Scottish football warned it is facing 'extinction'

Celtic's chief executive Peter Lawwell yesterday painted a doomsday scenario for Scottish football as he raised the possibility of the game becoming extinct north of the border.

He revealed his fears after the club's AGM at Celtic Park, where the outgoing chairman John Reid told shareholders he now questioned the sustainability of the game and claimed some "radical thinking" was needed.

Lawwell spoke about being unable to compete with the "ridiculous" transfer fees in England and further afield and highlighted the age-old issue of the lack of finance in Scotland, due mostly to poor television revenues.

"It's not Celtic and Rangers here, it's the nation," he said. "This social phenomenon of football in Scotland is under threat of extinction and it needs, as John [Reid] says, radical thinking.

"A lot of good work is going on at the SFA, a lot of good work is going on at the SPL, but is it enough? The challenges are obvious to everyone here. The product here in Scotland isn't the best. There's a chronic lack of investment in the game. The reason is that people don't see the worth of the payback."

Lawwell added: "Manchester United have 300m supporters around the world, while 1.4bn watch the English Premier League. The EPL gets £1.4bn a year through TV. The new SPL deal, including international rights, will be worth £15m, 1 per cent of the EPL deal.

"What follows from that is profile, exposure, sponsorship values – that's what we're up against. So what we need to do is to provide an environment that will provide fresh investment, bring hope and aspiration back into the game.

Asked if the type of growth needed was possible in the SPL, Lawwell replied: "It's very, very difficult to see unless there is a route out in terms of [going] to a bigger environment, to an extended European environment. The European Club Association was a forum to discuss these matters. They have been raised but the frank answer is that they were getting nowhere fast.

"What you find is the polarisation of European football. At some point there will be a breaking point."