DCSIMG

Ali Russell has brand plan to sell Rangers worldwide

Ali Russell knows there is room for only one Super Ally at Ibrox. After a three-year spell at Queens Park Rangers, the new Ibrox director of operations is aware that adulation is rarely bestowed on those who work on the marketing side of football.

It was at Loftus Road, with a club partly owned by Grand Prix supremo Bernie Ecclestone, where he learned what he termed the "Formula 1 model for football".

Russell, who started the football-related part of his career at Hearts, has now swapped one Rangers for another.

When it comes to marketing, as far as fans of the Ibrox Rangers are concerned, there is only one Brand worth talking about - and he was called Ralph and played for the club in the Fifties and Sixties.

However, Russell is hoping to employ the knowledge he accrued at QPR to keep his new club at the front of the grid.

"What we want to do is to take this club forward and today is the start of that," he said yesterday.

"I'm looking forward to helping develop the brand of this club, not just in Scotland but also nationally and internationally."

After a stint working in rugby, Russell has certainly worked under some colourful people in football. He wasn't keen to look back on his time at Tynecastle, where he served owner Vladimir Romanov's unorthodox regime. "There were some trying situations there but the club succeeded in many ways," is all he would say. "I really want to look forward and not back."

Although in a different, more hands-on role at Ibrox, his concerns are familiar ones. "How do we generate more interest in Scottish football?" he asked. "How do we become central to that? How do we move it forward?"

These are questions that have been pondered for decades. Yet the answers are still no easier to find. It means that nothing can be ruled out at Rangers but Russell is understandably hesitant when asked about the emotive issue of re-naming the famous ground after a sponsor.

"At this stage we consider everything," he replied. "But it's not something we'd go out and look at. Ibrox is synonymous with Rangers Football Club. So I don't think it's something we would consider at this stage. We're very protective of our intellectual property and Ibrox is synonymous with Rangers."

There might, though, be changes made in and around the stadium. "It's about looking at all avenues," said Russell. "It's about looking at the real estate here. How do we maximise that? Is it just a football ground used for football or does it have more uses?

"Obviously, football is the core focus but can we use the rooms on non-match days more effectively? What do we do to grow the brand, where do we play as a football team? How do we integrate international players so that we're building the brand in different markets?"

The 'where do we play?' comment caused eyebrows to shoot upwards. Never mind renaming Ibrox, surely Rangers were not about to up-sticks completely? Russell quickly explained what he meant. Rangers, who are due to visit Germany next month on pre-season duties, will consider their destinations for future tours carefully. "In terms of friendlies, we went to Australia last year - do we go to the US, do we go to Japan?

"We don't just go where the biggest cheque is. We look at growing a fan base in different areas of the world."There was once even talk of taking the Old Firm match on the road. Russell is not averse to increasing its profile abroad, even if the image of this particular clash was badly tarnished last season.

"The Old Firm game is a fantastic game," he said. "It's about making it the biggest rivalry in world football. How do we ensure that without some of the negativity that maybe came to the surface last season?"

It might be a deathless phrase for many, but Russell is conscious of maximising markets. Yesterday, Rangers announced that their opening SPL fixture against Hearts will be shown live both inside and outside the UK on RangersTV.tv, their own dedicated television channel. Agreement has been reached with both the Scottish Premier League and Sky Sports, who will also show the match.

"Now our fans will be able to watch the league flag being unfurled and the Hearts match live on the internet anywhere in the world," said Russell. Unsurprisingly, the revolution will be televised.

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page