Sunday, October 2, 2022

It’s A Question Of Loyalty For Rangers FC

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

Note: This article was published first yesterday on The 4th Official Patreon. So the talks about the transfer window are now outdated.

This article might be a bit slap-dash but there are a number of issues I’d like to cover within it so I’ll try my best to keep it as simple and clear as I possibly can.

Firstly I would like to apologise for the lack of articles from myself over the last few months. Unfortunately, family issues have to take priority and I’ve been up to my neck in it of late.

I would like to take time to write about the SPFL and their ludicrous new TV deal. This is, in truth, a farcical idea.

The new deal that they’re apparently about to sign is worth less money per game than the current, pathetic, joke of a deal they signed only last year.

The reality of this is the deal is worth less than thirty million pounds per season, but Sky Sports will have twelve more games within their package. There’s an option for pay per view etc as well, but the simple fact is this deal works out at approximately forty grand per game less than they receive from Rupert Murdochs’ company than they do now.

This deal lasts till the end of the decade. Who in their right mind thinks this is a good idea? As the cost of living crisis heightens, as inflation rises, as our fuel prices soar, and our energy bills rocket so high that there’s an estimation that this will directly affect twenty million households in the UK… who the f*ck thinks our football clubs should ‘make do and be thankful’?

If the executive board at Hampden have yet again made a rip roaring arse of this, then surely it’s about time heads proverbial rolled for this continual shambles?

According to Heart and Hand, the position as it stands is that eleven of the twelve Premiership clubs have said they’ll accept this. All I can say is “wow” and “WOW!” again.

No wonder our top teams go into European competition only for them to get soundly beaten by League of Ireland sides or lose seven away from home.

The lack of foresight, imagination, aspiration or ambition from every one of those eleven is mind boggling.

Seven years of accepting less than you had at the start of a decade when you reach the end of said decade tells me this governing body and a number of chairman/boards in the SPFL simply aren’t fit for purpose.

I’ve had enough of it. I will be cancelling my Sky subscription if this happens. Yes, I’m fully aware this will make no difference to Sky, nor will it make a blind bit of difference to the deal these clubs accept, but I won’t be encouraging them for a second more.

I’ve written about Doncaster and MacLennan before. I genuinely believe they couldn’t run my barbershop and make a profit. They’d likely want to half the prices in the hope that in doing so, more people would come through the doors. It really doesn’t work that way and having run a small (tiny by comparison) business for twenty six years, I’ve had my fill of these incompetent fools running the professional game in Scotland.

All you have to do is look over the TV deals across the globe. We in Scotland are fully aware that we don’t have an enormous market or customer base here. However, that does not alter the fact that we have Rangers (European final last season and Champions League participant), Celtic (Champions of Scotland and Champions League participant), Hearts (Group stage in Conference League participant) who play to twenty thousand people every other week, Hibs playing to sixteen thousand at home and Aberdeen in this league.

Add to that Dundee Utd, who are obviously going through a torrid time right now, and well, half of our league are big and decent sized clubs with an attractive product to potentially sell.

Why aren’t they? Why are they merely bowing their heads and accepting this fiasco? Scottish football is and has been undersold for years, and my only conclusion is that it’s a deliberate undervaluing of the game in this country.

I despair at the minions that run our game, honestly.

Rangers qualified for the Champions League group stage last Wednesday. A fabulous performance against a strong PSV Eindhoven team saw them through to this elite stage for the first time in twelve years.

What an achievement that is. Two teams from this country reaching this level is phenomenal and an extremely unlikely event.

Having been drawn against Ajax Amsterdam, Liverpool and Napoli, the excitement levels are off the scale and rightly so.

Celtic, who had already qualified due to winning the Premiership, didn’t need to go through the qualification process. That is due to Rangers’ performances over the last four years or so when they were accumulating vast amounts of coefficient points for Scotland.

Celtic should be grateful to Rangers for that as significantly, they’ve managed to qualify so rarely through the knockout rounds that the chances of them going through would have been pretty slim.

Let’s see how both clubs do, I think they’ll both find it extremely difficult to get through their groups, to be honest. Rangers have a tougher task I would suggest, but Celtic won’t find it much easier as they have Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shaktar Donetsk to contend with.

If either can do that, then hats off to them. This is the highest platform a football club can play on, and it’ll be exciting and interesting to see how both perform on the highest of stages.

Both clubs will do very well to finish third in their groups and qualify for the Europa League playoffs. If they can do that, then the Champions League campaigns would be seen as successful.

