Well, the older and more cynical I have gotten – the less and less I believed the football bubble would eventually burst. Rampant capitalism surely would catch up on the game as a whole at some point, I used to reason, but as years passed and transfer fees and wages (in particular) went from huge to gargantuan to downright disgusting and the TV companies and oil-despots kept signing the checks to keep the whole operation afloat.
Nothing short of an act of God, apparently, could churn the global money machine to a halt. It was the business that simply couldn’t fail – even in spite of itself – until it did. As clubs and associations try to get to grips with the new now one thing is for sure, things will be changed in a lot of ways for a long time after this and football is going to look very different once we come out the other side of this.
First things first is the tricky issue of how to wind down the current season if, as seems increasingly likely, resuming games remains in the domain of the cock-eyed optimist. Massive credit must go to Scottish football for continuing the entertainment seamlessly since the actual football ceased with an increasingly farcical process aimed at reaching an agreement with the clubs about ending the season.
Though the actual table had Celtic 13 points clear at the cessation we may need to consider the ‘club statement’ league which would probably see rangers in an uncatchable position. Of course we’d have been mental not to expect this, this is a perfect chance to place themselves alongside soon-to-be-relegated Hearts and scream and cry about the unfairness of it all.
At least Hearts have a genuine grievance. Maybe they might have stayed up and being relegated is going to make this already tough financial situation even more difficult for them. However, as true as that is Hearts having the reported 4th highest budget in the league and having won 4 games all season can hardly claim they don’t ‘deserve’ to go down?
They are the definition of ‘deserves to go down’ for handing so much power to Craig Levein alone. Rangers would have us believe they are outraged and being placed in second when it was entirely reasonable to believe they might well have achieved…second. Them placing themselves alongside the ‘relegated by the stroke of a pen’ clubs smacks of cheap opportunism to appease their increasingly febrile fan base. In truth they will be one of the least affected clubs, in terms of league placing, finances may be another story entirely.
So it seems that Celtic have achieved the 9 in the strangest way in a very strange time in the world. At least we have our recent successes to savour and our future successes to consider – a lot of clubs are not in such a position.
First and foremost the aim has to be to make sure the actual clubs themselves make it through this. All of the clubs. Ok, maybe apart from one. Pettiness aside it’s no good Celtic coming through this relatively unscathed if there is no Scottish football left for us to play in. Nobody knows for sure how long this stasis will last the longer it goes on then the likelier it is that clubs will go to the wall.
Scottish football doesn’t have the luxury of the English TV money to soften some of the blow, a lot of clubs rely on their match day revenue so behind closed doors isn’t going to work for them. In uncertain times a plan needs to be found that allows clubs to continue to exist so they can try to start again – whenever the go-ahead is given for live football.
Personally, I hope they wait until we can actually attend the games again. I can see the argument of providing entertainment and perhaps a little joy in a dark time, but ask yourself this; is watching a game played in a stark, empty stadium going to hearten your spirits or will it remind you that – ACTUALLY – this isn’t the thing you remembered and loved but a weird dystopian interpretation of it and it won’t make you forget you’re living in a global pandemic it’ll just act as another stark reminder that these are not normal times.
Southampton v Watford in a neutral venue isn’t going to change that and it isn’t going to save anyone.
With players in England, Italy and Germany all testing positive recently even as those leagues madly try to rush back to action we should maybe ask ourselves if such a rush back is really worth the risk. I’d give anything to see Celtic again, but I’d like to do it in person, the walk up to the ground, the smells, sounds and sights of match day – then we’ll know we’re back. Then hopefully we’ll all feel a little better, when we’re together again. There’s a big party to celebrate the 9 to be had.
Eoin Coyne was born and raised in Dublin and studied print journalism back when that was a thing. Aside from blethering on about Celtic he can often be found at Richmond Park bemoaning another poor St. Pat’s performance. Once saw Tony Cascarino score a goal for Celtic. Temporary stand survivor.
Terrible twitter is @toomanybigwords