IT WAS presented as an earth-shattering event in certain media circles this week, a possible obstacle on Rangers’ road to the top flight.
Yet the suggestion that Ally McCoist may have to accept a £1 million cut to his £6m player budget could easily prompt another response: is that all? The League One winners-in-waiting will next season compete in a Championship wherein the average wage bill will be £500,000. Meanwhile, the club’s finance director Brian Stockbridge remains beholden to the admission that the club could be down to its last £1m by April. In this newspaper three weeks ago, former chairman Malcolm Murray maintained that, with the £22m raised from a share issue gone, fresh investment of £10m is needed to keep the club solvent across the next 18 months. The City would appear to see the portents as gloomy, with the club’s share price tumbling and the book value of the club almost halving in recent months.
Against this backdrop, McCoist can appear either to be in denial or obstructive over cost reductions that his chief executive Graham Wallace has declared imperative. The pair remain in talks over savings, but McCoist petitions that his stance is not about saving face and hanging the consequences.
“I would never want to operate with a budget that would put the club in jeopardy,” he says. “To me it is all about giving our supporters the best team we can afford. We are different from all the other clubs we have come up against or would come up against if we progress to the Championship. We have 36,000 season ticket holders and that allows us to operate with a much higher wage bill.
“There will be debates and arguments about how high that wage bill should be but, from my point of view, I would hate people to think I’ve been told my budget is too high and it needs to come down and haven’t been responsive. It has not been like that. I think we can all see there have been other more pressing problems that have affected the finances.”
The “more pressing problems” is a clear reference to director enrichment under the Charles Green axis that has emptied the coffers and led to the word “administration” once more being bandied about in connection with the Ibrox club. McCoist can claim to have done his bit to ease financial pressures in the short term by accepting a cut to his £825,000 salary, believed to be around 50 per cent. How Wallace must wish he could now go round Rangers’ playing squad and slash the many over-generous salaries in similar fashion. While the chief executive would no doubt move on in an instant such as the sparingly-deployed Dean Shiels and David Templeton, neither player would be able to pick up elsewhere the £5,000-plus weekly wage they command at Ibrox. McCoist isn’t prepared to take issue with the salary inflation the club allowed itself to be mired in from the instant it started out in the then Third Division, but understands the difficulties it has created.
“I didn’t give [the contracts] out and it would be unfair of me to comment on previous people within the club who made those decisions. I would certainly not be critical of them,” he says. “The players have come and at that time there didn’t seem to be a major issue involving that. I can only play with the cards I’ve been dealt. I don’t know the financial situation within the club at the moment, I don’t know if they are getting paid too much, I don’t know if they shouldn’t have been offered what they were. I’ve got no idea.
“There’s no right or wrong to this. Everybody will have an opinion on it and it’s up for debate. Should our wage bill be one million, two million? The bottom line is, how do we get the wage bill down? If people are saying it’s right to get it down, how do we do that when people are on contracts?”
You sell and chip away at the squad until your football wage costs are the widely accepted sensible figure of around 50 per cent of your turnover, which for Rangers would be in the region of £5m. A huge sum in the context of Scottish football, and still second only to Celtic. Right now, Rangers have few sellable assets but the likes of Lee Wallace, Cammy Bell and Nicky Law will not be going anywhere as far as McCoist is concerned.
“I wouldn’t expect that [Wallace will be sold], not at all. Graham’s never said that. The first meeting was over a right few hours and he never said, ‘We need to sell him, we could do with getting rid of him’. I promise you, there’s not been that conversation at all. He said at the agm that there would be cuts but he’s never told me where they’ll be specifically. The meetings are ongoing and I’ll meet him early in the week. The club’s survival is and always will be of paramount importance. But unless there is an imminent threat of administration, the most important thing is that we continue to progress by getting out of the divisions.”