death?
On Wednesday, Celtic’s chief executive Peter Lawwell called a press conference to announce Celtic’s first stand-alone sponsorship deal in over a decade. The three-year deal with Magners, a continuation of Celtic’s partnership with the C&C Group, represented an increase over former terms. The significance of this announcement came in its contrast to rumblings from the other end of Glasgow. While Charles Green was giving notice to UEFA, the SFA, the English FA and anyone else within distance of Rangers’ intention to leave Scotland for good, Lawwell reaffirmed his club’s commitment to “successfully leading Scottish football.”
No one would doubt the light blues’ return to the top flight is certain. Whether in two seasons or not, the eventuality that the two will meet again cannot be denied. Celtic must plan for a future which includes Rangers and they have done exactly that in supporting the 12-12-18 reconstruction proposals. If accepted, this would ensure the four token Rangers games per season are retained, as well as an additional match against a top-eight ‘Premier Division’ side competing for Europe in place of a tie against bottom SPL opposition. Celtic versus Rangers four years in the making could prove to be the most popular yet. Debating if fans miss the game or not is irrelevant – the fact is that after waiting this long you could sell out Celtic Park and Ibrox five times over. If the issue hadn’t been forced by the events in the summer, taking a break may even have been a worthwhile suggestion. Which is exactly what it is – not a divorce, but an extended break. In the long term, it’s beneficial to Celtic to have their old enemies breathing down their necks and drawing in crowds with the circus that follows.
But the unexpected three years of calm provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the world why it should be interested in Celtic alone.
The sponsorship deal has been the latest in a long line of financial successes for newly focused Celtic this season under the stewardship of Lawwell. A bumper payment in the tens of millions secured through Champions League participation and the revelation of £5 million plus rated players in the eyes of potential suitors acting as a prologue to the latest announcement. If any damage was done to Celtic through the slightly reduced TV deal and loss of gate revenue from Rangers ties, it has been more than repaired over the course of the season. Celtic’s now uncontested role as Scottish Premier League champions ensures a minimum of two more shots at the big time. Though the task will be made more difficult through an additional qualifying round gained from Scotland’s faltering UEFA coefficient, never has a Scottish team been given the breathing space Celtic now have to make themselves known on the world stage.
So, two and a half more years of building up Celtic’s individual brand followed by a massive boost given by the return of the Old Firm. If Peter Lawwell continues to play the game with the level of skill and tenacity shown so far, he may well be my pick for Celtic’s player of the season.