- 11 February 2013
Let me start by briefly introducing my idea, before analysing the ideas throughout the article. The idea is an agreement – a handshake, if you like – between the Club and the fans, with a series of clearly defined goals that both parties will strive to achieve by 2022. The hope is that this article will provoke debate on the matter, and see further ideas presented by some of the bright individuals among the support. Not every idea discussed is implementable, they are deliberately loose and open to your interpretation and what you think is best. How do you want Rangers to operate?
Many have written, in recent times, about our unique opportunity to implement a system or structure which will see Rangers dominant for the next 140 years. On-field performances and lack of clarity on the direction of the Club have left many scratching their heads and wondering where we are heading. Do we have a long-term strategy? Or are we again thinking week-to-week? Big questions for most average fans. Why can't we have both? Let's be bold, let's implement ideas befitting of the name Rangers.
I firmly believe that any club aspiring to be successful on the park, has to be successful off it first of all. Many blame the manager when other aspects of the football club don't do their job properly. We have to move away from the over-reliance of our managers. Keep workloads focussed, and appoint experts in every particular field. A manager's job should be about the here and now. His view should be, and generally is, short-term. That's where operations conflict. How can a manager be trusted to oversee scouting and youth development, if his main worry is winning football matches?
That is why a whole new structure for the Club has to be in place before success can be achieved. The best idea I've seen would be something like this;
This setup would see the Club move to a more continental structure. You need only look at how successful West Brom have been in recent years to see the advantage of having a structure which spreads the workload. The manager is free to focus on what he should do best, winning games and entertaining fans - whilst the Director of Football oversees the long-term progression of each individual area of the Club. It reduces the importance of each individual, and places emphasis on the Club as a whole.
Coaching & Youth Development
In terms of coaching, and youth development Rangers should employ as many talented coaches as possible. There should be an undertaking by the Club to employ at least one UEFA A-Level coach at every age group. There should also be an undertaking by the Club to have every coach involved with the first team have a UEFA Pro-Licence. This was highlighted in Chris Graham's brilliant article recently, when he mentioned that under Jose Mourinho, Chelsea also had Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas-Boas. Let's think big.
Youth development should be high on the agenda. It is great to see McKay, Macleod, Aird and Crawford get game time this year. But there are still many problems with youth development in Scotland. A whole new approach is needed – I don't think anyone disputes that. The most successful youth systems in the world have a proper academy system, with players schooled together – and those from outwith the catchment area housed together too. I would like to see us move to this system. It will be expensive, but our fans would dig deep. That's why a membership scheme should be in place, with all money directly funding our youth academy.
(For anyone wishing to see a further dissection of where our youths stagnate – check out the recent blog at http://rfcyouths.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/game-time-player-development/ - it really highlights where things are going wrong. Steps must be taken if we want to see more boys like McKay and Macleod.)
There are those of us who wish to see Edmiston House transformed into a museum. Let me offer another use; the Club renovates it, and turns it into the aforementioned housing facility for our best young talent. A link-up with a nearby school to send all of our youth squads to would hopefully see us continue to produce the best of the best.
Further action should be taken on the level of competition for these boys. Regular game time against the best youth teams in England is something Charles Green has spoken about previously – but nothing is on the agenda yet. It's time to get things moving.
We now come to our highly criticised scouting department. Too long have we relied on agents to do our bidding for us – most of whom have ulterior motives with regards to transfers. We should have a global network of scouts, with particular interest paid to developing regions like; Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Far East and Africa. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if these regions boast players that are earning less than players in Scotland, but playing for a national side which is better than Scotland, then they're probably a good scouting target.
We should aim to have at least an 80% success rate with imported players, with success determined by contribution to the team and/or resale price. Links with clubs in targeted regions, like Ajax have with Ajax CT, should be looked at as a way to vastly improve our network.
Particular attention should be drawn to Borussia Dortmund – who themselves implemented a five-year plan to bring themselves back from the brink – and their continued excellence in the field of scouting. With a team costing significantly less than their star-studded opponents, they played Real Madrid off the park. This came after two seasons which boasted two Bundesliga titles and a DFB Pokal. They should be an example to the Club in what can be achieved in such a short space of time with right ideas.
On The Park
And so we come to the team. On the park is where most will judge our success. Charles Green has already proposed a 33% of revenue cap on playing squad wages. I believe we should go further and implement a tiered wage structure, and quota for players.
· 50% of squad are Murray Park graduates
· 25% of squad are the best of the rest in the country
· 25% of squad are international quality purchases
· Tiered wage structure, with squad of 24
· If a player outgrows the structure, they are sold on
This relates back to one of my first points – all of the above is only possible if all other areas of the Club are working at full-potential.
The final parts of the Club's end of the agreement are regarding the match-day experience. Firstly, should be the agreement to explore Safe-Standing areas. Standing at football is a touchy subject amongst the support with the tragedies in our past, but advances in safety have really made it as safe as sitting. It's now really a preference of how you like to watch the game.
(For anyone sceptical of the idea, please visit; http://www.fsf.org.uk/campaigns/view/safe-standing-campaign it's really helpful, and should answer many of your questions.)
Secondly, are the steps which should be taken to improve match-days as a whole. Going to Ibrox should be like a gala-day, a celebration. There should be lots of attractions in the surrounding areas of the stadium which help draw the support to Ibrox as early as possible. Fans attending matches shouldn't want to show up just before kick-off and disappear 10 minutes before the game ends. There should be a desire to head to Ibrox as early in the day as possible to soak up the atmosphere and the day's attractions – the same could be said post-game for fans to enjoy Ibrox and discuss the performance of the team, which leads me to our part of the agreement.
95% capacity at 90% of home games
The support shown this season has been incredible - with the rest of the footballing world looking on in awe. The Club must look to capitalise on this and ensure attendances are sustained. The goal is 95% capacity in the ground (turnstile clicks). There is an opportunity for fans groups to work with the Club to enhance the match-day experience for all, encouraging more to come to the games.
0 arrests at 80% of home games
A better understanding between the fans, the Club, stewards and police can improve arrest records. The work of the RFWG is vital but this must be built upon - we need clear agreement from all parties on what is acceptable and what isn't. Fans have a responsibility and it is hoped that relationships can be improved and arrest rates reduced.
50% reduction in policing
Improved relations between fans, stewards and club officials will hopefully negate the requirement for a visible police presence. There is a groundswell of support for this concept amongst fans of many clubs and Rangers can be at the forefront of this major change. There is also the financial savings to be made from police bills. Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that the Police are too heavy handed. A sad consequence of this is that many fans feel that the police are being used in a political game around the topic of 'sectarianism' and are not there simply to keep the peace and ensure fan comfort. Whilst most fans appreciate that a Police presence is necessary, it is felt that at this moment in time, they are overly present. Improved understanding between the fans and authorities should hopefully be beneficial to both.
20% of the club to be fan owned
The recent share issue has shown a great appetite for fan ownership. With multiple groups investing for a financial return, there is an opportunity in the future for fans to buy these shares as they become available, either individually, or as part of Buy Rangers.
£5m raised and donated by the fans for youth development. (Penny Arcade Club)
An agreement that we, the fans, should raise £5m via our many fundraising operations to continually improve our new academy until such a time as it becomes self-sustaining. The previously mentioned membership scheme would be a large part of our fund-raising, but further fund-raising avenues should also be explored. We shall call this, the Penny Arcade Club.
The Penny Arcade Club will generate at least £5 million for youth development over the next ten years. The plan is to affix collection boxes around the stadium for fans to place their loose change in – insignificant at the time, but massive over a period of time. It's possible to raise between £5k and £10k per home game. E.g. a Penny Arcade collection box fixed at every food outlet throughout the stadium. Based on 20% of a 46000 crowd (9600) donating some of their change into a box. 50p x 20 games gives you a total of £92,000 per season.
Alongside this should be an option to pay into the fund by weekly or monthly standing order. 14,000 fans signing up to donate £1 per week raises approximately £728,000 P/A. Based on a launch in early April this year - more than £5m would be raised by the same time in 2020, two years early. These are low projections based on the potential of the project but the forecast can always be adjusted as and when required.
There is already good work being done through the Rising Stars programme and this should be re-launched using former players and an extensive advertising campaign. People need to get into the habit of buying a ticket or two every home game.
In this article I've only provided a collection of the best ideas between a few individuals, imagine the ideas we can present the Club after every fan has their say?
Iain Nicol is a 23 year old accountancy student, Rangers shareholder and gets along to see Rangers whenever possible.