At least they won’t have Scottish referees to contend with right enough. The standard of officiating in our game has been horrific over the last few seasons, and the stark reality is that until the officials go full time and work longer and harder, then I can see no sign of the standard being raised.

At least VAR might help. Scottish officials get more of the big decisions wrong than they manage to get right, and I can see VAR being both hugely controversial and highlighting how inept some of the worst of our referees actually are (Step forward Messrs Collum and Clancy).

I can’t get my head around some of the appalling calls they make. There’s umpteen in every game where you just stand there shaking your head.

I actually believe that a major part of the problems for those clubs that qualify for European competition (other than the Glasgow giants) is the way the games are refereed in Scotland.

Players are usually offered protection in UEFA tournaments, protection they don’t tend to get in the SPFL. The sheer volume of high risk tackles or overzealous players that think rampaging about a pitch kicking opponents up in the air in our league while knowing they’ll escape with a word in their ear is bordering on sheer neglect for our game, to be frank.

These teams turn up in the qualifiers trying to play the same way as they do domestically and quickly realise every one of these tackles where you raise your foot or go in too hard without winning the ball cleanly will see you booked immediately. They simply don’t get three or four of them due to our officials trying to take into account a player’s ability, which is exactly what the referees are doing.

That is wrong, and it’s only making it harder for the likes of Motherwell, Dundee Utd, Kilmarnock or St Johnstone, who have all abjectly failed at the first hurdle in European competition.

If our referees started to actually do their jobs properly and outlaw dangerous tackles, these clubs and players would not be getting refereed differently when they head to the continent.

Finally, I would like to mention a situation that’s come to my attention, and it gives me no pleasure to address this as it concerns my club and it isn’t good.

With Rangers qualifying for the Champions League, all would seem to be a bed of roses both on the park, commercially and financially.

This is great for both Rangers and fans alike. I mean, Rangers sit at the top table and will feel entitled to milk it for all it’s worth. They may well be playing a very dangerous game with those that are the most loyal of customers, though.

Ticket pricing for group matches is way too high. Ranging from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty pounds is far to steep in the current climate.

There’s a cost of living crisis, fuel prices, energy prices going through the roof, small businesses struggling, and half the country, it seems, is either on strike are about to do so. People aren’t feeling the pinch here, the air is being squeezed out of them big time.

That makes this story I’m about to relay to you all the more worrying.

A good mate of mine is a director of a rather large company that takes up hospitality packages at both Rangers and Celtic.

Now… before I have a pop about this, I will say this… Celtic have known for months they’ll be in the Champions League, so they should be organised and capable of sorting out clients for tables/boxes/packages with relative ease. Rangers on the other hand only had a matter of days to deal with the situation in hand.

However, here’s what’s happened to this friend of mine…

Celtic offered the company he works with his package, he talked to the owner of said company (his boss), and he said go for it. The deal for this package works out at approximately £500 more per head at Ibrox than the equivalent package for Celtic Park on CL nights.

Think about that.. FIVE HUNDRED QUID PER PERSON!

Anyway, he approached his boss and asked if they’d be taking up the offer of a package at Ibrox. It’s my mate’s side of the business that deals with that kind of thing, so it was he that ran it by his boss. The response of the boss was to say, “we can’t have one without the other, so despite the extra cost, go for it.”

Rangers had sent him an email offering to provide his table at a cost of over five and a half grand, while being told he had literally twenty three hours to purchase it as it would be available to purchase publicly thereafter.

Eleven o’clock yesterday morning, before yesterday’s five o’clock deadline, he asked his secretary to go online and buy his table only to find that the entire suite was sold out.

She made a phone call or two but got nowhere. He then took time out from dealing with his work to email, make phone calls etc, to see what was going on.

Finally, he got through only to be told that it was first come, first served, and there was nothing that could or would be done.

He’s written a very strongly worded email to the hospitality department, and as of me writing this, they haven’t even had the decency to reply to him.

He’s disgusted, he’s angry, and he’s genuinely considering taking his company’s money out. He’s sick and tired of it.

He’s entitled to tickets for away games, but he’s been told he won’t know until Monday if he has tickets for the away game in Amsterdam. Think about that for a minute.

Organising flights, accommodation etc in a day and not knowing whether he has to cancel work appointments and home arrangements. In a day? I mean, come on here.

