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Ambitious Ibrox plan was never realistic

It was shortly after Glasgow secured the 2014 Commonwealth Games and plans were launched to redevelop the area around Celtic Park that city rivals Rangers revealed their own Ibrox masterplan.

As part of Sir David Murray’s vision, Ibrox Stadium would have its capacity increased to 70,000 and a concert arena would be built along with a hotel, shops and an underground car park. The value attached to the scheme was £350 million.

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However, the gulf between what was trumpeted and what was realisable now appears to have scared off a realistic bidder for the Scottish champions.

Andrew Ellis, the London-based property developer negotiating a £33m bid for the club, is understood to have become aware that the Ibrox masterplan has always been constrained by local government regulations over what can and cannot be built on the site.

One thing not on the menu is a major retail outlet.

Worse still for any potential buyer, Glasgow City Council has signalled that its partnership with Rangers now appears to be all but dead. The lack of a masterplan effectively means that only those with an interest solely in Rangers need apply.

The club-city relationship was formalised in late 2008 when councillors agreed unanimously to give Rangers the option to buy any council-owned land needed for the scheme, which it believed had the potential to regenerate swathes of Govan.

Talks stalled over changes to the proposals and the value of the council’s land, with even the most ardent supporters of the plan within Glasgow City Chambers expressing concern at the rate of progress while Sir David claimed the delays were outwith his control.

The viability of the scheme was again called into question when the extent of Rangers’ financial troubles became apparent, but the real stumbling block appears to be what the club wanted to do with the land.

It is believed Rangers had held talks with Tesco about opening a major store on the site, most of which belongs to Glasgow City Council, and the club’s finance director Donald McIntyre repeatedly stated the ambition to have the retail giant onboard.

However, the council has repeatedly told Rangers over the past two years that the authority’s blueprint for the ongoing development of the city did not allow for a major retail scheme, especially with a major Asda store just yards away.

It argued the move would see it involved in lengthy legal battles with the Scottish Government at significant cost to the public purse.

There have also been concerns that ownership of the car park Rangers were contributing to the masterplan may in fact belong to chairman, Sir David.

Council insiders have also said they offered Sir David a letter of comfort for prospective buyers, outlining the masterplan’s vision and what was feasible, but that this was not taken up.

One source said: “Due diligence by any buyer would have quickly established in terms of the planning legislation, the city’s strategy, legal constraints and the economic realities that Tesco superstores or new indoor arenas are flight of fancy.”

A council spokesman said: “We have always been emphatic with Rangers that a food store of the size they are talking about would be contrary to the City Plan and would not receive permission. We could not have been clearer with them.

“The original plans talked about the relocation of the Rangers superstore and something on that scale would be fine.

“Again, if they commissioned a study which showed that an indoor arena on the site was feasible we’d be comfortable with that.”

“We have spoken with Rangers about the masterplan recently but if they are saying that it cannot go ahead without a major food store then it would be dead.”

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