Opinion: Furloughing Academy Players is Latest PR Nightmare for Celtic

It’s always good to get the daily PR nightmare out of the way just as the cornflakes start to digest, it means you can get on with your day safe in the knowledge Celtic’s daily shot through their foot is over for at least 24 hours, unless of course they intend to start upping their quota.

The news today via the well-connected Stephen McGowan at the Daily Mail that Celtic’s Under 18 side will be furloughed is another opportunity for the club’s decision making to be questioned.

I’ve been vocal on this subject in the past so it’s no surprise I don’t agree with any decision for a club the size of Celtic – one we’re told remains cash rich – to take advantage of a Government scheme designed to aid businesses to keep employees in a job whilst their daily business cannot be carried out.

Such schemes keep some businesses afloat. Others simply take advantage. In Celtic’s case I feel they fall into the latter category on this one.

I appreciate the Under 18’s cannot play football at the moment; I can even see that for safety purposes at this time that having young lads running around Lennoxtown training whilst unnecessary at the moment may well be a dangerous gig, but do we really need to be asking an already overstretched public purse to take the hit when it comes to meeting their weekly wage?

We’ve already had to involve the Track and Trace teams to deal with the fall out of Celtic’s trip to Dubai, something when in the eye of a storm and already overstretched, they could well have done without. To now ask the taxpayer to fund the salaries of our youngsters seems to be hard to defend.

Neil Lennon, Scott Brown and poolside after arriving Dubai ahead of the Winter training getting underway.

And I appreciate other businesses do this and Celtic aren’t breaking any rules but in the past few days we’ve not broken any rules heading to Dubai, but we certainly know the optics weren’t great on that one and they aren’t much better on this.

Celtic are of course tax payers and legally entitled to access such a scheme but the timing of the decision on the back of hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on 49 players and staff to head to Dubai on a chartered flight and Five Star accommodation for a winter training camp appears is at odds with a club now taking from the public purse to foot the bill of contracted footballers. It smacks of opportunism and recouping losses at the expense of much needed money for public services.

We can only assume funds are tighter than the position outlined at the AGM would have us believe, that there are concerns over season ticket money for next season and that merchandise sales may have been lower than expected over the festive season. It will then be interesting to see how much disposable income is available in the last couple of weeks of the transfer window.

The timing is also frustrating coming less than 24 hours after our Chief Executive was interviewed on Celtic TV, calling for us all to pull in the same direction, emphasising his belief that the Celtic board hold the club’s values dear and having previously stated to supporters’ organisations that there is no issue with communication at Celtic. This video has now been viewed 103,820 times.

Perhaps then this subject wasn’t something Gerry McCulloch was aware was happening when he was firing those hard-hitting questions at Peter Lawwell yesterday but the man he was interviewing certainly would have been.

Still the best time to bury bad news is in the midst of a crisis. In for a penny when you’ve been wasting the pounds is it Peter?

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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