What is Celtic?
It is a question that I have found myself asking a lot over the years. I always default to the most romantic and mythical version. Of the back story that seems so unique, it has to be false. One that PR companies spend thousands on trying to achieve. The one that confirms we are more than a club. A place where fairytales happen. A club that represents a community and diaspora who in another country would be celebrated, not mocked and ridiculed and hated. I love the players. I love that we have a distinctive kit. I love that we have a rebel creative spirit.
Looking at the club through this prism, it’s very easy to carry on. It’s very easy to ignore that we are a business involved in footballnomics. I watched a beautiful moment last week as FC Sarajevo scored and their supporters danced up and down in the best stadium in Scotland in an away section with one of the worst views. I do wish that everything was that simple. That good feeling didn’t last long.
The following day Celtic released the ticket prices for this week’s game against Nõmme Kalju – £23 for season ticket holders and £26 for non-season ticket holders. The comments on Twitter regarding these prices, and the subsequent attendance, were not surprising. It’s an expensive time for families. Following this, there was a St Johnstone fan calling out the £30 ticket price for the opening game of the season. Celtic expect non-season ticket holders to pay £30 a ticket also.
Celtic Park is the best stadium in Scotland in one of the poorest areas in the country. No one in the surrounding areas can afford to go to games. That applies to those families also living in poverty or limited disposable income elsewhere in Scotland. I know of CSCs who do brilliant things to make sure those who can’t afford to buy direct from the club can still get to the occasional game. That’s the Celtic I love.
Motherwell is also charging £30 a ticket while reducing our allocation. But as long as we charge £30 then we can’t complain. We are masters of our own downfall in this, though the paying punter has no say in the original decision. I then think of last season when the club decided not to guarantee the 3800 fans who attended the Scottish Cup tie at Easter Road that they would be granted a ticket for the final. Then the way they appointed Neil Lennon. That it cost my father-in-law nearly £200 to buy three home kits for his grandchildren. That we are being used to sell hot tubs, pillows, scooters and board games. That we don’t seem to have planned anything for 18 months and that this season, as I write this, we appear to be willing to risk the unknown being good enough.
But, then I think about the reception Leigh Griffiths got last week and his goal this week. The promise of Mikey Johnston. That Lewis Morgan is benefiting from the new manager and Ryan Christie seems to be determined to make up for the lost time. That Odsonne Edouard is an absolute boss. The joy that we bring to thousands all around the world. The feeling that we are more than a sum of our parts and always will be. I remember that when we play we can be a shining light in a corrupt and rotten game, and I think of us on the field, scoring goals, making heroes, making memories, bringing families together and just being a joyous thing and I just about forget all the noise and rubbish that goes along with being a modern football club.
Kevin GrahamListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast