T he past will feature prominently in the week that Rangers intend to celebrate the club's 140th anniversary.
Some of that history will be evident when former players are guests at the league game against Stirling Albion at Ibrox on Saturday, but this is also a significant time for the future of the club. Fans will soon be able to buy shares that will grant them ownership of a portion of Rangers, and so contribute to the rebuilding of the team and its foundations.
Financial sources confirmed that the share offering to institutional investors has raised in the region of £20m, A further £10m of shares is now due to be made available to supporters, who later this week should receive a copy of the prospectus. The Initial Public Offering of shares is expected to close on December 17, by which time Rangers hope to have raised around £30m by being listed on the Alternative Investment Market.
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Among other priorities, the money is to be spent on maximising the club's property assets, investing in the first team, the youth set-up and the scouting network. For most fans, the investment will be emotional but the intention is to improve Rangers' commercial operations and revenue streams, many of which were underperforming during the years when the club was firefighting to pay off the debt to Lloyds Bank. However, the level of backing from institutional investors suggests they were impressed enough with the club's plans to buy into the project, and they will expect the value of Rangers to increase so they can realise a profit.
What Rangers can become will begin to emerge following the completion of the IPO. Sustainability and financial prudence will be central, with the intention to keep the wage bill to turnover ratio at 33%, well below Uefa's recommendation of 70%. There will be room for that to grow once the club climbs through the lower leagues, but the first-team squad is to be run on an affordable budget, while the original investors and current directors are tied in for the foreseeable future. The extent of the journey Rangers need to make is still to be finalised, however.
The Scottish Premier League clubs agreed yesterday to push forward with plans for a 12-12-18 set-up and they hope to persuade Scottish Football League clubs to ditch their own plans for a 16-10-16 structure by changing the revenue distribution. As it stands, the winners of the first division earn around £70,000, but the SPL's plans will raise that to a figure in the region of £400,000, while the hope is that splitting the top two divisions into three play-offs from February to May – the Super 8, the Play-off 8 and the National 8 – will generate increased attendances and additional broadcast revenue.
In truth, it is not the structure that is critical but the revenue distribution. A club relegated from the SPL suffers a catastrophic drop in income and this gap needs to be bridged. The SFL have their own model and the two bodies will meet with the Scottish Football Association on Thursday for further discussions. Briefings last weekend suggested the SPL plans do not involve moving Rangers into the Championship, or second league of 12, directly, but instead requires them to earn their place through promotion. There remains little willingness at Ibrox to co-operate with the SPL while individuals within the organisation continue to seek to strip Rangers of titles. It would also be counter-productive for the club to move up to the top flight while a registration embargo is still in place.
Rangers are still trying to overcome the consequences of last summer, but the completion of the IPO will prompt a raft of changes designed to improve the club's commercial operations and maximise the work of the football departments. There are ambitious plans, and a determination to maximise the club's potential, but also not to repeat the mistakes of the past. A successful IPO will be significant but how the money is spent will govern how strongly Rangers return. Progress has been made, but it is only the start of the rebuilding process.