The Sweeper: Scotland Loses Champions League Spot, Rangers and Celtic Face Financial Crises

Old Firm

Big Story
Rangers and Celtic’s financial futures look a little bleaker today. Scotland will only have one entrant in the UEFA Champions League for the 2011-12 season, after falling below Belgium in the rankings used to determine each country’s qualifiers. Moreover, their champions will not advance automatically to the group stage, and will instead have to navigate through three qualifying rounds.

The news is a massive blow for both Celtic and Rangers, with next year’s title race in Scotland likely to be even more fierce than usual. Both clubs released their financial reports for 2009 this week, and neither club is on a rosy path without Champions League football.

The timing of this new could hardly be worse for Rangers, who continue to seek a buyer, with majority shareholder Sir David Murray looking to offload his 90% share in the club. Rangers remain mired in significant debt and beholden to Lloyds Bank despite impressive profits of more than £13m announced for the second half of 2009. Most of that profit, though, was dependent on Rangers Champions League appearance.

Celtic’s financial report, meanwhile, neatly illustrated the price of not making it to the Champions League group stage:

The cost of participation in the Europa League, to which Celtic were consigned this season, becomes clear in comparison to spoils from the Champions League. Set against the results for the same period in 2008, turnover is down by almost a quarter to £36.11 million and the operating profit has fallen from £12.68 million to £4.7 million, with the pre-tax profit similarly reduced from £8.36 million to £1.27 million.

Celtic chairman John Reid put the difference from missing out on the Champions League at £7 million, with bank debt for the club increasing to £0.97 million to £3.13.

Even tougher times could be ahead for one of the Old Firm.

Quick Hits

  • Arsene Wenger calls for UEFA to adopt a more transparent process in how they select referees: “It has to be clarified first of all how they [Uefa] nominate referees for games. They have to be much more open on how they rate their referees. Nobody knows really how they name their referees. Where is the ranking of the referees? I believe too much has gone on in the last 30 years. What has happened is not good for football.” And for once, Alex Ferguson agrees with Wenger, expressing his own concern about referee selection for the Champions League.
  • FIFA have given Portsmouth special permission to sell-off their players outside the transfer window, with some questioning the integrity of the Premier League for the exceptional action. West Ham’s co-owner David Gold said: “I do have a problem with a club being able to buy those players and gain an advantage over a competitor. I wouldn’t want a competitor buying a player not usually available to them to help them stay up, and neither would my club’s rivals want West Ham doing that. A principle needs upholding.”
  • Meanwhile, FIFA have admitted ticket prices for the World Cup in South Africa were set too high.

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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