G51: Green Shoots of Recovery?
- 11 October 2012
Charles Green has not got a can do attitude. It is more an "I am bloody doing it" attitude. It is hard to talk about Green without falling into painting a picture of a stereotypical Yorkshire man but I don't think he would object to that. He says himself that with him it is either right or wrong. In his mind, this G51 plan is right and to deny it would be wrong. Simple! It certainly is ambitious and it is typical of Green that the plan covers acres of land that is not owned by Rangers or anyone connected with the club. Indeed some of the land is contaminated having been the site of an old gasworks. But, hey, don't let that put you off.
The plan is to redevelop a large area that sits south of the stadium. It would include a new sports area and a covered area for fans to gather for food and drink before games. A cancer and a health centre are included as well as housing and a hotel. The plan even includes the reinstating of the Ibrox/Bellahouston train station. Green said it would cost a million to build the station but maybe if he did do it, the council would sell the land required to him for a £1. Where did that idea come from I wonder?
Green is at pains to point out that no money will be taken from the share issue to fund this project. He stated that, working with Imran Ahmad, he had previously raised billions for investments so I would guess that is where the money would come from but they would be operating the scheme to create revenue streams for Rangers. Sitting listening to Green and Ahmad is quite hypnotic. The plans are spoken about with such enthusiasm and gusto that you find yourself being swept along. And that is what leaves me feeling both wary and excited. But are what chances of success?
I have touched on Green and Ahmad's track record on fund raising. This was demonstrated by them raising money for the purchase and running of Rangers. Ok, it certainly would take a huge amount more to fund G51 but it is a completely different project to buying a football club and possibly property investment is a more widely understood and attractive proposition. Certainly it would take a huge commitment from Glasgow City Council. More of sharing the vision, granting planning permission and giving up land as opposed to financial input. But this is an area that is crying out for development. Just think of the employment it could create in the building of and the servicing of G51. This is the kind of development that can have a huge impact on wealth creation and regenerating an area with some severe socio-economic problems. Mr Green says they have partners interested and that makes sense. As he pointed out, Glasgow has the capacity for around another 18 hotels according to the global property company Savills. So would a top hotel chain be interested in a chance to build and operate a hotel in Glasgow? The Olympic and Commonwealth games demands a legacy of sport that perhaps is not quite met by one football pitch so more diverse sporting facilities should be welcome. A cancer centre would be most welcome as we already know that the West of Scotland has a very unwanted cancer rate compared to the UK and the UK has a poor record of cancer survival against many other European countries. With the increased number of people living and working in the area, a new train station would also make sense. The working line is there so it should not prove too big a challenge to reinstate the station. When it comes down to it, it is difficult to see why this project should not be supported.
As ordinary Rangers fans, most of us will not have spare millions to invest in this project but for any living in Glasgow, you do have the power to lobby your council and ask them to get behind G51. For me, this would be a wonderful addition and a real example of a club being a driving force for good in the community. It would also be in the long term financial interests of the club because it avoids borrowing and is sustainable. I hope Green and Ahmad get the backing of the fans and all of Glasgow to turn this vision into a reality and wish them every success.