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Celtic 'better than ever' in posting £21.3m profit

Peter Lawwell said that Celtic are "in the best financial state we've ever been in" after the club posted half-yearly profits of £21.3m.

'We're seeing financial benefits from the planning and the strategy we've put in place in the last few years,' says Peter Lawwell
'We're seeing financial benefits from the planning and the strategy we've put in place in the last few years,' says Peter Lawwell

The figures, to the end of December 2013, reflect a rise in profit from £14.9m, with the headline figures boosted by the club's involvement in the Champions League and the sales of Gary Hooper, Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson last summer.

Celtic's revenue fell 11% from £50.1m to £44.8m, mainly due to 16 home games in the accounting period as compared to 19 in the previous year and the £100 cashback scheme to adult season ticket holders.

The fall in revenue was, though, offset by a reduction in operating expenses, which were down 7% from £37m to £34.3m.

The figures represent vindication for Celtic's recruitment strategy, since player sales - the "disposal of intangible assets" - was £16.5m, compared to £5.2m the previous year. This reflected the sales of three key players last summer, but investment in football personnel was £5m, up from £4.7m. The profit from trading before asset transaction and exceptional operating expenses was £10.5m, down from £13.1m.

"We're seeing financial benefits from the planning and the strategy we've put in place in the last few years," said Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive. "Primarily this year, [the results are due to] player trading and the Champions League. It sets us up, we have a real strong foundation to face the future, the challenges of Scottish football.

"It's allowed us to do a wee bit more, it's a multi-million pound project outside [Celtic Park]. We've given the fans back several million pounds in cashback and we've bought some players. It allows us to go into the summer transfer window from a very good standing to try to strengthen before the Champions League. [Neil Lennon] will have substantial funds to spend.

"It makes no sense to keep the money in the bank and we would rather invest in the business and that's investing in good footballers that create value for the club. Celtic can buy a £6m-8m player if the value is there. We would not buy a 29-year-old at £8m on a four-year contract at £40,000 a week because that is dead money. We're not buying players just for the sake of it."

While individual domestic attendances have dipped in recent seasons, with Celtic essentially guaranteed to win the championship, the club has maintained a healthy financial state.

There was £5.7m in the bank at the end of December, but the results also reflect the reliance on participation in the Champions League and a transfer strategy that is, naturally, capable of failures as well as success. The notes to the figures, for instance, include the pay-off to Mohammed Bangura.

However, Lawwell is adamant that the decision to remain prudent and to stick to the principles of ensuring that every transfer has the potential to provide value to the club, means that failure to qualify for the Champions League, at least in one season, would not be ruinous.

"Our number one priority every season is to get into the Champions League but there is a base there that wouldn't make it catastrophic if we didn't make it," the Celtic

chief executive said. "If you go two or three years outwith the Champions League it can be a problem, but we could cope with that."

Lawwell bridles at the notion that the building work being carried out around Celtic Park is being funded by the Commonwealth Games - "we're paying for it," he said -and that he has undue influence on the Scottish Professional Football League and the Scottish Football Association. "That's totally unhelpful," he said. "People have got to trust the people that are running the game to

do the right thing."

Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, made some pointed remarks after Celtic Park was chosen as the venue for the Scottish Communities League Cup final between Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle next month. The stadium had already been selected as the venue for this season's Scottish Cup final, with Hampden being developed for the Commonwealth Games. Lawwell, though, insisted the decision was right.

"It's the pre-eminent stadium in Scotland, it's the biggest and the best and of course we were going to get it but for no other reason," he said. "There is nothing else to it."

Lawwell also said that while it is a "high possibility" that the team will play its Champions League qualifying ties next summer at Murrayfield, as Celtic Park is used by the Commonwealth Games, it has not yet been confirmed.

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