Roger Mitchell has delivered a stinging criticism of the ‘managed decline of Celtic’ highlighting an Italian phrase that the fish rots from the head downwards. Whether the head is Peter Lawwell or Dermot Desmond the outcome is just the same.
For four years Mitchell headed the SPL, an outsider to the football business after building a career in various entertainment industries in Italy.
When the SPL was launched in 1998 as a breakaway from the 100 plus years old Scottish Football League it was intended to match the EPL which has been formed to concentrate money in the bigger clubs and maximise commercial income primarily through broadcast deals.
That vision never quite worked out, Mitchell never lasted long in the job, returning to commerce and claiming to be a Celtic supporter.
From his Italian base the parochial ways of Scottish football seem lost as Celtic’s reputation takes a battering on the European stage. The domestic dominance is now under serious threat, coupled with continuing failure in Europe many sections of the Celtic support are looking around for reasons to the current state of play with most eyes on the boardroom.
Speaking with Graham Spiers, Mitchell didn’t hold back as he discussed the issues, problems and causes over Celtic’s current position.
Here was @RPMComo on my Press Box podcast a few weeks ago on the “managed decline” of Celtic.
— Graham Spiers (@GrahamSpiers) December 7, 2020
Looking back at the last decade Mitchell said:
Celtic were utterly dominant, Rangers were on their knees, Celtic with investment could have made Scottish football their playground to win with their third team if they had so wished. They decided not to do that.
They decided to beat Rangers with the least possible spend available, how can we do it not spending too much rather than the great theories of war. You go in quick and you go with overwhelming force and you destroy your enemy on that first battlefield, you don’t get into attrition and trench warfare.
Celtic chose not to do that, we’ve got a million examples, the most obvious one is John McGinn but there is a million of them. The investment in date, investment in proper coaching, investment in marketing and the brand that Celtic could be beyond what it is just now, which is a local regional brand to an audience that they already have and don’t have to work hard to get.
All of these things Celtic have not done. I, as you know. have been a big supporter of Peter Lawwell, I’ve always done in publicly when he got hassled about the Ronny Deila years. Peter has done very well, he took the great 2003 team that everybody saw was a great Martin O’Neill team but lost £6m that year and he created a great business out of Celtic.
What he did was continue to do that. When Rangers went burst he had a chance to utterly destroy them, they didn’t and now in Glasgow terms the wind has changed. They’ve got the upper hand and that’s where I have an issue with fans, with the Celtic fans.
You need to be able to retrend. When Celtic won the League Cup in a game that Rangers utterly dominated, those writings were on the wall to anybody that wanted to look, I’m talking about fans here, not just the board.
Did they want to look at it? No. They wanted to slag off Rangers about 10 trophies in a row, bragging rights then look what happened.
That is my issue, I know that I’m atypical of this, that is my issue. When you have won, the morning after you have to say how do I get better, how do I win again, how do I dominate again. You don’t win lucky, brag to the person that you’ve just beat and get lazy and I’m afraid that is where Celtic are.
G S: HOW CAN THEY REORIANTATE THEMSELVES, HOW CAN THEY REGROOVE, HOW CAN THEY CHART A NEW COURSE?
Like every organisation it comes from the leadership. There is this phrase in Italian that the fish rots from the head down, they need to change the board. I think that for many Celtic fans the most spine-chilling thing that they’ll have heard in the last two years is Dermot Desmond saying ‘the current team would have beaten Martin O’Neill’s 2003 team’ Now when you have the owner and leader of your club saying something patently absurd like that you start to think that they are not the right stewards of the club.
I have to say that it needs to change there, you have got the same board and remember that a board is meant to be full of independent directors who say ‘yes, but are we sure, I’m not agreeing with your direction’ but nobody is saying that on the Celtic board and there are some big names there.
All of them love to sit in the Royal Box or whatever it is with their blazer on and go along for the ride. There is no one asking the hard questions, taking the contrary view and it’s not just Celtic, not just football clubs, it is any business in the world. Once you get complacent it is over, only the paranoid survive
G S: TO COUNTER THAT SOMEONE FROM THE BOARD COULD SAY THAT IF THE TEAM WINS THE SCOTTISH CUP FINAL AT HAMPDEN, THEY WILL SAY THAT THEY HAVE PRESIDED OVER WINNING THE LAST NINE OR 11 DOMESTIC TROPHIES IN A ROW IN SCOTLAND, FOR AN INCOMPETENT BOARD WE APPEAR TO BE DOING NOT TOO BADLY.
Right, that’s an easy one to answer, that is like me beating my son in a sprint when he was six-years-old, 12 times in a row makes me Usain Bolt, it doesn’t. You know the answer is this, you put a list of the teams that have put Celtic out in Europe over the last 10 years and tell me whether they are getting stronger or weaker and weaker all the time? The problem in Scottish football is that it benchmarks locally and until that stops we will get nonsense like that all the time. It is undeniable that Celtic is in managed decline.
From the 2012/13 season when Celtic finished second in the Champions League group before losing out to Juventus in the last 16 over the last three years AEK Athens, Cluj, Copenhagen, Ferencvaros and Sparta Prague have ended their European hopes.