Celtic FC – From poverty to riches, at what cost?

Celtic Football Club has been issued a challenge, one like no other that has ever been put to this extraordinary establishment, one which must be considered with balanced minds, and honest hearts.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated his intention to ‘change perceptions of his country internally,’ stating that the young population in the Gulf State are ‘aware of their status outside the Kingdom and want to move away from the past.’

The past reveals that human rights strategies the Saudi rulers currently employ are nothing short of unbelievable, and not in the positive sense. Beheadings, lashings, torture, stoning, amputations, often publicly administered with whole families encouraged to ‘enjoy’ these spectacles in the middle of the square, in the middle of the day. Sharia.

What’s this got to do with football? A cursory glance at recent transfers throughout the world should give you a glimpse of what’s occurring, and what’s to come.

Our very own Jota has just signed a contract which will tie him to Al-Ittihad for the next three years. The youngster is unlikely to concern himself with the greed-driven rising rental crisis, the energy scam or the elaborate ruse back in Blighty which convinces some that there is indeed a global food shortage driven by nature’s forces.

Instead, the Portuguese will be lavished with the finest of everything, from gold-plated food to gold-plated toilets as his super-wealthy hosts do his every bidding, so long as he puts the ball in the Arabian netty. He will never want for anything (material) again.

Neither will Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, N’Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino or Edouard Mendy, with Gianluigi Buffon and Jordan Henderson likely to camel their way to training during the coming season.

These big guns were, until recently, plying their magical trades in Spain, Italy and England, the obvious names being high-ranking superstars, albeit in the swansong of their careers.

Now, they are treading gold-plated sand in a last big pay-day heist which threatens the world game in every conceivable aspect. The Saudis are coming for our footballing elite, and with oil riches at hand, the end game is inevitable.

Jota during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic and Real Madrid at Celtic Park, Photo Richard Callis Sports

Jota is amongst the youngest ‘snatch of the day’ players to flit continents. There will be others. Reo Hatate has been ‘tapped up’ but the Japanese wizard is seemingly content to take on the best Europe has to offer and showcase his talents in the European Champions League whilst at Celtic before another inevitability occurs, the EPL or La Liga perhaps.

That’s good news for Celtic, for now, but as sure as Kyogo scores goals, the exodus will continue, both at home and around Europe with the sustainable wealth vaults being plundered to ensure the gold-plated destination of our superstars.

Study Barcelona’s financial implosion, Manchester City’s, 115 financial irregularity charges, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United’s off the scale debt, etc. All prime examples of how the elite of Europe are now being challenged after years of unimpeded decadence. Nothing is for nothing.

With the immoral and unethical transfer of cash swapping at the dinner tables of the rich and famous over the last few decades, something had to give, and even an Ibrox accountant, face painter been paid or otherwise, would struggle to achieve sustainability in such a fractious market. The winds of change are blowing.

TOPSHOT – FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrives for the official FIFA World Cup 2026 brand #WeAre26 campaign launch in Los Angeles, California on May 17, 2023. With the launch of the #WeAre26 campaign, FIFA will unveil the official logo and brand identity of the 2026 World Cup and the 16 Host Cities, in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The official competition branding will be accompanied by 16 special logos each relating to the host cities across the three countries.  (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Gianni Infantino, the Swiss president of FIFA was seen sucking on the teats of Arab leaders before, during and after the last World Cup in…Qatar.

The rogue decision to ‘offer’ the greatest tournament on the planet to this footballing nobody was speculated by those ‘in the know’ as a precursor to further involvement at the highest echelons of our game into the Gulf region, one which is not football minded, but is cash rich.

Today, Celtic has been advised, (I’d take that as being ‘warned’), that should we abstain from the Royal banquet, aligning with a Saudi club to swap players, etc, we will be left in the dungeon regions of world football whilst the main diners feast on gold-plated banquet halls.

Brother Walfrid will be turning in his grave at such a prospect, but this is 2023; the world has changed dramatically, and so has Celtic. Yes, we are still essentially a charitable entity, taking food banks to the people because the government refuses to look after its own when in crisis.

Yes, our hearts are essentially with the poor and the disenfranchised and we strive to make the underdog equal in our struggling societies.

That’s who we are, and this will never change, but the financial sustainability of our club has changed, and will continue to do so in a climate where the rich are getting richer…you get it.

If Celtic do not move with the times we will, absolutely be left behind. But, we must do it the Celtic way!

The owners of the major clubs in Britain are either Arab or American. They have the means to dictate the future of the game, and they cannot be challenged. They are doing so already, and we Celtic supporters must accept reality. However!

If the Saudi oligarchs have admitted that they have a problem with our take on them, they need to be accountable. They need to offer some kind of middle-ground concession. They cannot offer us a human rights carrot and simply heighten the bar when we go to take a bite.

We must insist on a massive change of policy before engaging in a sporting and fiscal sense. If not, then I’d accept dungeon football every day of the week rather than sell my soul for gold-plated blood money.

 (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

I don’t believe we should ignore the possibility of striving for the truly big league in terms of finance, but not at any cost. Personally, I’d be happier if Brother Walfrid was resting peacefully in his casket, safe in the knowledge that his beloved Celtic was in good hands.

Times, they are a changing, Football is changing. Celtic is changing. But the supporters? We will never change our hearts, nor our ethical belief that people come before riches, no matter how gold-plated the offer.

We are, and must stay, A Club Like No Other.

Eddie Murray

About Author

Eddie Murray – I Grew up with the Lions, coming from a Celtic-daft family. Played against Jinky once! Paradise was my second home and Dalglish was my hero. A long term Brisbane Bhoy for many years and have been blogging here for many years. Written a book on Ange/ Brisbane Roar/ Celtic which awaits publication. Writing on other genres as I speak. Top moments? Interviewing Cesar, Wispy, Cairney, The Maestro, Alan Thompson.


  1. David Potter on

    A very thoughtful and incisive article, Eddie! To be Celtic, we must win trophies, remain solvent (at least), and do the right thing as regards the poor and the underprivileged, and I am not interested in Celtic doing anything other than these three aims.
    The Jota case is depressing, but time to let it go. Far too often in recent days, I have been told that I would have done the same thing in his circumstances. To which I reply “Not so!”
    Morality must remain important. Or, put it another way. Today saw the celebration of the NHS’s first 75 years; there was also a bizarre, meaningless, incomprehensible ritual in Edinburgh.Which one of these two has been the more valuable for society?

    • Indeed David. Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good!” mantra appears to be making a comeback these days. If we lose our way, we lose our soul. Society is being conned into believing otherwise. Thankfully, Celtic fans are a different breed. Thank God for Brother Walfrid! HH

  2. Timely and well put Eddie.
    Excellent posts also.
    Would we walk away ? Form new clubs like Wimbledon, Manchester Utd and others ?
    I thought some Man Utd fans might have but they won’t now.
    I thought Newcastle fans certainly would have but they have embraced it.
    Is it different from Gillette and Hicks, Abramovitch, Boelhy, even Jack Walker.
    US human rights, UK human rights ?
    The Foundation does vowed stuff as do the Green Brigade but even allowing for the strong core of supporters with the history, ethnicity and morality that we have, an invite to a Superleague in any form would not be declined.
    Not in my name.

  3. Ray Johnstone on

    And thank God for guys like you two who continue to remind us what Celtic are all about. We are the “fairytale club” and we have proved time and again that nothing is beyond us. Empire Exhibition trophy, Coronation Cup, European Cup. Money did not buy us these cups, our ethos of what Celtic are about achieved these things. Long may the spirit of Brother Walfrid remain at Paradise