BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Former Celtic defender Paul Telfer is adamant the Hoops would draw a bumper crowd for a Premiership clash in the USA – despite supporters having no idea who Dundee are.
Telfer, 44, currently lives and coaches in Carmel, Indianapolis, and was part of the Celtic side which embarked on a tour of the U.S. under Gordon Strachan in 2006.
The backing they received during fixtures in Washington, New York and Boston has left Telfer in no doubt that a one-off fixture would draw a respectable following.
Boston and Philadelphia have been mooted as potential options for a meeting between Dundee and Celtic next season, however Telfer has warned that a healthy attendance should not be mistaken for a passion for SPFL football Stateside.
The ex-Scotland international told Capital City Press: “Celtic are a big draw and, depending on the location, you would get between 20,000 and 80,000 supporters.
“I went to Boston with Celtic and I know there is a fanbase there. We played in the New England Revolution Stadium and there was a great turnout.
“I didn’t realise how big Celtic were until I played for them. Particularly over here, when expats are away from home, they seem to have even more pride in their club. It was the same when we went to Australia, they really hang on to that heritage.
“Casual fans might turn up and say ‘who are Celtic playing? Dundee, who?’ That is no disrespect to Dundee, but no-one has heard of them over here.
“It would be like me asking an average guy in Dundee who the [Ohio State Basketball team] Buckeyes are.”
Indeed, while Telfer welcomes any innovation by Scottish clubs, he insists the SPFL faces a daunting task to make any impact in a soccer scene dominated by the English Premier League.
Telfer said bluntly: “Nobody has a clue about Scottish football. If you talk about football over here, people only know the English Premier League.
“But, if you don’t sell your brand, then there will never be any awareness and there’s no doubt there is a huge market to be tapped into here. This might be a start, but it will be a tough sell.”
Celtic are reportedly exploring the possibility of starting a franchise club in the U.S. in a bid to grow their brand, with the North American Soccer League seeking to expand from 11 teams to 20 by 2018.
Manchester City already have a sister club in MLS in the form of New York City and the Hoops could instigate a similar scheme.
And Telfer sees scope to take advantage of a passionate expat community.
He continued: “Celtic would have a big value on the East Coast.
“There is as strong link with the Irish community there and when Gordon [Strachan] took us over, there was a big interest throughout the New York, Boston and, a little more centrally, Chicago areas.
“Celtic are an iconic club, people know the club. If you are into football, then they know the Celtic brand, while there are a lot of European fans on the East Coast.”