AT THE start of 2022, the world of football will be preparing for the imminent arrival of a winter World Cup in Qatar with a mixture of intrigue and trepidation. But this same year has also been identified as the target for when Rangers fans can expect to see their club back on the big stage.
The club’s long and short-term future was addressed yesterday by Paul Murray, the Rangers interim chairman, in a statement introducing interim results for the six-month period to 31 December 2014. Securing promotion to the Premiership remains the primary short-term objective under interim manager Stuart McCall.
Although conceding moving up a league via the play-offs is a “difficult task,” Murray also stressed “we believe he [McCall] can do it”. In the longer-term, the task is to focus on the next seven years, “so that by 2022…Rangers will be back at the very top”.
The year is significant not only because there is a World Cup scheduled to take place in the desert state of Qatar. It is also the 150th anniversary of the Ibrox club being formed in 1872. In addition, 2022 is the 50th anniversary of Rangers’ sole European success, when they beat Moscow Dynamo in Barcelona to lift the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.
Murray, or at least one of Rangers’ PR representatives, coined the term “2022 vision” to describe the club’s aims over the next few years. “The finance we are putting in place now will provide the infrastructure and personnel at Murray Park to make sure Rangers are competing and winning in Scotland’s top flight as well as stepping back into the European arenas again,” Murray said.
The Ibrox club last performed on the European stage in 2011, before financial meltdown took hold.
After years of mismanagement we need patience and support. We must never forget what has happened to our Club in the last four years. The new board will ensure that it never happens again.Paul Murray
Short-term ambitions are now in the hands of McCall, among others. The former Ibrox midfielder will hope to be considered for the permanent role by leading the club to promotion from the Championship this season. Rangers currently lie in third place and are seeking to move up via the play-offs.
Murray has been impressed by McCall, under whom Rangers remain undefeated. According to Murray, even McCall’s willingness to answer the call spoke volumes. “Stuart jumped at the challenge without fear or hesitation and that tells us a lot about the calibre of the man,” he said.
Although he did not say it in so many words, the interim chairman suggested that McCall’s chances of securing the permanent post of manager could hinge on promotion. “We cannot rush into making a final decision on the permanent position because the success of everything we are planning behind the scenes will depend almost entirely on the team’s ability to compete at the top,” Murray said. “Only 13 men have held the position of Rangers manager so we have a duty to take whatever time is necessary to find the right man,” he added. “We would expect Stuart to be a strong candidate in the process.”
Murray described the set of interim results, which show a loss after tax of £2.9 million, as “disappointing”. But the interim chairman stressed that funding plans, especially in the short-to-medium term, are “well advanced”.
Although he was not mentioned in the report, these words seemed to anticipate some form of financial contribution from Dave King, who is waiting for the Scottish Football Association to confirm he has passed their ‘fit and proper’ criteria. Along with Murray, King swept into power last month after wresting control from the previous regime at a general meeting.
The tone of Murray’s statement yesterday was positive. However, he did not allow previous incumbents to get away with mismanagement described as “simply staggering”.
Murray’s predecessor David Somers, who sneered his way through a volatile agm last December, is included among those taken to task for disrespecting such an esteemed position. “Sadly, those who have held this post in recent times have failed to recognise the profound significance of being chairman of Rangers,” Murray said. “The new directors have been in place only a matter of weeks but have already started to repair the damage caused through recent years of neglect and disrespect for this club, its people and its history,” he added.
Murray said they would present a medium to long-term funding plan in the “very near future” after plugging gaps in the short term by borrowing £1.5m from the so-called Three Bears – shareholders George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park.
The prospect of another rights issue was raised in the report, with what is described as “positive support” among current shareholders for one to be held this summer. “This is the mechanism by which interested parties wish to inject funds into the company,” it was stated.
But there was a reminder of how money continues to drain away. While Murray offered gratitude to former managers Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall, who did “all they could”, the report confirms they “will continue to be paid during their notice periods”.
But Murray noted the circumstances in which the men worked. “We should take into consideration the difficulties they both faced,” he said. “No-one felt secure and the life was being sucked out of Ibrox and Murray Park.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS