The last SRU deal by Dominic McKay could give interesting glimpse into Celtic future

By Euan Davidson

April 7, 2021

Incoming Celtic CEO Dominic McKay is undoubtedly an ideas man.

He joined an ailing SRU, and helped revive the fortunes of Scotland’s second sport. The commercial deals he made, including renaming Murrayfield, helped to provide stability in Scottish Rugby Union. Academies have been invested in, as have club competitions. The reach of the sport, in Scotland, has possibly never been greater.

It’s still not as good as football, and will never be, but still.

A big part of that was a deal negotiated with BT. Murrayfield has been ‘BT Murrayfield’ since 2014, and fans don’t seem to mind [Scotsman]. It is, after all, not exactly like renaming St James’ Park the Sports Direct Arena [BBC]. Whether Dominic McKay proposes something like that for Celtic Park is another matter altogether.

His last act has been bolstering that link with BT, and it’s given real dividends to rugby fans. According to the Scotsman:

“As well as branding the stadium and shirts, [BT] has also worked with the Scotland national team on a series of technical innovations including the use of Artificial Intelligence to support non-contact training and technology aimed at bringing fans closer to the team.

“Its technical hardware has also been used by the team’s performance analysts and helped the players and coaches stay connected with family and friends during the lockdown period.”

BT Murrayfield, as we’re required to call it / (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

What does this mean for Celtic supporters?

In other sports, we’ve seen innovative ways to get supporters more involved. The NBA, for example, has broadcast games using VR technology [Sports Pro]. This is the kind of thing that might take off here, and could’ve been an excellent utility during the pandemic.

After all, the TV isn’t quite the same as actually being at matches. There’s a halfway house option there.

More to the point though, this deal between SRU and BT shows the increase of analytics and technology in training. Beyond the contact-free elements, which are somewhat redundant by now, this deal indicates that Dominic McKay is forward-thinking in his methods, to say the least.

It’s potentially good news for Gavin Strachan and his iPad. Or, on a more serious note, it could herald a shift in focus, in terms of training, performance analysis and recruitment. Celtic, especially this season, seem to have been stuck in the past in many regards. Our players were being used beyond safe limits and getting themselves injured (think Mikey Johnston), or being played in far more minutes than they’re useful (think Scott Brown).

In terms of injury reduction, this can only be a good thing. When it comes to bringing players through the door, there are advantages too. Theoretically, McKay will be looking to utilise his partnerships with technology brands to have a more expansive scouting scope.

Dominic McKay: a success story at SRU

It’s also evidence that McKay can really sell a “brand”. The partnership between BT and the Scottish Rugby Union authorities will reach beyond a decade; that’s real financial stability. Celtic have brokered significant deals before, of course; think Adidas, Tennents, NTL, Dafabet etc.

While the commercialisation of football is so bad, in so many ways, it’s an inevitable part of the sport. Better deals means, theoretically, more money for players. That feeds into performances, and so on.

Peter Lawwell has undoubtedly presided over immense growth at the club since joining in 2004. Yet, as a “global brand”, Celtic still have enormous potential. That relies on results, primarily, and that’ll be the main focus, of course. But if the club can make more money from lucrative partnerships, that has a knock-on effect in terms of facilities for the Academy and the coffers for player signings.

So, we’re getting a CEO who is able to attract massive names, provide equitable financial outcomes and is forward-thinking.

That can’t be too bad, can it?

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