Celtic chairman Brian Quinn today insisted that the club’s current financial situation has made the need to join the English Premiership even more urgent.
The board have told manager Martin O’Neill that funds to buy new players are ‘‘limited,’’ despite leading them to the treble in his first season in charge.
O’Neill, whose side are currently 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League and one game away from the CIS Insurance Cup semi-final, had been hoping to build on the platform he had already laid on the European stage this term.
But the news is certain to frustrate the Celtic boss who has been the subject of speculation linking him with the Manchester United manager’s job.
Until now O’Neill has always maintained that he was happy with life at Parkhead, but was in support of the club’s ambitions to play in the Premiership.
The Premiership clubs voted unanimously against that, but the Celtic chairman vowed that would not discourage them from moving to England.
‘‘The media have given extensive coverage to possible changes in the structure of football that could lead to Celtic playing regularly outside Scotland,’’ stressed Quinn.
‘‘This subject was also discussed at several board meetings. The board is taking an active interest in this possibility.
‘‘We do not see the recent announcement by the FA Premier League clubs as the last word and, indeed, never expected any change.
‘‘That is not how things happen. Nor do we see interest on our part as a criticism of other Scottish clubs.
‘‘We believe a development that takes account of the interests of Scottish football is urgent and necessary, given the financial situation.
‘‘The board sees it as crucial Celtic plays more competitive football, and will pursue that possibility in the period ahead when the opportunity arises. We would not be doing our job otherwise.’’
O’Neill has a good chance of retaining the treble this season, but yesterday predicted that news of limited funds for new players would come from the plc.
And today the former Leicester City manager’s fears were realised ahead of the next financial results which are published in February.
Quinn told the Celtic View: ‘‘We have recently indicated that the amounts available to strengthen the football division further this season are likely to be limited.
‘‘Nevertheless, the board will listen and consider any request that Martin might make and give it consideration.’’
Quinn revealed that player costs increased by 36% last year.
O’Neill has brought in John Hartson, Steve Guppy, Momo Sylla and Bobo Balde this season for a combined fee of just £8.3m.
But Quinn also points the finger at player’s wages, bonuses and contract extensions.
O’Neill will sit down with a number of players after Christmas - including Paul Lambert, Stilian Petrov and Bobby Petta - to discuss new contracts, but the Parkhead chairman declared that player costs cannot continue to rise.
Quinn added: ‘‘A glance at any football club’s accounts will show the real call on finances comes from player remuneration wages and bonuses; transfers usually form a smaller part, partly reflecting the effects of the Bosman ruling.
‘‘The balance between buying and paying players, including contract extensions and enhancements is one of the decisions taken by the football manager and not by the board, which has always backed his judgement.
‘‘We have to remember that the upward pressure on costs of Scottish football clubs have been remorseless, as has been well publicised recently.
‘‘Basic player remuneration at Celtic increased by 36% last year. This growth in costs clearly cannot go on if we are to remain financially sound.’’
Celtic, who did well in Europe this season, announced a profit of £870,000 at the club’s AGM in September and an increase in turnover of 9% to £42.1million for the year.
But the club’s debt almost doubled to £21.89m while the loss of ordinary activities after taxation stood at £8.12m.