This rare moment of truth from King – an admission, in effect, that the money wasn’t going to be coming out of his pockets or those of his “investor” friends – has been the subject of much discussion on the forums and the blogs already.
My last piece for this site was on that very subject, in which I explored the whole interview, but the specific part of it where he laid it out for the Sevco supporters needs to be examined in some detail.
Forget for a second that he is equating Sevco with Rangers.
We know they are different entities entirely.
Let’s take it on face value, as he intends it.
His claim is that the Rangers/Sevco fans “built the club” by outspending the Celtic supporters throughout their history.
Now, we can’t trace the club’s financial ins and outs for every single year of the century he’s talking about, but it’s plainly garbage, like nearly everything King says.
What we do have are some pretty detailed financial figures for the decade 2001 – 2010, from the audited reports.
Those are pretty telling, offering up a devastating story which doesn’t just blow holes in the nonsense King is talking, but reveals the scale of the task he’s now putting onto the shoulders of the long suffering Sevco fans.
Let’s start with this; Celtic’s turnover was greater than theirs for eight of the ten years.
Split those ten years into two five year periods, and the average has Celtic’s turnover well ahead in both.
Obviously the overall ten year average also has Celtic on top.
These aren’t small advantages either.
The 2001-2005 average has Celtic an astonishing £8 million better off, per annum, over the course.
The 2006-2010 average is even grimmer, because that has Celtic an almost mind-bending £15 million (and change) better off, on average, every single year …
The ten year average for the period has Celtic with a £63 million turnover, and Rangers lagging far behind on a turnover of £51.6 million … a differential of more than £11 million.
Drill down a little deeper.
Let’s take the numbers year by year.
In 2001, on a turnover of £42,000,000 we finished £5 million behind Rangers, one of only two years during that decade where we did.
It is, by far, our lowest year in turnover during that ten year period.
Our average for the timeframe is £20 million higher.
Season 2000-2001, the season these numbers refer to, had Rangers in the Champions League, where they reached the Groups, finishing third, and dropping into the UEFA Cup, where Kaiserslautern knocked them out.
They played 6 games at home in European competition that season, including the three Champions League group game matches.
In contrast, we played three, all in the UEFA Cup qualifiers.
Their turnover of £47 million was on the low side compared to what we would later have.
Indeed, our turnover exceeded it by £9 million the following year and we never came close to dropping below the £50 million level during the next decade.
In contrast, Rangers managed it four times, actually dropping below £40 million during one particular season which I’ll get to shortly.
The following season, 2001-2002, we participated in the Group Stages of the Champions League, and we saw our turnover rocket accordingly.
It hit £56 million that year, whilst Rangers’ fell back to £44 million.
Our fans outspent theirs by £12 million.
The following season, our turnover hit the £60 million mark, as what looked like a catastrophic setback in Europe – being knocked out of the Champions League by Basle – resulted in our march to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville.
Celtic had increased their turnover by 50% in just two years.
Rangers’ remained stagnant. That year their turnover was £49 million.
The following year, both clubs managed to reach the Champions League Groups and when we finished third in ours we dropped into the UEFA Cup, where we got to the quarter finals.
Our turnover rose by another £9 million, putting us on the cusp of the £70 million mark.
Rangers turnover went up to £57 million, which was an increase of £8 million.
Yet in spite of this, they still finished far behind us in overall terms.
The following year, our turnover dropped back instead of surging forward; we made £62 million, in spite of again reaching the Groups.
Our fourth place finish was abysmal, but it was better than Rangers managed; they failed to reach the Groups in the Champions League, dropped into the revamped UEFA Cup and finished fourth in a five man group run on a bizarre system of each team playing every other side once instead of twice.
They lost £2 million from the previous year.
We lost a dreadful £7 million in turnover terms.
That money being lost didn’t put them in front of us.
We still topped their turnover by £7 million.
The following year, their turnover leapt by £6 million, whilst ours fell again, with us hitting a four year low of £57 million.
They got above £61 million, finishing above us, with a total turnover advantage of £4 million.
And how did they do this?
Well, that was the year of the Nightmare in Bratislava where we crashed out of Europe in Gordon Strachan’s first attempt, whilst they were in the Champions League Groups and qualified for the second stages, where Villarreal finally put them out.
We played one European tie at home. They played five.
That was the key difference that year, the only reason they finished in front of us.
The £4 million advantage works out at about £1 million per European game.
European football was the only reason their income rose by £6 million on the previous year.
The following season, oh what a difference.
Their income dropped like a rock; £20 million was lost to them as our income leapt by £18 million.
This was for two main reasons.
