Celtic claimed £250k furlough cash in same month squad jetted off to Dubai

Celtic used the UK Government’s furlough scheme to claim at least £250,000 in the same month their players flew out to a five-star training camp in Dubai.

The Glasgow club received the taxpayers’ cash in January, according to data released by HM Revenue and Customs.

Statistics reveal the figure could be as high as £500,000 – the biggest payment made available to football clubs via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

It followed a claim of between £100,000 to £250,000 made by Celtic officials the previous month.

Old Firm rivals Rangers – who they meet today in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup – were given at least £100,000 to furlough staff in January, although the figure could have been as high as £250,000.

The Celtic squad training in Dubai

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The Ibrox club were handed between £50,000 and £100,000 in December. According to HMRC, Hamilton Accies and Dundee United claimed between £25,000 to £50,000 in January, while Hibs, Aberdeen, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Ross County and St Johnstone got between £10,000 and £25,000, and St Mirren and Livingston received up to £10,000.

The disclosures are among 800,000 people and companies using the safety net whose details have been published for the first time. HMRC has refused to reveal specific payments, claiming it would break “taxpayer confidentiality”.

The payments to Celtic FC Limited came at the same time they faced a backlash over flying to Dubai for a winter training camp while the rest of the country faced travel restrictions.

The club party stayed at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, where rooms cost about £200 a night. It has been estimated the week-long trip cost in the region of £250,000.

Outgoing Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell later branded the trip “a mistake” for which he “profoundly apologised” after an image of players and staff drinking at a pool emerged.

Paul Goodwin, of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, said: “It’s not a good look in the sense that clubs were making signings and taking part in training camps abroad while claiming public furlough cash. But the furlough scheme has been a Godsend for many clubs.

“It has kept some afloat and, as an industry, it has been essential for football across Scotland to keep going.”

Tax officials began publishing details about the CJRS in March to increase transparency. The HMRC figures do not give precise payment details and instead show where they fall within 14 different bands.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those who criticised Celtic when they travelled to the UAE.

Celtic claimed £250k furlough cash in same month squad jetted off to Dubai
Outgoing chief Peter Lawwell

She said: “Football and elite sport, more generally, enjoy a number of privileges that the rest of us don’t have.

“It’s really vital for public health reasons, but also that they think out of respect for the rest of the population living under heavy restrictions, that these privileges are not abused.”

Days after the club flew out, it was revealed Celtic had furloughed their under-18 youth team.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “Ordinarily HMRC cannot legally disclose any information about a taxpayer due to strict legal rules on taxpayer confidentiality.

“However, when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was extended in the autumn, the new version of the scheme contained a legal direction to publish data about employers making claims.

“This allows HMRC to publish this data for claims from December onwards.”

Celtic refused to comment. Rangers were approached for a comment.

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