This is a company that’s had a box at Ibrox for well over twenty years. A company that has thrown well over a million pounds at Rangers in that time, I might add.

Where is the loyalty here? Fans feel they’re being shafted by the board at such a difficult time in the world, as does my mate and his boss. They are literally disgusted at the lack of dialogue, the lack of acknowledging loyalty over decades and the club’s apparent need to be as greedy as they can possibly be while basically having no way of rectifying this situation.

I ask Rangers how can you give someone twenty three hours to buy their package but after less than eighteen hours, it’s gone and for him to be told he’s read the email wrong?

The Rangers board have to start to realise that f*cking over the people that care, the lifeblood and the rank and file, is going to come back and bite them so deep in the arse.

This guy, my mate, buys his own season tickets as well. He’s a lifelong Rangers fan, and as much as it pains him to say it, he told me the club is so understaffed, so useless continually, and so utterly devoid of any empathy, that he’s just about had enough. He genuinely told me a couple of days ago on the phone that they are entirely incompetent but do nothing but pass the buck and blame clients for the situation.

It’s not, Rangers. It’s your doing. This continued and constant need to bleed fans and investors alike dry needs to stop and stop immediately.

I’ll tell you this from my own point of view… Rangers have won the league once in eleven years now; if that goes to twelve this season, then at what time does the fanabase actually stand up and say “hang on a minute, this is a two horse race; how come we never seem to win?”

I take no pleasure in criticising Rangers Football Club, but over the last few days, the board running that club seems to have lost their senses. Rangers fans are loyal but they don’t have a bottomless pit of cash at their disposal, so when you manage to piss off a guy that has ploughed a million quid into the coffers, then you simply aren’t doing it right.

Winning trophies is what matters; going to see your team matters more to football fans than just about anything. Denying them that is not a good business decision. Short term gain can lead to long term pain and they’d do well to take that into consideration. At. All. Times.

Sorry for the rant but this needs said. Taking people and their money for granted is what this reeks of and at some point, Rangers need to invest in their website, their outrageously understaffed ticket office and hospitality department along with sorting out the club shop stock and the countless other glaring anomalies and failings that need dealt with.

I mean, they’ve had the run to Seville, the Champions League, players sales topping forty million and payments for the previous management team departing. That, along with season ticket money, and a booming commercial department suggests there is money in the bank to actually invest properly in a team that can compete in their Champions League group and actually win the league this year.

I fear if we don’t get a player or two in before the deadline, then the chances of winning the league will be vastly reduced and at some point Rangers fans are going to hold that boardroom responsible for it. Particularly when you consider the notion that whoever does win the SPFL will gain automatic entry to the riches that the Champions League brings with it.

Looking forward to the next few days we have an Old Firm game that will see the two Champions League participants go head to head for the first time this season.

I’m normally quite pessimistic, but strangely I’m not here. My take here is that Rangers have already played some incredibly tough games already at the start of the season while Celtic haven’t actually been tested yet.

Two good teams going head to head, and while Celtic were rampant against a pathetic Dundee Utd at the weekend, I’m reasonably confident Rangers can go to Parkhead and get a positive result.

If Rangers were to lose, then they’ll go five points behind with only six games played. That’s a lot of catching up to do, but it’s very early in the season, to be fair. My only concern with that would be that I see very little about the rest of the league that makes me believe there are teams out there capable of actually having a go at that Celtic backline.

If you get at their defence then they simply aren’t great. They can be got at and I would hope Giovanni Van Bronckhorst will set his team up to expose the gaps Celtic leave when they go forward.

Saturday lunchtime will be a great watch because, as I said, they’re both good teams. Both of them being at the top table in Europe proves that.

Editorial Note: I have a favour to ask you. Did you know this article was published first on our exclusive Patreon page? If you love Scottish football while sick and tired of the same old biased MSM coverage, this is for you. The 4th Official needs your support. Due to the unprecedented situation as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, the digital media space has been completely devastated. There has been a massive shortfall in revenue (even while viewership is up) as we scramble how to make sure that we go on with our daily job. We are proud to put up exclusive stuff on Scottish football as well as an early release of our podcast interviews with relevant personalities of the game (recent guests have been Andy Firth, Marvin Bartley, Matt Polster, David Martindale, Greg Docherty, Daniel Stendel and a lot more) on our Patreon account and hope you would support us in these tough times. We have supporters from at least 14 countries, and you can be too by chipping in just £2.99/month (or become an annual supporter). Become a proud Patron of The 4th Official!

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