IF THERE is a pyramid of anxieties among Rangers fans in the wake of the publication of the club’s financial position, it will surely be topped by the dread that the new company which arose from the old last year will topple back into the abyss.
Such an eventuality has been deemed in some quarters to be unlikely to the point of impossibility, but, since the voices of “reassurance” have come mainly from inside the Ibrox boardroom and other parties with vested interests, the natural retort to the claims would be a sceptical “they would say that, wouldn’t they?”.
In the matter of drawing optimism from audited accounts which appear to confirm a level of pillaging that would have shamed the Vikings, the chief executive, Craig Mather, has tended to offer the least convincing case since Richard Nixon told the American people that “there can be no whitewash in the White House”.
Mather’s most insistent defence against accusations of financial profligacy on an almost crippling scale has become something of a mantra: “We have money in the bank and we are debt-free.” This would be considerably more impressive if Rangers were debt-free by choice rather than necessity, the result of their recent history of collapse that left creditors of every size owed millions.
With no credit line available, the club will be operating on a pay-as-you-go basis, thereby necessitating regular recourse to their “savings”. Since the latest balance sheet includes the great bulk of the season-ticket money for the present campaign, it seems legitimate to infer that withdrawals at the bank continue to exceed deposits.
In this regard, the worry lurking one level below the fear of another administration will derive from the realisation that the figures released this week are already out of date. Since the accounts reach only until the end of June and costs have had to be met in the three full months since, it is reasonable to assume that the balance at the bank is appreciably less than the £11 million reported by the auditors. In the circumstances, it was hardly shocking to hear the testimony of a football finance specialist that, without a significant improvement in their revenues, Rangers will run out of money by the middle of next season.
But anyone who takes a dispassionate view of the figures will surely concede that Mather and his directorial team are entitled to emphasise that the alarming £14m loss recorded last year was due in no small measure to a substantial number of non-recurring expenses and that the seemingly devastating figures contained in the audit are, in relation to the coming months, at least partly artificial.
Mather, by and large, did not make enough of this aspect of the club’s finances and its potential impact on future trading. It is possible, of course, that he did not wish to draw attention to the ludicrous amounts of money paid to executives such as Charles Green (almost £1m) and Brian Stockbridge (more than £400,000) and the astonishing £825,000 salary of the manager, Ally McCoist.
McCoist’s earnings could be considered perverse merely in the context of the club’s economic devastation over the past three years, but, from a purely footballing angle, it is an irresponsible reward for someone with no managerial experience operating in the fourth tier of Scottish football. His wages are nearly two-and-a-half times the £350,000 paid to Alex McLeish by the then owner, David Murray, in 2001. It was only when McLeish won the treble in 2003, at the end of his first full season, that he received an appropriate increase.
The present manager’s income becomes absurd when it is set beside the club’s total annual turnover of £19m. To lend that ratio some kind of perspective, Manchester United would have to pay their new manager, David Moyes, almost £16m per annum. United’s recently declared record revenue of £365m means that they require a mere 19 days to match Rangers’ yearly “take”.
Despite the hair-raising anomaly, McCoist and Stockbridge have attracted plaudits from some for agreeing, respectively, to take a wage cut and waive directorial bonuses that were already scandalous. It is rather like praising someone for not robbing a bank.
King of cool Guardiola can land third crown
In his new incarnation as a co-commentator for Sky Sports, Gary Neville frequently gives glimpses of the astuteness and articulacy that made him, as a player, Manchester United’s resident barrack-room lawyer.
Rarely stuck for the telling phrase, the former England full-back had a ready riposte to colleague Martin Tyler’s observation on how cool Pep Guardiola appeared as his Bayern
Munich strode imperiously around the Etihad Stadium, wiping the floor with the often formidable Manchester City as they went.
“I’d be cool too, if I’d been given the jobs he has,” said Neville, an allusion to the suave Spaniard’s present employment and his previous post as manager of Barcelona. With two Champions League triumphs already on his cv from four years with Barca, Guardiola is an understandably short-priced favourite to collect a third with a side that looks much more comprehensively equipped than the one he left in Catalonia.
Manchester City’s volatility –
capable, in the space of a few weeks, of losing to Cardiff City and Aston Villa, while contemptuously dismissing neighbours United with a 4-1 hammering at Old Trafford that could have been even more emphatic – could make Bayern’s apparently breathtaking form unreliable. But City are clearly the kind of team who require to be stimulated by the occasion to produce their best, and there is little doubt they were taking Wednesday’s collision seriously.
But Bayern, virtually unchallengeable all over the field, already hold the European title, and appear capable of matching, or even surpassing, their Franz Beckenbauer-inspired, three-in-a-row predecessors from the mid-1970s.