Cider with Peter by Tommy Cockles
As the exclusive news from Etims started to filter through Twitter, The Diary and the various Celtic internet fora earlier in the week (all real news is now, of course, broken by internet bampots, with the MSM trailing in their wake) that Celtic were about to announce a new shirt sponsor I raised one of my world weary, cynical (and increasingly bushy … WTF is that about?) eyebrows. Were we going to see another one of these endless, cosy ‘Old Firm’ joint deals to carry us through to the point where NewCoHun would inevitably and depressingly, rejoin us in the top league; or would Celtic finally respond to the loud wishes of a support thoroughly sick of being tied to ‘them’?
Well, the announcement duly came – Peter Lawwell proudly declaring that Celtic would have a new sponsor; better still, a solo deal not tied to Rangers. So, from next season the latest corporate entity to despoil the famous hoops will be Magners, the Cider maker. Even better … the IRISH Cider maker. The Bonusmeister can never be accused of not knowing his audience.
Most importantly, there was no sign of Chucky Green at the press conference. This was finally it, a shirt sponsorship deal that doesn’t involve a tie-in with Tribute Act FC, currently to be found playing the pubs and clubs of Scottish Fitba’s Fourth Tier circuit.
So far, so good. But, haud on a minute, is this really everything it appears to be – or is this just more smoke and mirrors from Celtic’s own master showman?
As we waft the smoke aside and look past the strategically placed mirrors we start to see that this ‘new’ deal may not be quite all that it first seems. For a start, we don’t actually have a ‘new’ sponsor; what we have is a new brand on the top. Tennents and Magners are, of course, owned by the same Company – C&C Group plc, who will be the actual cash providers in our current and future deals.
Another feature of Lawwell’s announcement of the ‘new’ sponsorship was his statement that this was not only a ‘multi-million pound deal’ (the current arrangement is also a multi-million pound deal – £1.5m per annum) but was, in fact, an ‘increased multi-million pound deal’. Of course, commercial confidentiality (and no doubt, his natural modesty) prevented him from outlining just how much that ‘increase’ actually was. It could have doubled. Or it could be an extra fiver. The cynic in me suspects the latter, but – hey – that’s just a problem I have to deal with.
Anyway, “so what”, I hear you ask, surely anything that cuts the ties to that other mob has to be welcomed. Well, yes, I have no problem with that. I’m just not entirely convinced that this is what we are seeing here. There seemed to be some confirmation that, to confirm the break, Rangers would not have Tennents as their sponsor next season, and would be looking for their own, separate, deal. I wonder if that, separate, deal might possibly involve another brand from C&C Groups stable? Time will tell.
The general response from the Celtic support to our ‘new’ deal has been positive. The C&C Group number crunchers will undoubtedly see a surprise spike in Magners sales in the second week in January. I don’t drink it myself, but each to their own. Trawling through a Forum the other night I even saw some gleefully justifying that mess of a design for next season’s home top that’s been doing the rounds as making more sense having been designed with the Magners logo in mind. Since when did Celtic start designing the hoops to better display a sponsor’s logo? Madness!
If … and as I say, I’ve yet to be convinced … it does transpire that this is a genuine break from joint corporate sponsorship with the NewCoHun, and a real move away from lazy cohabitation within the ‘Old Firm’ relationship, I’ll be delighted. However, I’ll also mitigate my congratulations to Celtic Plc with the observation that the driver for this has been less the long demand from the Celtic support and more the consequence of Rangers having changed the rules of the game by inconveniently going bust. The suggestion also seems to be that the movement to change the status quo came from the sponsors rather than Celtic, who may have been a little less proactive in all this than Peter Lawwell might want us to believe.
So, perhaps not the really BIG change that we might have expected after all. But, life will carry on, the new Magners adorned home top will sell in bucket loads come the summer. Nike will be happy. C&C Group plc will be happy. Celtic plc will be happy. Peter Lawwell will pocket another bonus, and – probably – he’ll be happy. I’ll be a miserable git. Plus ce change … Pass me that cider infused hemlock.