Sometime in the late 1970s Kenny Dalglish played a Pro-Am golf tournament in Bishopbriggs. To the 9 year old me Dalglish was a god-like figure, mytholigised by Shoot magazine as the ‘king of the kop’, spoken about reverentially by fathers and boys club managers, Dalglish was the best player in the best team in Europe and the one every boy in the playground tried to emulate. Word had got out days before that he would be ‘in the area’ and all conversations that week were about what we would ask him when we saw him. His favourite goal, what type of studs he wore, how could we shoot like him and would he help coach our BB team, those were the flavour of our questions.
This was brought to mind when the current Reading captain, the incongruously named Jobi McAnuff, commented recently “the most popular question I get from kids is ‘what car do you drive?’”. I find this profoundly depressing.
Next season the new Sky TV deal comes into effect in the English Premier League. It’s apparently worth £3 billion (a figure I am unsure how to write in numbers) and heralds a 71% increase on this season. It’s best illustrated through the fact that the club that finishes bottom of the EPL next season will receive more prize money than this season’s English champions. How are clubs outside of the EPL and perhaps the top two in La Liga supposed to compete with that?
Money has been on the mind of Charles Green recently. Green’s been speaking about it to various fan groups, or at least how to raise it. Some of his ideas apparently include an orange away strip and the naming rights to Ibrox. Both those topics have proved polarising and emotive, at least on Gersnet they have. Yet throughout all this hubris I’ve yet to hear anyone ask Green the question that’s been on my mind recently; namely why? Now the obvious answer is to raise money, but that isn’t the answer it’s simply the precursor to the same question; why? What do we need this money for, what’s its purpose and what will it be spent on?
We’re a third division club just now, and one who can’t sign any players for a while either, we apparently don’t have any debt, we’ve more season ticket holders than before and are playing to very healthy crowds both home and away. Our wage bill is reportedly around £6 million, that’s not going to change much in the next couple of seasons either. So why the need for cash, surely we’ve more than enough to cover all our costs at this juncture?
We’ve chased money before. For all Sir David Murray’s many faults for a time he was able to convince people to part with millions in the name of Rangers and to be fair it was lavished on transfer fees and wages. We held the UK record transfer fee once, paid to Dundee Utd of all clubs. When we needed to improve our team we bought someone. Very few of us questioned that mind-set, I certainly didn’t. Yet look where it ultimately got us, for all the money we spent on players and salaries are we better for it, are we wiser, what have we learned from the experience?
It worries me that we’ve started to take the first few steps back down the same road that nearly killed us, why do any of us want to head in that direction again? We know where that leads and it’s painful. Where’s the vision, the real vision, I don’t want to hear about naming rights for Ibrox or orange tops, stop telling me about how much money can be raised and start telling why that matters? We’re the best supported club in Scotland, run properly we’ll always be competitive here. Even in Division Three we’ve attracted several SPL players, we didn’t need to change the name of the stadium to do that.
Here’s the rub, no matter how many orange strips we sell, no matter who puts their corporate logo across Archibald Leitch’s finest hour we’ll still not be able to compete financially with the club that finishes bottom of the league 100 miles down the M74. A Rangers that has sold everything it owns to the highest bidder, that’s squeezed every last penny out of merchandise hungry supporters will still be unable to compete financially with most Championship clubs never mind the English Premier League. Charles Green surely knows this he is English after all.
We’ve a chance just now to build something better than before. Our current predicament allows us time and provides possibilities. Instead of telling me about the ways we can generate cash Mr Green, tell me your vision for Rangers. How about this Charles ‘the starting 11 for every Rangers side from now on must have at least six home-grown players in it’, or how about ‘25% of all Rangers revenue will be invested in community and supporter projects’. Sell me the sizzle Charles, not the steak.
Now before you accuse me of being a naïve innocent or indeed some sort of Trotskyist let me explain, I’m a purveyor of capitalism, I sell you stuff you don’t need, everyday. What I know is that in a crowded market, a market dominated by highly successful, multi-national conglomerates, if you want to compete you better specialise, you better make something they can't and it needs to give me something the others don’t. Rebuilding Rangers into a club that competes with mid-table Championship clubs to pay exorbitant wages to second-class footballers would be an opportunity missed. Rebuilding Rangers to be a club that’s instantly different from every other club would be a masterstroke. We’d still be competitive in Scotland, we’d still be expected to win more trophies than anyone else. One of the smartest moves Barcelona ever made was not putting a sponsor on their jersey, every football fan admired that, I wonder how many replica jerseys they sold because of it. By making Rangers ‘different’, in set-up, in team selection, in culture or some other way we’ve a chance to build for the next 140 years, by recreating the ‘same again’ we run the risk of finding ourselves in exactly the same position we were in last season.
Charles Green is a businessman, not a fan, he's made that clear and I won't criticise him for that. For me the smart business decision is to make Rangers stand for something again, be it youth development, supporter engagement or passing football I'm open to all suggestions. He has a blank canvas, a committed supporter base, the time to build something and absolute power, there will never be a better opportunity.
Charles Green has won a number of supporters over with his rhetoric recently. His brash, direct, no-nonsense style has endeared him to those so sick of listening to critics go unchallenged. I’m not onside yet though, I feel Charles Green is telling me what kind of car he drives when I want to know how to shoot like Kenny Dalglish.
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