RANGERS chief executive Craig Mather has insisted there is no cash crisis at the Ibrox club and accused the current board’s opponents of using “smoke and mirrors” to paint a bleak picture of its finances.
In their first audited annual accounts since last year’s descent into administration and liquidation, Rangers yesterday reported operating losses of £14 million for a 13-month period to 30 June 2013.
On that date, the club had £11.2m remaining in the bank after raising £35.2m, including £22.2m from last December’s stock exchange share issue.
Some shareholders, including a group led by businessman Jim McColl and former Rangers director Paul Murray, have raised concerns over the financial management of the club and are seeking to oust Mather and his fellow board members at the annual general meeting, which will take place at Ibrox on 24 October.
That move has earned the backing of a section of the Rangers support who protested during last Saturday’s home league game against Stenhousemuir. But Mather says they have been misled by the “rebel” group of shareholders. He addressed specific claims that both Ibrox Stadium and the Murray Park training complex are not wholly owned by Rangers.
“My ultimate concern is that a lot of these fans are being lied to,” said Mather. “There is no sale and leaseback on Murray Park or Ibrox. Categorically, that is not the case and the club isn’t running out of cash.
“There are people out there who want to use smoke and mirrors. I can’t change that. I one hundred per cent believe in freedom of speech and that the fans should have a voice.
“But one concern I do have is that I’ve had a number of people e-mailing and speaking to me, saying they are not going to bring their kids to the game because of this, because of some of the protests and the language.
“We don’t want to starve the club of the next generation and it’s important that the message is delivered in a sensible fashion. I’ve already had an email from some of the fans groups asking if I’ll meet them ahead of the AGM and I’m happy to do so.”
Rangers reported turnover, or revenue, of £19.1m for the accounting period. Of that total, £13.2m came from matchday income, both gate receipts and hospitality. The club earned just £778,000 from broadcasting rights.
Of the £11.2m in the bank at the end of June, £4.5m came from season ticket renewals. They reported an operational debt of £1.6m from equipment finance leases but no bank debt.
First-team wages to turnover ratio was reduced to 43 per cent, with the first-team wage bill standing at £7.8m. With 15 non-playing staff made redundant, overall staff costs were reduced from £30m to £17.9m.
There was £4.3m of non-recurring costs, including the payment of £2.4m in football debts owed from pre-administration. The club also suffered a blow with the collapse of sports retailer JJB, costing them an anticipated income of £3m.
“The report is very positive,” said Mather. “They are great results and well on track. The club isn’t trading at a loss every month.”
The figures include £6.7m spent on the assets and business of the club when Charles Green’s consortium completed their deal for Rangers with administrators Duff & Phelps. Mather firmly rebutted suggestions that cost was paid with money raised from the share issue.
“That’s categorically untrue,” he said. “It’s just mischief making. The club was bought by the Green consortium and I wasn’t part of it at that juncture. Monies were paid in good faith for those trading assets, full stop.”
Rangers also announced to the stock exchange yesterday that former chief executive Green no longer has a notifiable interest in the club, meaning his shareholding has dropped below three per cent. The Yorkshire businessman received almost £1m from the club in salary, bonus, benefits in kind and severance payment before his departure.
Mather was initially introduced to Rangers as an investor by Green, but insists: “I haven’t spoken to Charles Green in a long time.”