Date: 19th August 2015
THE importance of Champions League football to Celtic and even Scottish football cannot be underestimated, Calum McClurkin looks at how fans and clubs alike need European football. Progress in Europe’s elite club competition is essential for the club’s finances, stature, ability to attract players and gives the supporters an extra special feeling when the famous Champions League anthem rings out.
Once it plays, it gives you a sense of fulfilment. An early taste of what it is like to be amongst the best. Beat Swedish champions Malmo over the two legs of their play-off clash and Celtic fans can hear that jingle at least six more times. Recurring trips to the likes of Inverness and Dingwall could be sandwiched between journeys to Barcelona or Munich. The wide array of places fans can visit provides its own thrill. Ranging from 800-mile round trips to Kazakhstan or Armenia (remember, Aberdeen and St Johnstone fans) or a relatively short journey down south if you draw one of the English giants.
The Champions League also hands out the opportunity to make history. As Celtic will be fully aware of special European nights such as the 2-1 when Tony Watt’s strike downed the mighty Barcelona. A full Celtic Park under the lights and a classic, possibly unrivalled, European atmosphere. Celtic crave Champions League football. It is understandable why. The domestic scene can be a boring one. Probability of Celtic winning the league is high and they strive to be tested by the best, so they can become the best and make qualifying for this tournament less taxing than it should be.
Progression for Celtic will be good for Scottish football. It enhances our stock to have a representative in the Champions League group stage. It improves the co-efficient which would help other Scottish teams have one less tie to play, one more place to fill and possibly easier opposition.
Celtic will gain enormously from returning to the group stage. It can be worth up to £30 million including TV money. This would allow Celtic, in theory, to improve their team. By qualifying they can attract better players to the club and would have the money available to land more of their targets. They can offer better contacts to their most key players. Possibly, hand improved terms to the likes of Nir Bitton and Virgil van Dijk.
The club’s stature hardly needs promotion but qualifying with regularity would make others take notice and show that Celtic are here to stay at Europe’s top table. That is the long-term goal for the Scottish champions — to establish themselves as a Champions League club. In the short term, it is as simple as beating Malmo over the two legs. Nothing else matters.
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