By Michael Donnelly:
A year to forget for much of Scottish football? That is debatable, but so too is the decision of the SPL Champions Celtic to organise a glamour tie with the Primera Champions Real Madrid.
Not so much whether Celtic will be able to give Jose Mourinho’s charges a game or not, rather what impression this decision gives to Scottish football fans and those outside looking in alike.
In order to play the exhibition match in Philadelphia, Celtic will opt in favour of using a relatively new option available to SPL clubs in which they can forego a league fixture in favour of playing a friendly match. It is scheduled at the end of pre-season though, so unlike a February fixture which has been used in recent years, there is some footballing merit to flying a squad across to the United States to expand the franchise of the Scottish game.
Yet the issue remains as to whether Celtic were respectful in their plan to play this game. For the record, I would be writing the same of Rangers were their plight not so troublesome that they can’t even afford to think of pre-season at the moment.
Charlie Mulgrew will be heading back to the USA after starring for Scotland last week
The universal opinion appears to be that Scotland has suffered a particularly disappointing season both domestically and internationally. I reserve my praise and apologies for such a generalisation to the Motherwell, Hearts and Kilmarnock fans who will disagree with my assessment. Yet perhaps the best remedy for a season to forget would be for all the clubs in Scottish football to show solidarity in putting the league first and financial interests second? Even the giants of FC Barcelona have decided to stay local, or as local as is possible for such a marketing sensitive organisation, with friendlies to be staged in Europe.
On the other hand, with their greatest rivals on the ropes and as some would have you believe, staring into the abyss, are Celtic simply being shrewd in earning money from opportunities which will likely diminish somewhat if Rangers cease to exist? In a league which clubs are increasingly at the mercy of satellite television for the main source of income and revenue, should others be following the Champions’ example?
I would argue that Celtic are more than welcome to cash in on their global fan base with fantasy football style ties. Being brutally honest, unless the co-efficient improves any time soon it could be the only way any Scottish club can play the likes of Real Madrid.
It is irksome however that Celtic have taken the luxury seemingly out of pure self-interest. Surely a better example would have been to play some of the local sides in the lower-tiers or even headed down to England or across to the Republic to show that Scottish audiences and those of our neighbours still mattered. After all, how often do Philly natives come across to support our game? Few and far between I would imagine.
I hope that the Hoops have a better time than Scotland did when they decided to play in the ‘States, otherwise the decision to chase the ‘big bucks’ rather than the ‘bread and butter’ could do more harm than good to the already scarred reputation of Scottish football.