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For almost all of the seventies and the first part of the eighties, Rangers Pools operated under the 1971 Pool Competitions Act, the most important feature of which was that it set no limits on prize money. The Ibrox organisation was able to exploit that to the full by building a national rather than a club pool.
Celtic, for a number of reasons, was nothing like as successful, and its turnover was eventually only about one-eighth of its Glasgow neighbour, so low in fact that the operation could be accommodated as a small lottery within the 1976 Lotteries and Amusements Act, with no requirement to pay betting duty.
During this period Rangers FC Development Fund Ltd, which is the parent company of the pool, was able among other things to fund the erection of the Copland, Broomloan, and Govan stands. It is estimated that the same undertaking today could cost around #35m, and that is the measure of the head start Rangers had over its nearest rival.
It will be obvious, therefore, that the repeal of the 1971 Act in 1985 was a major catastrophe for Rangers Pools. Apart from the fact that turnover would be severely limited by law, weekly first prizes of #30,000 plus would drop overnight to #2000. What was formerly a national pool now had to join Celtic and others in a much more limited setup.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the gap between the two organisations has narrowed so much. Indeed, in view of the new circumstances, Celtic may wish to ask itself why there should be any gap at all.
Nevertheless, Mr Maguire and his predecessor Alan Austin are due much credit for developing such a profitable business, particularly during a period when lottery income has been falling sharply elsewhere. In a football age when talkers seem to be proliferating by the minute, and actual fund-raisers are becoming thinner on the ground, John Maguire has no case to answer, but Professor Carbery on the other hand appears to have the curious habit, for an academic, of reaching conclusions without reference to the basic facts.
For a long time lotteries were by far the biggest source of off-the-field income for most football clubs, and in the exceptional case of Rangers Pools a much bigger source than the annual total taken through the gate. This is no longer the case. They will still make an important contribution, of course, and a contribution at that which does not depend on the success of the team, but major football clubs will now have to look to other methods of raising money to satisfy the growing demands of the game.
Sponsorship, deals with kit manufacturers, debenture schemes, in-house catering, club publications, retailing, trackside advertising, corporate hospitality, etc., have all got to be tackled singly and professionally. There will also be an urgent need for innovative enterprises. If these things are not done, and successfully done, no lending institution will enter into serious discussions about committing huge capital sums for stadium development.
Hugh R. W. Adam,
Rangers Football Club.