• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Out of crisis can come a new identity

The contest to buy Rangers has developed its own dramas and sub-plots.

The role of the Rangers training academy appears likely to become central to the future of the club    Photograph: SNS
The role of the Rangers training academy appears likely to become central to the future of the club Photograph: SNS

There was even a bout of hysteria last week when the Scottish Premier League released its proposals for sanctions against clubs that suffer administration and those that are liquidated and come back as newcos. The story generates a constant tension, between competing bidders, club rivalries and, ultimately, the two different possible conclusions: the old Rangers and the new Rangers.

There are significant differences to the way the club rebuilds in the different scenarios, since a newco will suffer financial penalties and further points deductions while a Company Voluntary Arrangement could involving ongoing payments to creditors. There is more uncertainty when the three bidders – Paul Murray's Blue Knights consortium, Bill Ng's Singapore consortium, and Bill Miller, the US tycoon – are taken into consideration. The Knights will need a share issue to raise post-purchase funds, Ng has promised immediate investment and Miller remains a vague presence, offering soundbites from across the Atlantic.

The reality for all of them will be a club diminished by years spent paring down the debt to Lloyds Bank, dovetailed with the ruinous financial vandalism of Craig Whyte. The team required strengthening last summer and while Carlos Bocanegra and Sone Aluko have performed well, and Dorin Goian has looked sound amid periods of rashness, the squad still needs reinforcements. Yet the wage bill has to be reduced, since the administrators encountered a shortfall of £1m per month when they arrived last February.

That figure was distorted by the time of year, since much of the club's commercial and sponsorship income, not to mention season ticket revenues, arrive early in the campaign. Yet it is evident that downsizing will be required, at least in the short-term. Some players, worn down by the constant reductions in quality and personnel – but not, crucially, in expectations – may feel inclined to move on for the sake of their careers. Rangers cannot play in Europe next season regardless of how they exit administration, but a newco would also be barred for a further two seasons.

If Ng or Miller was successful, the demand among supporters would be for money to be spent on stabilising the club, but also on the first team. Even though both men have declared that an age of sanity, of restrained, affordable spending, is about to be ushered in, personal wealth tends to distort presumptions made about investors. Murray has at least been open about the Knights' planned use of Ticketus for short-term funding, then the share issue to raise further funds, but also plans to bring the wider fan base into the governance of the club.

Rangers need a philosophy, not speculative decision-making. If the team is to thrive on affordable budgets, the underlying foundations must be strong and function independently of the fortunes of the first team. The scouting network, which Ally McCoist was only partially able to restore with the appointments of Neil Murray and John Brown, needs to be expanded. Young talent has to be allowed to thrive, so that if the first team needs a player, the youth teams should be the first place that is looked at. The culture needs to be of self-improvement, of nurturing and developing their own players.

Good work is already carried out in the youth set-up, and it has delivered players of the calibre of Alan Hutton, Chris Burke, Danny Wilson, Allan McGregor, Jamie Ness, John Fleck, Gregg Wylde, Charlie Adam, Kyle Hutton and Rhys McCabe in recent years. This needs to be the foundation of the club, combined with astute signings of older, experienced players and youngsters with potential from under-developed markets.

"The expectation will increase on us with administration in terms of the numbers to come through," says Jimmy Sinclair, Rangers' head of youth. "Without wishing to sound conceited about the place and the staff here, any of the kids introduced into the first team have not let the manager down. We get the odd article that says Murray Park isn't working and that becomes the perception."

Sinclair is referring to the persistent, and unmerited, accusation that not enough good young players have been developed at Murray Park. If there is a frustration to his voice, it is the culmination of years of exasperation. The club needs Sinclair's work, and that of his coaches, to be the cornerstone of the future. He welcomes the challenge, although recent events have carried an impact all the way down to youth level.

"The parents of young players are going to question the future of the club," he says. "If you're about to hand your kid over it's a question you want answered and we have been faced with that as well as anxieties of the parents with kids here."

As a business, Rangers needs to be revived, but there is also an opportunity to re-emphasise the priorities of the football side of the club. It is out of necessity, but a team that focuses on youth development, modest but astute signings and an overall philosophy of technically accomplished play, in the context of the winning-is-everything attitude of the Old Firm, is still attainable. That is what the new owners will need to decide: what kind of club, what kind of institution, are Rangers to become?

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

91866