CELTIC’S announcement yesterday that some of the club’s non-playing staff would be placed on the government’s job retention scheme was met with a fair deal of outcry in some quarters. There were the usual outbursts from those who complain about overpaid footballers; damning players for not personally stepping in and seizing responsibility for the financial crisis that has engulfed the SPFL.

It is an easy to argument to make, and perhaps a seductive one, that men who are made millionaires by kicking a ball around should be the first to have their salaries slashed. It is also one that does not stand up when placed under scrutiny. There are countless industries where people are paid huge amounts of money to perform tasks that are not vital to public life, yet those are never questioned. But footballers, for some reason, are the go-to example of privilege and excess.

This line of thinking conveniently ignores the fact that players pay huge amounts in tax into society and forgets that football is a private industry. If the players – the very people who are actually doing the work, such as it is – did not receive the mega-riches on offer from the world’s most popular pastime, the money would simply be diverted elsewhere. Like it or not, the sport is a billion-pound industry because of its popularity and ubiquity and if there is a vast amount of wealth inextricably tied to it, then surely the people who are actually providing the entertainment are more entitled to the massive wages on offer than the others who help to manage the spectacle?

But I digress. The primary issue that has led to a sense of injustice around Celtic’s decision is ideological and moral in nature. After all, this is a business that regularly posts seven or eight-figure annual profits. The latest set of financial results that the club posted showed a bank balance just shy of £40 million – and those results did not include the £25m banked after Kieran Tierney was sold to Arsenal last summer.

Celtic have slowly accrued these resources through careful and shrewd financial management over the last two decades and in a country where football clubs have favoured short-sighted approaches to the business side of the game all too often, this is to be applauded. But if this money has been kept aside for exceptional circumstances, what better time to utilise it than now? If it is a rainy-day fund, so to speak, why is it not being used when it’s metaphorically chucking it down?

The Premiership champions are one of a handful of teams in Scotland that are in a relatively healthy position to deal with this crisis. Celtic have the means and resources to get through to the other side of this relatively unscathed. There would undoubtedly be a financial cost to do so, but it is one that the club can afford. So why, then, are the club turning to the government’s furlough scheme?

When the chancellor announced the government’s program to help ease the financial burden placed on businesses by the Covid-19 outbreak, few would have immediately thought of it as a way to protect the income of football clubs who regularly post millions of pounds of profit on an annual basis. It is understandable if some consider the move from the likes of Celtic to be galling at best and opportunistic at worse.

On the surface, it is not a great look. Having non-playing staff, who represent a fraction of the club’s overall wage budget, being subsidised by the taxpayer while players and executives receive their full wages as planned will not sit well with some. For a club like Celtic, which preaches values of charity and community, to make use of funds from the public purse during a time of unprecedented crisis to pay a small amount of their outgoings is not the best policy from a public relations viewpoint.

However, it is an absolute no-brainer from a business perspective. Any decision not to utilise the job retention scheme would be purely ideological, and companies that operate in such a manner are few and far between. The Celtic board, like any other business, exists to make profit for its shareholders and simply cannot justify a loss based on a vague sense of injustice. If the scheme is available to football clubs, then there is no question that the rest of Scottish football will take the government up on their offer. It is the pragmatic thing to do.

The people that are being placed on furlough will be those that no longer have work to do, like employees of the club shop. So long as the nationwide lockdown continues, the shop will be closed. Cases such as these are precisely the reason why the government’s job prevention scheme was introduced. What business would pay an employee to do nothing for an indeterminate period of time when they aren’t making any money?

The fact that players and executives remain on their already healthy salaries while other staff are placed on furlough is certainly not a good look. But it is worth pointing put that these people are still working. The vast majority of a footballer’s career is spent at the training ground or in the gym; they are paid just as much for this as they are for the 90 minutes on a Saturday when they play an opponent. Despite the lockdown, footballers remain tied to strict diet and training regimens and while there is certainly an argument to be made that this is not of the same standard or level of intensity as it would usually be, it would be unfair to suggest that they are no longer working. Behind the scenes, there is no question that people who work on the financial side of the club will be working every bit as hard as they would normally be.

There are degrees of mitigation behind Celtic’s decision – and logic, too – but even so, that sense of unease remains. At a time when we are all urged to take stock of what really matters and support each other during a time of crisis, to see government funds being spent on something that they needn’t be still rankles. There is no getting around the fact that the club have taken a course of action which they weren’t really required to and in the current climate, it simply does not look good.