RANGERS Football Club yesterday turned to their fans to help finance a multi-million pound reconstruction and refurbishment of the main stand at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow.
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The Premier League champions are offering 6807 bonds, costing between #1000 and #1650, to their supporters and the business community to raise more than #8.5m towards the #12.5m cost of the new three-tier stand development. The remainder will come in a grant from the Rangers Development Fund, and from the club's own resources.
The club launched a similar venture last year only to abandon it a few months later.
The changes, which will make Ibrox all-seated, comply with the legislation demanded in the recent Taylor Report.
The latest debenture bond scheme has been formulated with the help of leading financial, business, and legal advisers. Advice was also sought from the Scottish Rugby Union which introduced a comparable scheme at Murrayfield.
As the announcement was being made, it was revealed that the Glasgow club had offered a 10% stake worth #3m, plus interest, to their shirt sponsors, Scottish Brewers. The company has until November 14 to decide whether to take up the option struck during negotiations over a #5m sponsorship deal.
A Rangers' spokesman last night denied that the details of the deal had been hidden away in the bond document, saying: ''The information is there quite clearly in the document, and is an option which Scottish Brewers have. There has been no attempt whatsoever to conceal it.''
Launching the new debenture issue, Mr David Murray, chairman of Rangers Football Club, explained that it was designed to keep the club at the forefront of Scottish and European soccer by providing the finest stadium possible.
By inviting fans to invest in the club's future, the bond scheme would allow Rangers to complete the development of Ibrox Stadium, started 14 years ago under the auspices of Willie Waddell, while at the same time provide financial backing to manager-director Mr Graeme Souness to buy new players.
''It has always been our intention to provide our supporters with the finest stadium possible. The Rangers bond gives us the mechanism to make that dream a reality,'' Mr Murray said.
Revealing that the club's overdraft had been reduced to #2m, he added: ''This method of financing the reconstruction of the stand will ensure that Rangers can continue to make money available to Graeme to invest in the best available players and keep the club at the forefront.''
Participants will be guaranteed a seat in the top deck of the new main stand, and the priority right to purchase a ticket for their seat for every Rangers first-team match as well as first refusal on any other qualifying Ibrox event, including non-sporting attractions.
Bondholders who decline to take up their season ticket option will still be able to benefit as the club will sell it and split any premium equally. Ticket prices will be linked to other parts of the stadium.
Mr Graham Watson of Noble Grossart, sponsors of the issue, said that Rangers had placed great emphasis on their financial advisers to ''look after the fans''.
He explained: ''The club instructed the advisers to make the bond scheme acceptable and affordable to all supporters, and we have tried to do that.''
To ensure that happened, Mr Watson continued, Rangers had negotiated a preferential rate personal loan scheme with three Scottish banks to allow fans to invest in the debenture issue. Under this arrangement, it could cost around #40 month.
Applications for the 6807 bonds, on offer from today, will be treated on a first come, first served basis. While bondholders will be able to pass them on down the generations, they will also be able to dispose of them through a specially organised secondary market.
To help market the debenture scheme, Rangers will be spending #300,000 on an advertising campaign.
Work on the development, which will eventually increase ground capacity to 48,000 and rake in an additional #1.8m, will begin shortly and involve the minimum of disruption. It is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
The new top deck of the main stand, housing the 6807 bondholders, will be created first before the existing main stand is cleared and modern seating introduced.
The distinctive red brick facade will be retained, protecting an ''exclusive'' concourse offering an upmarket food court.