FORMER Rangers defender Arthur Numan admits he can see why Ibrox directors may be tempted to rename Ibrox and improve the club’s financial clout.
• Rangers close to £2.5m deal to rename stadium
• Deal with Sports Director owner Mike Ashley set to be formalised later this week
Reports yesterday suggested Rangers are close to agreeing a £2.5 million deal with Newcastle United and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley over stadium naming rights. Ashley, who recently bought a sizeable stake in the club when it was floated on the AIM stock exchange and whose firm is already an official retail partner of Rangers, caused controversy when he renamed Newcastle’s home St James’s Park the Sports Direct Arena in 2011. The stadium reverted back to his previous name last October. Rangers manager Ally McCoist has said in the past he is open-minded on the issue of renaming Ibrox, although a section of the support have been vocal in their opposition to the plans. Numan – who played for Rangers between 1998 and 2003 – said: “If you mention Ibrox, everybody knows it’s Rangers and if you mention Parkhead, everybody knows it’s Celtic. But, nowadays, it’s all down to the money. If a big company knocks on the door and wants to spend a couple of million to change the name, it’s very tempting for the chairman. I can imagine they would consider actually changing the name.
“I think they will look into everything, especially finance-wise. We know all about the problems of the last couple of years and that’s the reason why they are now in the Third Division. We have seen it with Arsenal with the Emirates Stadium and the reason is the money. It’s not because they like the name – it’s because they are paid millions for it.”
Numan can also understand chief executive Charles Green’s desire to see Rangers quit Scottish football if the 12-12-18 league reconstruction plans are introduced. However, the Dutchman is well aware of just how long the debate has been ongoing over the Old Firm plying their trade elsewhere, without any hint of success so far. He said: “I heard it as well when I came to Scotland in 1998. Rangers and Celtic were already talking about moving down south. Maybe this is the chance for the club to go to England and start in the lower divisions and try to work their way up to the Premier League but it’s been going on for years and years.
“I can understand it because they are now playing in the Third Division against all of the smaller teams. With respect, it’s not something that you have in mind when you are the chairman of Rangers.”
With a switch to England still highly unlikely, a European league may be a more realistic alternative for the Old Firm in the future. Numan said: “It’s also been the talk for the last couple of years in Holland. Teams like PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord, Twente and some teams in Belgium, like Anderlecht and Club Brugge, could compete against each other on a higher level and make it a little more interesting.
“When I came here, the discussions were about Rangers and Celtic moving to England and, when that was not possible, all of a sudden, you had the talk about Rangers and Celtic joining PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord and Anderlecht and maybe some Scandinavian teams to have their own league.
“But the other question is what about the fans? Do they travel abroad? Here, everything is in the area, you can jump in the car or the bus. If you have to play games in Europe once a fortnight, will the fans still travel and support the team? It will cost them a lot of money.”
Meanwhile, Rangers will break the half million barrier in home attendances this season when they play their next match at Ibrox, despite being in the Third Division. The Ibrox club, who have now attracted more fans this season than the combined attendances for the past five years in the Third Division, currently have the fifth biggest average attendance in British football.