Former director of Rangers Football Club; former chairman of Rangers' Development Fund;
Born: September 25, 1925; Died: December 29, 2012.
The greatest measure of the success of a person's life lies not in the level of fame that they achieved, but in the regard in which they were held by decent people. The recent passing of Hugh Adam, former director of Rangers' Football Club, has undoubtedly left a gap in the business side of football but also more importantly in the hearts of those whose lives he touched in a personal way.
Many people use the opportunities that the world of football gives for fame and its trappings in a self-serving way: Hugh Adam revelled only in raising funds for the club and building its future on strong foundations. Most of all, he was a genuinely decent man, remembered best by many for the way he cared about other people.
Born in Hamilton, he was the youngest of four sons born to Robert Adam, a miner, and Elizabeth Rennie Walker. The hardship and sacrifices that his parents endured in ensuring all four boys were educated at Hamilton Academy, where he gained his Higher Leaving Certificate, had a lasting impact on him. He grew up believing that the world does not owe you a living and the only route to genuine success in life is through hard work. Hugh loved people, but he never had time for those who – in his words – did not know "the difference between occupying a position and actually doing a job".
It was at school, too, that his enthusiasm for sport in all of its forms was nurtured, and there he won the award of sports champion. His greatest sporting ability was in middle-distance running, coming second in the Scottish Championship in the 440 yards. He was also a great rugby man, which he played at school and later for the academy FP team, believing that the sport was more character-forming than football.
When the time came for him to give up playing rugby, he turned to other sports, enjoying golf, snooker, and table tennis. He was also a keen spectator of all sports, continuing to be, at heart, a Hamilton Academical supporter. However, in all the years he worked at Rangers he never attended Douglas Park except when he was there to support Rangers.
At heart he was a "company man", placing his first loyalties with the club which employed him and which he grew to love over the years, although he never forgot his roots and the other sporting interests which made him the rounded person he was. It is undoubtedly true that the fact that his interest in Rangers was less emotional and less partisan than that of others contributed to the acuity of his vision and the objectivity of his business strategy.
After leaving school, Hugh spent a year at Glasgow University, which he described as "a golden year". The untimely death of his mother when he was just 17 was certainly a contributing factor to his decision to leave and on his increasing belief in the value of self-reliance. But his study of mathematics was to be of help to him in his later work, particularly in his understanding of the nature of probability. His study of history was also to prove formative, fostering an awareness of the way in which the mistakes of the past can impact on the future, and of the need to learn constructively from them.
In 1952, Hugh married Jean Burns, whom he had met at school, and in 1953 his only daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Hugh and Jean celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in October, in a period of relative health between periods of hospitalisation. He was always a family man at heart, loving in particular family holidays in Devon and Cornwall, but apart from a short trip to France as a young man on a rugby tour, he never ventured abroad until he was called upon to travel with the club later on.
In retirement, however, he and Jean developed a liking for cruises and the opportunities which this gave him for meeting people suited him well. One of his most memorable experiences was a trip to Pompeii, which he found deeply moving, seeing in the after-effects of the disaster a metaphor for humanity's need to learn from the mistakes of the past.
After giving up full-time education, Hugh had, for a time, various jobs, ranging from a spell with the family drapery business in Blantyre, leading to a period of self-employment, which built on his strengths as an independent thinker with a strong work ethic.
Later on, after a period of serious illness which led to him losing a kidney, he worked for a time with Rediffusion in Hamilton in the arrears and sales departments. There, his growing business acumen was put to good use until he left to take up the post of assistant manager of Rangers' Pools. Soon after, he was promoted to manager when the existing manager retired, and he quickly set about turning around what was then a relatively small operation into a multi-million-pound fundraising machine for the club.
After the Ibrox Disaster, it was clear that something had to be done – and done quickly – to improve dramatically the safety standards at Ibrox. Hugh's facilitation of the rebuilding of the stadium by raising the necessary funds must surely be his greatest legacy both to Rangers Football Club and to Scottish football.
His success led to his appointment as chairman of the Rangers' Development Fund and later as a director of the club. Such was the regard in which he was held, he was later to serve as an adviser to the Government on the National Gaming Commission on the setting up of the National Lottery and he was frequently called upon by other football clubs as an adviser on fundraising strategies.
Much has been written about the amount of money that Hugh raised for the club, but he was appalled at the way in which this seemed to be squandered on buying big-name players, something which he considered to be an ill-conceived strategy, and which resulted in imitative behaviour among other football clubs. This was a practice which was, ultimately, to be damaging to the sport as a whole. The predictions that he made years ago that Rangers' financial strategy would lead to the ultimate collapse of the club were, sadly, to be proved accurate. He took no pleasure in the vindication that this brought to him, only a sense of sadness that other people had been too blinded by their own egoism to listen to his voice of reason.
However his love for the club never wavered. Even last year, as he became increasingly frail physically, and was beset by significant hearing difficulties, his business thinking remained clear and insightful. It is a measure of the integrity and courage of the man that even at 86 and in poor health he found the strength and the will to give interviews on what he considered to be inappropriate practices at the club many years ago. He did this, not out of spite – as some choose to believe – but out of a desire for the truth and a genuine concern for the club.
He will be missed by many, particularly because of his honesty, his integrity, and his caring regard for other people –- attributes which seem sadly lacking in many in the world of football. Perhaps there are some today who would do well to take inspiration from a talented but self-effacing man who cared only for the truth.
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