Tom Rogic might not know it, but he may well be the reason why Celtic could enter the A-League. Fairfax Media understands the Glasgow giants are interested in following the lead of Manchester City and buying an ownership stake in an A-League club with Central Coast Mariners emerging as one of their preferred purchases.
The Scottish champions are eager to explore business and investment opportunities in n football and a relationship with the Mariners that began almost five years ago with their purchase of Rogic could lead to a potential bid for the club. The two clubs began forging an unofficial partnership on January 9, 2013, when the attacking midfielder went on trial with Celtic. Having seen their initial investment of $750,000 on Rogic soar, the club is eager to gain a permanent foothold within the n football market.
Officials from Celtic were in a fortnight ago and spent time on the Central Coast, visiting the Mariners’ new Centre of Excellence training centre and attending the club’s 2-0 win over Sydney FC on November 10. They did not discuss a potential takeover during their last visit but sources suggest Celtic have signalled their interest to other parties about buying into the A-League once a new operating model for the competition is finalised.
“I’m not surprised about their interest based on a new A-League operating model because I think it’s got a lot of potential,” Mariners’ British-based chairman Mike Charlesworth said. “Frankly, I haven’t personally spoken to anyone at Celtic, that’s been handled by [chief executive] Shaun [Mielekamp] and [chief financial officer] Kathy [Duncan].”
Celtic have a genuine interest to tap into the player development in to spread their network and the presence of their brand, but the Mariners are not the only club they are looking at. It’s understood Celtic are also circling the Brisbane Roar whose future under the Indonesian-Bakrie Group is tenuous due to ongoing financial difficulties and payment issues.
Celtic are one of a number of big clubs from mid-tier European competitions looking to invest in and Asia.
The club has all but drained existing streams available to them. Celtic have won the past six Scottish Premiership titles, they qualified for the lucrative UEFA Champions League four times during the past six seasons yet only reached the play-offs once. Their share of broadcast rights isn’t likely to increase significantly so long as they remain part of the Scottish Premiership, merchandise revenue is close to its peak and save for the odd player transfer, Celtic have little room for growth. Even then, their last major sale was more than two years ago with the 2015 transfer of Virgil Van Dijk to Southampton for about $25 million. Celtic are not the only football company in this predicament with Dutch club Ajax and Austrian company Red Bull also understood to be exploring opportunities in for similar reasons.
In recent months Celtic have shown considerable interest in growing their brand, presence and business interests in , having expressed an interest in buying Brisbane Roar as well as the Mariners. However, it’s understood they will not make an official bid until December 1 at the absolute earliest, once the FFA’s Congress crisis is resolved and there are assurances over the governance of n football. Overseas investors are also awaiting the implementation of a new operating model that will give clubs more independence and potentially an ownership stake in the competition. A-League club owners are looking to follow the MLS in providing clubs with more influence to drive up the value of their assets.