Investment group explain why they're playing long game with Celtic shares; address Super League

By Euan Davidson

May 14, 2021

Cast your mind back to April, Celtic supporters, when the Super League collapsed spectacularly.

For a full day, there, it looked as if football as we know it was going to change forever. That money had finally talked, and everyone could hear.

Celtic weren’t directly involved, but the consequences would’ve affected us. At the very least, it opened the door to discussions of a British League, as well as further conjecture about an Atlantic set-up. It was either extremely interesting, or beyond tedious, depending on your perspective.

However, all the noise did create one interesting scenario. Much has been written about Lindsell Train [Herald], one of the biggest investors in Celtic Football Club [Market Screener]. The global equity group owns a whopping 17m shares in Celtic, second to Dermot Desmond’s 34.7% majority shareholding.

While you’d expect that the next sentence might be “the capital venture fund encouraged the Bhoys to neglect Scottish football”, that very much wasn’t the case.

In a report for shareholders issued this week, Lindsell Train announced:

“The announcement of the breakaway European Super League (“ESL”) in April came as a surprise to us. In response, we requested and have now had meetings with all three clubs (including Celtic, even though it was not a member of the ESL).

“At these meetings we expressed our disappointment about the reputational damage Juventus and Manchester United have inflicted on themselves. We asked for clarity about their position regarding the ESL going forward.

“Most importantly, we urged them to return to respectful negotiations with all members of the football community to work toward mutually beneficial ends. We continue to monitor events closely as they unfold, while considering their implications for our investment case.”

Money in football: everyone loves it! / (Via Getty Creative)

Lindsell Train investment group outline interest in Celtic, in either sense of the word

It’s easy to see why a global equity fund would be interested in the Bhoys. For one thing, our continued success both historically and over recent years means the share price is relatively consistent, with occasional highs.

The Super League, though, would surely have seen massive profits for shareholders at the club. Fine, Celtic weren’t initially involved, but you could imagine there was interest from Dermot Desmond at the time. The increased exposure, international marketing opportunities and association with other huge brands would surely have added immensely to Celtic’s value. Even if it was an entirely morally bankrupt pursuit.

Lindsell Train, though, seem more interested in the nitty-gritty of everyday football. Their expectations for growth are based on reputation, and the ability to communicate with supporters through digital media.

That may have been a miscalculation on their part. Lindsell Train continued:

“Lindsell Train’s investment approach is based on making long-term investments in companies that own unique brands and franchises. As part of that strategy, we have for many years invested in three great publicly quoted football clubs – Celtic, Juventus and Manchester United, across our Global and UK accounts.

“Your fund owns Celtic and Manchester United, amounting to 1.6% of NAV combined. Our investment case is based on the expectation that over the long term the value of these iconic institutions should rise as football’s global following expands and digital media allows fans to engage more deeply with the clubs they support.”

What does any of this mean?

Look, if it was up to us, Celtic supporters would own the club. It would be an organisation that represented the diversity of our supporters, as opposed to being run by a billionaire.

So, none of this is to defend making money off Celtic for cynical ends. That said, the reality is that Celtic are a massive financial entity, and like any other, there’s opportunity there for the rich to get richer. I know, right? Capitalism.

But given the lack of communication between the board and supporters over the last season, it’s at least something to know that one of the club’s biggest investors is saying “steady on” in regards to leaving our league. It’s also interesting that a meeting happened at all about the Super League. It implies, to me at least, that the Celtic board had designs on joining the elite.

That, obviously, would’ve been an absolute disaster. Whatever you make of a Super League, it’s interesting that the Celtic board are willing to take meetings of this kind from a shareholding group.

As for digital media? Well…

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