Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Rangers Will Be The Winners Of The New Decade As They Are Best Positioned To Take Advantage

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

Rangers Football Club. A football club that’s seen more than it’s fair share of turmoil over the last decade. Rangers financial meltdown saw them castigated by the rest of Scottish football in 2012. Banished to the wilderness of semi-professional football in the backwater of the Scottish game.

Rangers fans called it The Journey. The lust for blood among the other clubs and fans in Scotland was as mystifying as it was eye-opening. It was something you really had to witness for yourself to truly understand and no matter what I write here, I simply couldn’t do the hatred for Rangers in Scotland justice in one article.

Hatred is a strong word. Hate isn’t a thing I comprehend. An emotion that I don’t have therefore to witness it the way I did (we all did) in 2012 was as disconcerting as it was surreal. Rangers started their revival in the bottom tier of the Scottish League. They worked their way through the divisions until they reached the Championship. By that time there was serious infighting among the Rangers support.

Horrible stuff where the fanbase split with factions demanding the removal of the board of directors at that time. The financial implications of being in the lower leagues where money is scarce, to say the least, along with fans concerns about where the football club was going led to what can only be described as turmoil or chaos.

The ownership and control of Rangers were being seriously questioned. On an almost daily basis, there was a crisis of some sort or another. They weren’t particularly happy times to be a Rangers fan, it must be said. Rangers stayed in the Championship for another season. Failing to win the league as a rampant Hearts side ran away with the title as Rangers ultimately failed to get promotion via the playoff route.

There was a cup final loss while in the Championship too. A dreadful loss when conceding a couple of late goals to Hibernian was a hard one to take. The rest of Scottish football utterly delighted in Rangers’ misery. The disdain held toward them was to be expected and unsurprising but in all respects about as tedious as a plain cheese sandwich.

Mark Warburton took over as the manager and guided us to the Premiership. Won fairly easily with a decent enough team that was more than capable for the rest of the teams in that league. We had our players attacked in that cup final. Exuberant Hibs fans invading the pitch to celebrate by assaulting Rangers players was yet another low point for the game in Scotland.

mark Warburton of Rangers looks on
GLASGOW , SCOTLAND – SEPTEMBER 10: Mark Warburton Manager of Rangers during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers on September 10, 2016 in Glasgow. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

We also had Motherwell fans invading their pitch when they won the SPFL Premiership play-off against Rangers. Trying to goad Rangers travelling support into a fight while mounted policemen had to restore order. Rangers were fair game. You could do what you wanted, say what you liked and write articles and blogs putting the boot into Rangers, with no fear of any reprisals as the dignified silence the club’s fans had endured for years continued.

A slumbering giant of a football club, trying, slowly to get back to where it once was with a divided group of supporters and no leadership at the helm of the club. There was also the shadow of Sports Direct and Mike Ashley hindering Rangers financially. A merchandise deal that offered little to nothing in terms of bringing money into the club.

There was other situations that held Rangers back also. The lack of leadership or direction at Rangers had started years before when David Murray effectively gave up any responsibility he had concerning the club. Ultimately the untieing of a number of deals and contracts signed by the previous owners had to be dealt with when Rangers found themselves with new owners.

The two highest-profile of those new owners were Dave King and Douglas Park. Now, it’s important to understand right now how wealthy these men actually are along with other investors, such as John Bennet and George Taylor to name but 2 of the 7 or 8 investors that Rangers already have.

The current incumbents took over in 2015. Things haven’t been a bed of roses and nothing has come easy at the biggest football club in Scotland in that time. From top to bottom the infrastructure at Rangers needed overhauling. The stadium was looking exhausted and major repair work and upgrades were required.

The training complex on the outskirts of Glasgow was dilapidated and in total disrepair. There was no scouting system of note either.  It had been totally neglected for years. That needed to be built from scratch.

Ibrox Stadium
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 06: The League flag is unfurled before the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Hamilton Academical at Ibrox Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

The 1st team squad was at best nothing more than a half-decent Scottish Premiership team. The youth development side of the club needed investment and to be honest the mismanagement of the previous 10 years was now a responsibility placed on the new owners’ shoulders in 2015. That is a huge responsibility and a helluva burden to carry. Rangers have been built on success, the most successful club in Scotland to this day and that is while not having won a single major honour in almost a decade.

At the same time as the new owners of Rangers had to deal with that our rivals across the city had a free run at the Champions League and the financial pot of gold that brings. They weren’t particularly successful at all and usually found themselves in the Europa League instead. Whether it was the Champions League or Europa League, those competitions bring money into a football club that isn’t available within the Scottish game, so as Rangers were in the depths of deciphering their finances, the team from the east end of Glasgow were stable at the very least.

