While the main league in England does not begin for two weeks the Scottish Premiership starts this weekend and there’s no prizes for guessing the champions. Celtic are as low as 1/100 with some bookmakers to win the title in Scotland and in the absence of Rangers even that price may underestimate their chances.
While only the massive bettors and money buyers would stake a thousand pounds to win a tenner it would still represent one of the biggest shocks in sport if Celtic do not win their 45th title this season. Neil Lennon is still the manager so stability off the field goes hand in hand with a squad that could be enhanced due to the injection of cash from playing in the Champions League.
The capacity at Celtic Park is over 60,000 and the next biggest stadium in the Premiership is the Pittodrie Stadium of Aberdeen that can accommodate just over 22,000 spectators. Even Ibrox Park, the home of Rangers, can only hold 48,000 at full capacity which shows that Celtic have a monetary advantage even from match day income. Celtic FC is a global brand so the club also has a significant edge in terms of merchandising.
The Celtic business plan probably does not include qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League. However, that was achieved last season so the green side of Glasgow now have even greater financial clout compared to their main rivals. Rangers will be playing in Scottish League One this season so still need two more promotions before playing at the top level again.
The main league in Scotland has been won by Celtic or Rangers for the last 28 years. It is testimony to Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial ability that he led Aberdeen to the title in 1984 and 1985. In preventing one of the big Glasgow clubs from winning the championship in Scotland Ferguson proved he has the ability to motivate a team to play well above expectations.
Aberdeen won the Scottish Cup four times between 1982 and 1986 and beat Real Madrid in the final of the Cup Winners Cup in 1983. They are unlikely to have another similarly successful spell while Celtic and again in the future Rangers have the most spending power and support around the world that will generate the level of income that other teams in Scotland will never match.
If Aberdeen cannot win the title they could well be the side that finishes closest to Celtic next May. They have improved the side that could finish only 8th last season, especially in midfield, and after four years outside the top 6 can at least qualify for the Europa League. Their cause is helped by the fact that Hearts begin the season with a 15 point handicap due to going into administration.
Rangers’ demise may be a source of great delight for Celtic fans. However, the fact is that while they are not playing in the Premiership the league becomes even less competitive. This season only one club can win the title which is half as many as usual with Rangers in opposition. Motherwell are second favourites in the betting at a lowest price of 33/1.
Rangers were demoted to the fourth tier in June of last year. Despite lucrative revenues from merchandising, television rights and paying customers the club became insolvent in February 2012. They reached a company voluntary arrangement and formed a new company that as a football club was allowed to enter the Scottish League Third Division. It will be another two years at least before they regain their status in the top tier so in the meantime Celtic should add another two titles or more to their tally of 44 championships.
Back next Friday.