Alex McLeish, who had been manager the previous season, had been wobbling for some time and managed only third place in the league. The “loyal Rangers fans” were moody and introspective.
Celtic fans, on the other hand, were buoyant at what Strachan appeared to be building.
That was one Hell of a year for us.
It was the year of Nakamura’s free kicks against Manchester United, the year we lit up Parkhead with big performances against big teams.
We were painfully, crushingly, close against Milan in the Champions League knockout rounds too.
Rangers had reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup too, being dispatched by Osasuna.
This begs the question as to just what happened that transformed the clubs so spectacularly in one year, that Celtic finished with a financial advantage over Rangers of a staggering £34 million.
LeGuen had started to fold the hand in November and was replaced in January; his term at the club cannot explain away, and nor can the disparity between Champions League football and not, the enormity of that financial gulf.
The following season, Rangers income rose by £20 million on the back of the Champions League Groups, where they finished third, dropped into the UEFA Cup and had their own, shame filled, march to the Final.
Celtic also reached the Groups in the Champions League, going through to the knockout stages along with Milan, before Barcelona sent us home.
We still finished £8 million in front of them on the financial front.
In the financial figures posted in 2009, Rangers had their worst year for over a decade.
They were knocked of Europe by Kaunas, whereas Celtic played in the Champions League groups again.
They finished the season with a turnover of £39 million whereas ours was £72 million … another astronomical gap which revealed the difference between the two clubs was not just to be found in Champions League income.
The following year, having meekly surrendered our SPL title in 2009, we had to play in the Champions League Qualifiers whilst they went straight to the groups. We navigated one round, got Arsenal in the next one and dropped into the revamped Europa League.
Despite having to watch as Rangers won the double, played in the biggest tournament of them all and enduring a dismal season in the Europa League groups, where we finished third in our section, Celtic fans still outspent Rangers supporters by £5 million, on a turnover of £61 million against their £56 million.
That takes care of the ten year period in question.
What about the modern numbers?
In 2013, Celtic posted astounding annual turnover figures of £75.8 million.
Sevco’s income was a mere £19 million.
Last year we dropped some, with a turnover of £64.7 million.
The drop is significant, because as awful as those figures appear to be, that number is still more (narrowly, by about £200,000) than the high water mark of Rangers’ earnings in the ten year period before the club was liquidated in 2011 – their UEFA Cup Final and Champions League groups season.
Paul Brennan of CQN thinks that our turnover in the next set of accounts will be our lowest since 2001, some £55 million.
That will represent a calamitous fall in our finances that is going to be difficult to turn around in the short term.
It is the consequence of a major drop in the price of season tickets, a fall in overall attendances and no Champions League football.
A winning team on the park, a return to the Groups, some signs of life from the boardroom and those problems can be resolved.
But you know something you won’t read in The Record when the numbers come out?
Even with a drop that big, that £55 million will still be more than Rangers earned in five of their ten final years of existence … the pinnacle of their historic earning power, and they are never going to get close to that again.
Sevco’s last published accounts show income at £25 million.
So even now, preparing for our worst set of annual figures for a while, and second worst in the last 15 years, they would need to roughly double their income even to break even with us.
Our figures for last season are exceptional in that they’ll fall below the £60 million mark for only the fourth time in 15 years.
If they managed to reach the £60 million mark it would only be for the second time in that same timeframe.
Don’t let anyone kid you about their club being bigger than we are.
Don’t let anyone feed you guff about them outspending our fans either.
In 15 years the Ibrox operation has only managed to exceed our income twice, and one of those years was in the exceptional circumstances where they played in the Champions League groups and got to a UEFA Cup Final.
They also reached two domestic cup finals.
Yet in that year our earnings were greater than theirs.
In the period between 2001-2010 Celtic’s total turnover was £630,000,000.
Rangers’ turnover for the same period was £516,450,000.
King says he wants the Sevco fans to outspend Celtic supporters “again.”
He claims that they’ve done so for most of the last century.
I think he’s certifiable because a look at those numbers shows how poorly the argument stacks up.
To catch Celtic, King’s club is going to need to spend serious money.
The turnover differential when the next accounts are posted will be somewhere in the region of £30,000,000 and that’s on an exceptionally bad year for us.
They won’t get that close this season or next.
Can the supporters really be expected to plug that kind of gap, far less exceed it?
What will they expect in return for that kind of effort, even if it were someone conceivable for the club to double the price of season tickets, renegotiate the Sports Direct deal to more favourable conditions and get the fans to buy more merchandise than they ever have before?
The interview was a joke.
If this is all King has got he’s got nothing.
The Sevco fans are being led up the garden path here and no mistake.
The numbers do not lie.
We can’t say the same about the man in the big chair at Sevco.
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