Mission Accomplished - What's Next?
- 20 December 2012
With the news that Rangers have raised £22.2m from their Initial Public Offering and with the club now listed on AIM, it is fair to say that the financial uncertainty which has surrounded the club for so long has been put to rest, at least for the time being. The conspiracy theories will continue but the simple fact is that Charles Green, Imran Ahmad and Brian Stockbridge have done exactly what they said they would when they took over the club. In fact they have raised 10% more than they hoped. It would however be a mistake for them or anyone else connected with the club to think the job is done. The fans and the board have a duty to ensure we make the most of this position. So how should we proceed?
Charles Green's interview with Jeff Randall on Sky last night may have given some indication. This money will not last forever and it must be invested with a prudence which has seldom been seen at Ibrox. It was heartening to hear that Green does not plan to rest on his laurels but he is still prone to shall we say, enthusiastic proclamations that I would suggest are unnecessary. The fans are on board and they have been heartened not only by the board's ability to produce the goods but also their willingness to listen. I would suggest that both these elements are key to continuing our rise back to the top.
Charles Green's assertion that £10m was set aside for Ally McCoist came as a surprise to me. There was nothing set aside in the prospectus for transfer money or wages unless they are being included under the general term of working capital. I would suggest that there is absolutely no requirement for Ally McCoist to be given £10m to spend - certainly not on the first team squad alone. We clearly have to strengthen the squad over a period of time but this should, in my opinion, take place in tandem with significant expenditure on the footballing side of the club that will bring long term benefit. Our scouting, both at youth and senior level is woefully underfunded and understaffed. Our coaching at youth level could also be bolstered. We have to ensure we are able to make the most of a Murray Park facility that has been underutilised in past years.
I would much prefer to see our existing young players continue to develop, whilst spending money on ensuring their successors are likely to be of a high enough quality to be worthy of a first team place. It would, in my opinion, be madness to bring in journeymen SPL players to see us through Divisions 1 and 2. Yes we have to build a team that can compete in the top league on our return, but that team should be put together nearer the time once we have allowed our younger players to develop into the players we hope they can be. Let's not stunt their growth for the sake of a headline signing. For now our focus should be on building a footballing infrastructure that will see us capturing top young players as well as first team assets who can contribute for a few years before being sold for a healthy profit. This is our only sustainable strategy unless a European league of some description comes to pass.
When asked to pick my favourite Rangers game for a TRS article recently, I picked Marseilles at home in 1992. I could just as easily have picked Leeds or any of the games from that '92 season. I identify with a team which consists of mainly home grown players who know what it means to represent our club. Yes we have seen that some of them can let us down over the past year but we have also seen how those like Lee McCulloch can make us prouder than we thought possible. We should recapture that spirit whilst ensuring the players are of an acceptable standard. We can produce those players if we invest the time and money required. This should be our blue print and it needs to start now while the pressure of cut throat competition with Celtic does not concern us.
Off the field there is also much to be done. The acquisition of Jim Traynor will, I think, turn out to be a very shrewd one. Contrary to popular belief, his job will not just be to knock together the heads of wayward and, in some cases, malevolent journalists but also to develop and improve the club's media output. A glimpse of the possible future will be seen in the New Year when Rangers TV starts to show our away games live in the UK. One of the many benefits to being in the SFL is that we have more control of our own TV rights beyond the summer. We do not need to adhere to the deal that we were blackmailed into in the summer. The days of propping up a faltering and failing SPL product are gone. This could potentially be a very strong source of income for the club and the fans have already shown they are willing to pay to see the team play anywhere, with figures for our televised games hugely outstripping anything the SPL has to offer.
The acquisition of Edmiston House and the Albion, as well as a much needed facelift for Ibrox, should see the match day experience greatly improve for fans. Fans will hopefully be encouraged to spend their money within the confines of Ibrox and the surrounding club owned properties rather than at independent kiosks outside. Merchandising ranges, and therefore sales, should greatly increase through the partnership with Sports Direct. Mike Ashley may have his critics but he is no fool and the Rangers merchandise income is nowhere near its potential due to the disastrous deal with JJB Sports. As with many aspects of the club, the only way is up.
The New Year will also bring the SPL, title stripping, kangaroo court and a possible resumption of hostility between the club and the football authorities. This is not something we can ignore and it will be the first test of the board post IPO. With men like Walter Smith and Ian Hart now on the board and Charles Green well versed in what these titles mean to the support, I am confident we won't be let down. The Fighting Fund money, sitting at well over £500,000, stands ready, if required, to take the SPL to court. If that is not required then I can think of no better way to use it than towards a museum. If we have learnt anything over the past year it is the need to ensure our history is nurtured, protected and celebrated in equal measures.
I still believe the club can do more to attract visitors to Ibrox on non-match days. The stadium tours could be complimented with a museum and the extension of the excellent founders trail. There is a wealth of historical material we never show anyone. We cannot claim to be serious about growing the brand without giving overseas visitors to Glasgow a reason to come and see us, learn about our rich and wonderful history and take that message back to their own countries. Our history and our status as being more than just a football club is what defines us and makes us special. If the club provides more reasons for tourists to visit, it will be very hard for even Glasgow City Council to deny a more regular visit from the Glasgow tour buses.
Overseas development will be more problematic but if it is going to be successful then we need to galvanise our overseas fan base and get them involved. We have a number of very talented people in the USA, Australia and Hong Kong who are very willing and very able to make significant contributions to spreading the Rangers story. We should use them. Our club means just as much to those who cannot visit Ibrox every week and we are all in this together.
Only the deluded or the disappointed would try to claim that the new board's first months in charge have not been a success but, as we can see, there is plenty to be getting on with. There are many challenges ahead and we must meet them and overcome them with the same spirit and expertise which has guided us through these past few months. Let's not get complacent. The journey back to the top has just started and everyone has their role to play.