How Celtic rose to the top of Scottish football – and stayed there

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Celtic are gunning for their eighth consecutive SPL title this season. It doesn’t seem like yesterday that Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops sealed the 2018-19 championship with an emphatic 5-0 home win over arch-rivals Rangers. Despite Steven Gerrard’s high-profile appointment as Rangers manager, Celtic look in good shape to retain their SPL title this term.

Celtic began their latest period of dominance in Scottish football following the dramatic fall-off of Rangers, who were placed in receivership in 2012 and subsequently forced to reform in the Scottish Third Division.

Since Rangers’ demotion, Celtic’s only real challengers have been Aberdeen, who’ve hardly been able to muster much of a fight. The result has been complete dominance from the Hoops – which shows no real signs of stopping.

Celtic have not only flourished on the pitch – their financial management has been pretty top-notch too.

How Celtic benefitted from Rangers’ fall from grace

In 2012, Rangers’ overspending finally caught up with them and they were put into liquidation. Many pundits at the time commented on the severity of the reformed club’s demotion to the Scottish Third Division instead of – as the SFL recommended – a demotion to the First Division.

Their loss was Celtic’s gain. The demotion of the Gers obviously played into Celtic’s hands, and even with a relatively poor squad they were able to romp to victory the following season. They claimed the title by a margin of almost 20 points.

This set the stage for Celtic to reap the benefits of UEFA Champions League money and TV rights. Although the TV money paid for SPL games dipped, the vast majority of that was retained by Celtic as they remained the only draw for TV viewers.

Further to that, their domestic dominance laid way for years of largely unchallenged qualification to the Champions League. This bolstered the TV revenue further.

Continued dominance despite Rangers’ SPL return in 2016

On the 6th April 2016, Rangers beat Dumbarton 1-0 to seal their return to the SPL, and hopes in Scotland were high that a real auld-firm rivalry was about to be rekindled. However, the Rangers squad was vastly inferior to the Celtic one.

For example, Matty Crooks and Josh Windass were both part of Rangers team when they returned to the SPL. Both players were regarded as surplus to requirements when playing for Huddersfield Town in England’s League One. Celtic, on the other hand, had players such as Virgil Van Dijk and Fraser Forster – who would go on to move to Premier League clubs Liverpool and Southampton respectively.

That was particularly galling for Rangers fans, who had seen greats of the game such as Paul Gascoigne play in the famous blue colours.

Unsurprisingly, Celtic retained their competitive edge and continued to dominate the SPL – although it’s too early to say how much Rangers will buoyed by the arrival of Steven Gerrard as head coach.

Did you know? Steven Gerrard has no managerial experience and was once branded ‘too tactically naïve’ to follow instructions by his former manager Rafael Benitez.

How astute financial management helped Celtic on the pitch

If Rangers were Glasgow’s example of how not to manage finances effectively, Celtic were the exact opposite. The Hoops hierarchy pre-emptively recognised that Rangers’ demotion to the Third Division would have a negative impact on their turnover and sought to find other ways to maximise their revenues.

  1. Intelligent Player transfers

Former Chesterfield midfielder David Moss was appointed as sporting director of Celtic following his redundancy from Crystal Palace in 2010. Recognising that English clubs received £100 million in TV rights, compared to the paltry £2 million that Celtic received, he knew that the Hoops had to be creative in their player acquisition.

Moss presided over the purchases of Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster, Virgil Van Dijk and Moussa Dembele. All emerging stars that did their bit to help Celtic succeed, but were ultimately sold for a hefty profit.

Celtic’s plan of buying gifted players with potential bore fruit both sportingly and financially as the clubs on-field success was mirrored in the boardroom.

  1. Long-term partnerships

 Celtic chose their corporate partners carefully – making sure they aligned with the club brand and values. Instead of searching for betting companies in China with an endless budget, they opted for companies closer to home that had a strong brand association that would be beneficial to both parties. Below are two examples of sporting sponsors that Celtic have utilised in the past five years.

  • Magners: Celtic have an estimated nine million supporters worldwide, with a vast majority of them hailing from Ireland. The club’s links with the Emerald Isle have been well-known for years, and they remain the most supported club in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. That’s one of the reasons Celtic’s partnership with Magners – one of the biggest Cider producers in Europe, and by far the most well-known in Ireland. Both Magners and Celtic have benefited from the partnership, with the Irish cider company even releasing a limited edition Lisbon Lions cider pack.
  • Mr Green: As green plays a huge part of Celtic’s identity – both as a major colour of their strip, and their Irish connections – their partnership with online casino operator Mr Green seems like a perfect partnership. That, plus the fact they’re both leading the way in their respective industries. While Celtic stay on top of the SPL, Mr Green are blazing new trails in the field of online gambling. Mr Green provide their players with professional dealers in real-time, delivering an online casino experience superior to their competitors. The deal with Celtic will see Mr Green have a presence at Parkhead in the pitch-side LED screens and on the Celtic mobile and desktop sites.


Celtic adapted admirably to the new financial setting that faced them after the demise of auld-firm rivals Rangers. Their on-field success was obviously down in some part to the lack of competition they faced, but the Hoops managed to adapt to a period of financial famine to further their brand and secure the future prosperity of their club.

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