One story that has gone largely under the radar this past week is that Celtic have been linked with setting up a franchise club in either the USA or India.
According to multiple sources, Celtic have already engaged in preliminary discussions with the North American Soccer League (NASL) about setting up a franchise in the United States. While the NASL is not Major League Soccer, it would still be a bold and exciting move if the club were to set up a team in the USA’s second-tier.
Moreover, there are other news sources that have stated that Scotland’s biggest club could also set up a franchise in the recently formed Indian Super League. The ambition for this league is to simply make football as popular as cricket in one of Asia’s biggest markets.
Celtic’s desire to expand is one built from necessity and almost parallels the aims of their prospective American and Indian partners. With Scotland’s many failed attempts at rejuvenating a league system that is becoming increasingly more turgid in standards year on year, it is no wonder that Celtic are being creative yet realistic in their will to seek out expansion.
Creative? Purely because nobody would have expected that Celtic’s typically tight board would even consider taking a financial punt on setting up sister clubs elsewhere. Realistic? Because the increasing demand for football in the US and the NASL’s willingness to supply it means that the possibility of the Bhoys setting up a club there is certainly plausible.
And by taking advantage of the increasing markets, Celtic, the parent club, would reap the benefit of being able to take their picks from a growing talent pool— especially in the US, which is slowly developing into one of the best footballing nations in the planet.
The Scottish Daily Record picked up on a tweet from Hibernian Striker Tam McManus, who used to play in America, which perfectly summarises how driven Celtic are in becoming a big name in the footballing world once again.
McManus said: “Celtic will steal a march on big English clubs who I always thought with the huge support in the USA would create feeder clubs/franchises.”
Only Manchester City from the Premier League have a “feeder club” in the USA with MLS franchise New York City FC on their books. They have already reaped some benefits from having feeder clubs in the US and elsewhere too by having the ability to send young talents out on loan and picking up experienced players on loan too (e.g. Frank Lampard.) Drawing from City’s experience, it is unsurprising that Celtic could take the incredibly bold move, one which many English Premier League clubs are either too cowardly or not forward thinking enough to engage in.
Of course there are potential drawbacks from setting up a franchise elsewhere. After all, it is possibly financially unviable when Celtic, a club whose revenue declines steeply when they are not in the Champions League, are struggling to make a profit on a yearly basis without selling their top players. (They recently made a pre-tax loss of £3.95m according to Sky Sports.)
Moreover, some Celtic fans would also argue that they would like to see more money invested in their own club rather than new teams in America and Asia. Furthermore, the serious American football fan hates their leagues being abused as a feeder system— this is why Chivas USA never survived, because fans detested the fact the Los Angeles-based club was a subsidiary to Mexican club C.D. Guadalajara, especially since the MLS has become bigger than Liga MX.
Regardless of the pros and cons, Celtic’s stance on the matter is merely just an idea for now. Yet it is an exciting one that they must consider if they wish to remain to be seen as a relatively big club.