Wed, Jul

Setting up global club partnerships - the next big step?

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Nine wins in nine games this season. 35 goals scored and only five conceded - the Warburton era has got off to a flyer and the Rangers support has seen some of the most attacking, free flowing football on show for many a year, making the transformation all the more stark from the inept displays we have been used to for far too long.

There really isn't too much to complain about as a supporter right now, so I thought I would discuss something I feel strongly about; something that I feel is an important next step for our club both in terms of player identification and globally growing the RFC brand - the latter has so much potential but we have done such a very poor job of marketing ourselves over the years.

In terms of growing the brand, there doesn't always have to be a formal partnership with a specific club (I will go further in depth on that later), something as simple as a tour of China, Japan or USA in pre-season featuring around 2-3 games played with the Club's directors meeting with their counterparts and gaining media exposure for the time across there could work wonders, as could taking advantage of the fact that we are the most successful club in the world and marketing this more. Our great story could see our exposure raised and thus merchandise sales rocket.

It is a technique that Celtic have used to good effect in recent years, with tours of the USA growing their brand. However, it does need to be balanced with other commitments in regards to ensuring the start of the League campaign and early qualifying rounds of European competition take priority over what are, in essence, global commercial friendlies.

With regards to partnerships, and even parent and feeder clubs, there are many examples of this in world football just now, including Chelsea with Vitesse in the Eredivisie, Manchester United with Royal Antwerp of the Jupiler Pro League, Arsenal with Colorodo Rapids in the MLS or Tottenham's partnerships with MLS side San Jose Earthquake and South African Premier Soccer League side SuperSport United.

These partnerships all have different aims and goals, ranging from commercial goals with the aim to globally expand and raise merchandise sales, sending talented youth players to the feeder club while receiving first choice on bids for the feeder teams' biggest talents, through to sending players on loan to gain an EU work permit - something Manchester United have done with Royal Antwerp, as there are far less strict employment rules in Belgium to gain work permits.

Now we don't enjoy the same club status as these English Premiership sides, of course, but that shouldn't stop anything. As a club, we have so much to offer in such a situation. Some may get caught up with how we could afford this but, generally speaking, these partnerships don't have massive fees. Yes, there may be a nominal fee but it is more to do with how both clubs benefit from the partnership and often there are big positives for both parties.

Celtic have just signed Dinamo Zagreb centre back Jozo Simunovic in a multi-million pound deal and I feel that Dinamo would be a the perfect club to establish a partnership with. As an example, Rangers and Dinamo could play an annual summer friendly with the proceeds to be kept by Dinamo. Rangers gain first refusal on Dinamo's hottest talents and we would also be able to send players out on loan to Zagreb. Dinamo would be alerted to any player we were looking to move on or we had accepted a bid on.

Dinamo are renowned for their excellent youth academy and youth development, bringing through excellent players such as Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren, Eduardo (formerly of Arsenal), Alen Halilović (Barcelona) and Mateo Kovačić(Real Madrid). In fact, they currently have the very exciting creative midfielder Ante Coric on their books. Coric has been labelled as a "wonderkid," whilst their youth academy has been rated amongst the top 6 in Europe despite spending as little as 1 million euros per year on their youth set up - an eighth of the costs of some other European clubs. This proves that big finances are not everything; it is about utilising the funds available to you correctly.

If Rangers were able to tap into a partnership like this, it would be a massive coup but, as their youth academy is so well known and big clubs are scouting them all year, it may not be possible. But, I also feel there are opportunities in massive, and in football terms, expanding countries such as USA or China where we could make moves and these deals would come away from player identification and more focus on global commercialisation.

Creating a partnership with a team in America, perhaps in the MLS, could bring with it incredible commercial benefits and again, an annual friendly could be made with proceeds kept by the American side but if we market the deal and ourselves right we would make that back 5-10 times over each year.

We are going strong at the minute and this season is set to be an incredible one for Rangers fans. I trust the board and Mark Warburton fully, however I feel that in time this is an avenue that will bring with it far more positives, such as opening an avenue to identify talent quicker and could massively improve our global brand in commercial terms. Through merchandise, if we can sort the Sports Direct deal out, we could really get into the American or Chinese market where the potential is incredible.

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