Celtic should cash in on stadium naming rights

Posted by Andy Muirhead

Ian MacNicol/Getty ImagesSelling Celtic Park's naming rights is in the club's best interests, and not that big a deal considering one sponsor is already prominently on display

In recent months we have heard reports of Rangers potentially selling the naming rights to Ibrox to Newcastle United/Sportsdirect owner Mike Ashley, in a reported 1.5 million-pounds-a-year deal. In my opinion, it is time that Celtic cashed in on this new evolution within the modern game.

I have to point out first and foremost that I am surprised by the level of the deal between Rangers and Sportsdirect over the Ibrox naming rights. 1.5 million a year is a derisory figure even with the club languishing in the bowels of the Scottish senior game.

Just like Newcastle, Rangers have found elements within their support that are against the renaming of Ibrox, with one particular supporters group protesting before a game while CEO Charles Green addressed fans. Likewise, Celtic will face elements within the support that would be against the renaming of Celtic Park, but they are stuck in the past and must accept that stadium naming rights is the new cash cow in the modern game.

The financial benefit of selling the naming rights would be significant; the club could secure a one lump sum or payments over a number of years for no cost whatsoever.

The history and tradition of the club would not be sold down the river by stadium naming rights being sold. Celtic’s history and tradition cannot be bought, unlike other clubs who sell theirs to the highest or in some cases the lowest bidder.

The history and tradition at the ground, at the club, will forever live in the hearts and minds of the clubs supporters – past, present and future. No one man – again despite one individuals claiming – owns the rights to such an illustrious history. The fans are Celtic and Celtic is the fans.

I wrote back in 2011, that given the lack of cash in the Scottish game, clubs should grab the cash cow and milk it for all its worth. Since then a number of Scottish clubs – mainly in the lower echelons - have sold the rights and I believe the time is now right for Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell to put out tenders to potential bidders for the naming rights of Celtic Park.

How much could Celtic secure?

Looking at recent stadium naming right deals across the continent, Celtic could secure significant funds, even more so given their major selling points from this season alone – top of the Scottish Premier League, Champions League participation and qualification for the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition.

Celtic have already broken the sponsorship ties that bound them with rivals Rangers, with a multi-million pound deal with Irish drinks giants Magners – much to the delight of Celtic supporters who longed for the day that the association with Rangers ended.

There is no denying that Lawwell has been one of the best acquisitions by the club in years - away from the field – and that was self-evident when Arsenal tried to tempt him away from Glasgow in 2008 with a £1 million-a-year wage to take up the same role at the Emirates. Lawwell rejected their approaches and that has paid dividends for Celtic as he continues to bring in millions for Celtic as they follow their business plan each year under constant examination from fans and media alike.

Are Celtic a bigger club than French Ligue 1 side OGC Nice? Of course they are. Nice signed a nine-year deal with German company Allianz for the club’s naming rights to Grand Stade - a deal that will see the French side receive 1.8 million pounds per year. Rugby Union side Saracens also entered into a sponsorship deal for both kit and stadium naming right with Allianz in an £8 million deal.

Manchester City, in the world’s richest league, signed a 10-year deal with Etihad Airways for the stadium naming rights of their stadium which bagged the English side a deal worth £400 million.

I am certainly not claiming that Celtic can secure 400 million pounds for stadium naming rights, but how about 10 percent of that? Isn’t that more favourable? A ten-year deal for £4 million per year?

Just look at Celtic’s Nike kit deal renewed in July 2010 (£29 million for five years, equating to £5,800,000 per year). A sponsorship that will have lasted ten years by the time it is set for renewal again in 2015.

Celtic should be able to secure much more than what Saracens and Nice received from Allianz, given that it is a worldwide brand and currently playing in the top club competition in the world - not to mention beating Barcelona on the way to qualifying for the last 16.

What could Celtic use the money for?

There are two options – reducing the debt to zero or funding transfers. Either way, Celtic would not be hit in the pocket by splashing the cash they receive from the stadium naming rights.

This money would bolster Celtic's coffers which could mean significant investment in the playing squad and help to aid them for further campaigns in Europe with quality players.

The fans will forever label it Paradise

Whether the club sells the stadium naming rights or not, the stadium will forever be referred to as Celtic Park, Paradise or Parkhead by the Celtic supporters. Only the media and official bodies would have to refer to it by its new sponsored name – not a huge issue.

Now wouldn't the short-term loss of the stadium name be far outweighed by the financial gain that the club would receive which can help the club go on to bigger and better things?

What are your thoughts?

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