by Tony Attwood
If you know your Arsenal history, you’ll know of the profound link between Arsenal and the Glaswegian club Rangers.
In the early days of the 20th century when it looked like Arsenal would be no more, Rangers bought shares in Arsenal which they held until just a few years back.
And it was Herbert Chapman who, after instituting a regular game in Paris to commemorate Armistice Day, later introduced an annual match with Rangers which started in 1933 as the Game of Champions – a series that was created via Chapman’s friendship with Bill Struth of Rangers. Struth had been at Rangers longer than Chapman at Arsenal, and had watched Arsenal grow from being relegation fodder into the dominant side.
Which is partly why I watch events at Ibrox with interest, although I always admit that I’m unlikely to get all the information right. (Fortunately there are many who would correct me). For while, despite many ups and downs – not least in the disasters of the post-Whittaker era, and the latter years of Bertie Mee’s reign, Arsenal have survived and continued at or near the top, Rangers have been put into administration and their newly formed club made to start again from the fourth tier in Scottish football.
It does show to me how easy it is for a club at the top to succumb, and why eternal vigilance is required to stop madmen and crooks from taking over one’s club.
As with all such matters this one seems to go round and round. The club does have money still, but it has players to pay, players who, the last time I saw the story in the press, refused to take a pay cut to help the club out. Some reports suggest they have only enough money left to last another month or even that after this month’s salaries are paid out, that will be that.
So, like may before them, they have started offering share issues, and there is talk of the owner of Newcastle (a man who has not made himself the most popular person in the city, and who already owns a minority part of Rangers) might take over. In one twist it turned out that Ashley owned the naming rights to Rangers’ stadium, and he had bought them for £1. The report suggested that Rangers then spent £250,000 in legal fees trying to get the right back – but failed. But of course I can’t verify such tales. But Ashley does seem to own the club’s outlet for replica kit etc.
The Rangers Union of Fans spokesman is quoted as saying, “With just £1.2m in the bank at the moment this will make it difficult to pay the next wage bill.” But he also wondered why the matter has been made so public – and that is always the case when different parties are fighting over a company. One talks, another answers, and so on it goes.
In one court appearance however the QC for Rangers said the club’s financial situation was improving saying, “When we were last here, we heard how the share issue would only keep the lights on at Ibrox. I can tell you the floodlights are back on at Ibrox and are in no danger of being switched off. Talks are at an advanced stage with two potential investors. The club has not been in rude health for some time. But the situation is improving. The club is trading its way out of difficulties. Its current position is the envy of many English Premiership [his error not mine] clubs.”
Which is quite a statement to make, and I wonder how many Premier League clubs would like to be identified with Rangers’ current financial state.
However Kenny McBrearty for Mr Ahmad, said “A pattern of diminishing working capital is evident. There is nothing concrete that there is a saviour for Rangers.”
There are always people who, according to their own publicity, are wanting to take over, however. One businessman offered to put £30m into Rangers if the board all resigned. But as Andy Goram said, this promise has been around for a while and nothing is happening.
“The fans had three choices this summer. You either paid season ticket money, went game to game or gave your money to King (the would-be saviour of the club). I am not sure how many gave it to King.
The problem is that if Rangers fail as a company again, a second administration might well be much harder to come out of than the first as the terms imposed second time around can be harder to deal with. Additionally each new offer of money will always come with more special requirements.
Quite when all this can be sorted I have no idea as the case is not set to be heard until November – although the way these things move that date could already have been changed.
What seems to be clear is that if the current rights issue does not work out then Rangers will be on the edge – unless of course someone else comes in with a lot of money. But the problem here is that, as we know from all the stories Untold has covered about criminal activity in football, football clubs are considered quite handy things to have by crooks. Not least for their ability to be used for money laundering. In fact the story has broken this week of a club (as yet unnamed) that exists for nothing other than money laundering. If you’ve read our pieces in the past on how clubs are used, you won’t be surprised. The details of the crash of Portsmouth from cup winners to fourth division survivors makes interesting reading and the way money moves easily between clubs across countries in football does make it the perfect arena for off-loading money made via criminal activity.
Back in Scotland, one interesting snippet in all this is a line from Rangers’ QC who said that the club would be in a position to pay any costs by the time the case is ultimately resolved in the new year.
Now I don’t get that. If that is a “we’ll have new investors we need by next year, you mark my words” type of bravado, then I am not sure it helps. Mr Ahmad’s lawyer, Kenny McBrearty, said the court should ignore this because circumstances at Rangers had changed since the case was heard earlier this year.
But that statement by the QC isn’t helpful, because it is exactly what crooks say when destroying a football club. He could do with a spot of PR advice in my opinion – very much from the outside. Even if it is true, it is not a clever thing to say, because it makes him sound like a charlatan.
Meanwhile the hearing of Mr Ahmad’s claim to a bonus for setting up Rangers £10m kit deal with Puma will take place in the winter.
As for the supporters, I wouldn’t dare suggest I can summarise what they think, but I have seen repeated reports that show that the club now has 15,000 fewer season-ticket holders than last season when it was in the third tier, which presumably says a lot about how they feel the show is running.
To me it all goes to show you have to be careful with who runs your football club, and what their background is.
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