Rangers finished 3rd in their 1st 2 seasons back in the Scottish Premiership, a long way behind Celtic and also behind a half-decent Aberdeen team.

The 2018/19 season saw Rangers finish 2nd and then again last season we were 2nd when the Covid19 pandemic hit us. The SPFL and their farcical vote to end the season is now a matter for the courts as we all know, with Rangers 200 page legal dossier being used as the major examples of evidence in both Hearts and Partick Thistle’s petition against the governing body.

A long and arduous decade this has been for Rangers and her fans. I’d argue that there are no more loyal fans on this earth than Rangers supporters. What they endured, what they went through, well until you walk in their shoes you won’t comprehend what Rangers fans have gone through these last 8 or 9 years.

We’re now at the start of a new decade and a new era. A decade that’s started with a global pandemic that’s affected each and every 1 of us. Football clubs have been affected by this for sure. All of them. There won’t be a single football club on the planet that won’t receive some form of a financial hit in the after-effects of this global crisis.

Rangers though seem to be 1 of the least hardest hit by this and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

Before I do I’d like to say that over the course of this pandemic I’ve read Celtic bloggers tell anyone that will listen to them that Rangers Football Club will be the most adversely affected by Coronavirus. They categorically won’t be.

It’s just more lies, more nonsense and more wishful thinking from the loony wing of the Celtic support. Rangers will be less affected than most due to a number of reasons here.

Loyalty is 1 of those reasons, 36,000 season ticket holders have renewed already. There’s 15,000 on the season ticket waiting list also so the number of season ticket holders will be almost identical to last season. Add that to the money invested by the fanbase through the MyGers membership scheme where I hear they are now approaching 20,000 members and that is an enviable investment by any standards at such a precarious time for so many people.

New sponsors have brought in a 7 figure value along with the existing deal with 32 Red being vastly increased when it was renewed this summer. A new merchandise deal with Castore brought in £3million immediately when it was signed and with fans free to buy kits, training gear and other forms of merchandise due to the end of any connection to Sports Direct the money brought in from that will be substantial for Rangers as both Rangers themselves and Castore have clearly stated.

New digital partnerships have also brought money into the business too. There’s also the small matter of a strong, valuable squad of players. There’s a few members of the squad worth a lot of money with the prospect of perhaps 1 or 2 may be leaving to go to the bigger leagues in Europe.

Rangers are in a strong, healthy position here. Healthier than most football clubs, particularly in Scotland. Their squad wages to turnover ratio is approximately 50% which in today’s game is pretty low. Another thing that sees Rangers in a good position to come out of this pandemic better placed than others is the fact that there’s a share issue on the cards.

Now, that all leaves Rangers on a decent financial footing, but along with that I can also reveal that substantial sums are being brought into the football club via the share issue. Stuart Gibson has already agreed to underwrite a massive amount of money and I can say that I know of another investor coming in at the same time as Mr Gibson, who will also be bringing a hugely substantial amount of money into the club.

Add those investors to those already there and you have a football club which is more secure and stable than most, with no external debt whatsoever. There’s no more legal fees to pay either. That cost Rangers more than £3 million last year. Dealing with Mike Ashley and Sports Direct has been costly, that will end. Another sign of the sun coming over the horizon.

Mike Ashley looks on
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 02: Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley look on prior to the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United at Wembley Stadium on February 2, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

No matter what way fans of other clubs try to damage the Rangers brand they are not succeeding anymore, not in any way. The new plans for Edmiston House, the new megastore, a museum and a sports bar will see a new hub that will be used 7 days a week with all that money going to Rangers.

Add to that the sale of a section of the Albion car park which is going to pay for the new plans I’ve just mentioned  and it paints a reasonably healthy picture here. The plans for inside the stadium shows that Rangers are in good health.

An increase in capacity perhaps ultimately allowing for 56,000 supporters on matchday has also been discussed. Rangers are looking at every aspect of their business and improving it as we speak.

Now ask yourself, does that sound like a football club that is worried about the future?

I think not.

At a time where Scottish football is awash with court cases, our governing bodies aren’t fit for purpose and historical abuse cases will be brought to light I would suggest that those with any kind of affinity with Scottish football cast their eyes over the rest of the national game.

Stop looking at Rangers hoping things are going to take the attention away from the real scandals within the game in this country. Rangers are ok here. There’s plenty of work to be done and at the end of the day winning trophies is the most important thing at any football club but can the rest of Scottish football look itself in the mirror and say they’re in a good situation here?

No. They can not.

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