Saturday 19 August 2017

Rangers revel in 'stability' as SPL title eases financial woes

Ronnie Esplin

Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston has revealed that the cash-strapped Ibrox club have taken this season's Scottish Premier League success all the way to the bank.

The Light Blues are nearly £31m in debt and under investigation by HM Revenue and Customs with regards to tax issues, with majority shareholder David Murray still looking for a buyer, despite long-standing interest from London-based property developer Andrew Ellis.

However, amid those financial worries and restrictions, manager Walter Smith won the club their second successive SPL title last month.

Johnston, in Las Vegas for the NARSA (North American Rangers Supporters Association) convention, said that retaining the league championship and thus qualifying for the lucrative group stages of the Champions League, has altered a previously fractious relationship with the club's bankers, Lloyds Bank.

"It was a great relief and a great sense of satisfaction because the team were stretched and everybody -- the management team, the executive team, the players and the fans -- hung in there.

"It was a very proud year for Rangers Football Club.

Whacked

"There have been disappointments -- we didn't like getting whacked at home in the Champions League a couple of times -- but beyond that, we dug the results out.

"But winning the SPL was key, I think, huge. We were very logical in what we did.

"We had a meeting with the bank that was scheduled the day after the end of the season, until we knew we were going to win the SPL and go to the group stages directly -- and that wasn't necessarily within our control.

"To get into the group stages was a huge difference going into the bank meeting.

"And we had a series of meetings after that.

"Our relationship with the bank is a lot better this year.

"We changed the protocol. Rangers executives are dealing directly with the bank, whereas last year we were going through the Murray Group and, to be fair to everybody, that wasn't the healthiest way of doing it -- a lot of things got lost in the translation, you might say.

"So this year we have a better understanding with the bank, they have a better understanding with us and the performance of the team overall has eased the tension and awful lot."

Rangers fans were given another boost following the title win when Smith signed a one-year deal to remain at Ibrox, with the idea that his assistant Ally McCoist and coach Kenny McDowall, who also signed new contracts, will take over as the new management duo the following season.

Johnston believes that retaining the services of the three men, who had worked without a contract since January, allows further stability at the club.

He said: "Walter was very, very important because -- and I said this to him during the conversations I had with him when we really got down to it a couple of weeks back -- his presence is really important.

"He is a great coach, a great manager and his presence was vital in my opinion. The result of us announcing Walter staying another year has been everything I expected it to be.

"We went the extra mile to get him there; we gave him a lot of time to think about it and, of course, getting Ally and Kenny locked up beyond that, we wanted the fans to know that we are stable, we have a plan, and we know what we are doing.

"It also means that the players who are there this year can't slack off a little bit because hopefully, all things going well, Ally and Kenny, the next gaffers if you will, are watching them.

"So hopefully we will get a transitional performance from players who might not have put in the extra mile in.

"Ally and Kenny can go about their business without getting nervous or trying to impress.

"I think this will be a great year to prepare them."

Irish Independent

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