Tam's Tales

- Rangers - A Glasgow Institution in Crisis

Ibrox, Rangers FootballClub Stadium
Ibrox, Rangers FootballClub Stadium

Lawrence Legend
For many years, Glasgow's 'Old Firm' of Rangers and Celtic has ruled Scotland's football roost. Half of that firm is now teetering on the verge of financial catastrophe - Rangers is nearly bust.

When I was young, I recall seeing a chauffeured Rolls-Royce with a 23-carat tycoon ensconced in its luxurious interior. In those days this was a rare sight. That tycoon was John Lawrence, a big cheese in Rangers Football Club. Rangers, whose Ibrox ground was near to the Govan shipyards, engendered huge loyalty amongst its supporters,

Lawrence was a builder. His company, John Lawrence Construction, built many a suburban house near my childhood home. Perhaps Scottie, who lives in that area, recalls the slogan 'A home of your own by John Lawrence.'

Lawrence played the part of the local tycoon with some panache. I was told that his personal office was reproduction of the headmaster of Eton College, the swankiest of all British schools. The building company is no more, so it might be difficult to verify the story, but it demonstrates the Lawrence legend.

Even then, when I was quite young, I was aware that Mr Lawrence's Rangers would not employ any footballer of the Roman Catholic faith. That offended my youthful liberal instincts and I am glad that the longstanding Rangers' policy was abolished when Mo Johnston was signed, albeit as late as 1989.

The Lawrence connection with Rangers ended when, in 1986, Lawrence Marlborough, the builder's grandson, sold the club to David Murray, an Edinburgh based businessman.

All Change at Ibrox
In August of this year, Murray stood down as chairman of the club and announced his intention of selling the club. So far no buyer has come forward and it is apparent that the club has immense financial problems. Walter Smith, the club's highly regarded manager, has said that it is "obvious to everyone that the bank is running the club."

The club's bankers have put in a company doctor to help salvage the situation. Donald Muir is a 'company doctor' based in Kent whose cost-cutting style has earned him the nickname of 'Doctor No.'

I do not know all the ins and outs of the causes of the club's financial woes, but clearly the collapse of the Irish TV station, Setanta, who had a deal with Rangers, was a severe blow.

What will happen next? I doubt if anyone knows. Rangers is an iconic brand, with many people still willing to pay substantial sums for season tickets, corporate hospitality arrangements and replica strips for themselves or their kids.

But if Rangers is to survive it will be as a more modest outfit. The days when the average Rangers player would get paid more in a week than the average supporter earns in a year, might have run its course.

The gap between Rangers and the other Scottish clubs might lessen. In recent years, both Rangers and Celtic have wanted to bail out of the Scottish Premier League so that they could compete against top English clubs, such as Chelsea and Manchester United, and collect a share of the lucrative broadcasting rights these matches would bring. These attempts always failed. Now perhaps the matches against Aberdeen, Motherwell, and the Edinburgh clubs of Hearts and Hibernian, will be closer and more interesting contests.

TV Cash Drought
The big TV bucks that Rangers has enjoyed in recent years has helped pay for the 'hired guns' - players who have had no previous connection with the club.. In the past Rangers players, tended to have solid Scottish names like Jim and Willie. The current squad still has some home grown talent, but less than in the past. Walter Smith has said that all of the current squad are for sale.

Perhaps it is thinking that is too wishful, but my hope would be for a club which took a bit less but might give a bit more. A new look organisation, which despite having less financial clout, would be a Glasgow club that is nearer to its roots and the rest of the Scottish football scene. It might make Scottish football less of a two horse race.

I know that many readers follow the fortunes of Scottish football clubs and there are many Rangers supporters around the world who will have their own views on the current situation. If you want to write to me, the email address is tam@rampantscotland.com.

Tam O'Ranter
November 2009

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