THE fact that Graham Wallace was the only member of the Rangers board mentioned by name in Ally McCoist’s address to the club’s AGM this week has been read as revealing that the chief executive is the one official McCoist was willing to publicly endorse.
Maybe there was more to it than that. Perhaps it was an attempt by the Rangers manager to curry favour with a man who intends to clips his wings. Not for Wallace the rhetoric of Charles Green and Craig Mather when they took charge – to the effect that “Ally must be supported in the transfer market” and that Rangers must think big and bold in their signings.
For Wallace, the club must think about being sustainable and it is impossible to reconcile his assertion that the playing budget has thus far been too high for Rangers’ position, with McCoist’s refrain that more and more investment is required to ready the club for the top flight which they should reach in 18 months’ time. As early as next month, the pruning and paring back of the Rangers squad could begin, said Wallace.
For £5,000-a-week signings such as David Templeton and Dean Shiels, that could mean being hastily ushered towards the exit door, assuming another club could be found that would be willing to cover their generous salaries.
Wallace said: “We had £19 million of top-line revenue and a £14.5m operating loss last year.
“Even if you strip out £10m in one-off items, the business was still losing £4.5m on a normalised basis. Quite clearly that is an issue for us. We have got considerable cost base in terms of staff costs, the player wage costs and, indeed, the infrastructure and running costs of the business. One of the things I am committed to do is looking at every area of the business from top to bottom, to identify what we have got now, and what we need going forward. My expectation is we will take some costs out of the business.
“We need to do the work. We need to identify where it makes sense to take money out of the equation, what the quantum is. If you look at the size of our playing squad, the financial components of our playing squad, we have the second most expensive wage bill in Scotland and yet we are playing in the third tier. You need to look at that at a point in time. Some of the players we have came over from the administration, so the club took over contracts that were already in place. Part of the challenge that I have in working with the manager is in balancing the football capability that we have with the costs of that capability so that we have still got a winning team, a team that is playing attractive football, and looking through the next 18 to 24 months in terms of going into the second tier and then back to the top division. It is getting that balance between what we need today and then looking forward for the next two years.
“Whether we get to the point [in January] where we agree that there are a number of players we would be open to either letting go on loan or take offers for is, obviously, dependent on there being a market for them and clubs being interested,” he said. “What we have to do, and we are starting that process with the manager now, is looking at the squad and making what we hope are the right decisions for the club, for the near term but with an eye firmly through to the next 18 months.”
Wallace was reluctant to take issue with his predecessors for the deals they sanctioned. In a roundabout way, however, he firmly made his point about the lunacy of the football costs at Ibrox in a part-time environment.
“I don’t think it is my place to look back and criticise or critique the rationale for some of the things that were done in the past. However, if you look at the key elements and our player wage bill now, we signed eight players in the summer window in 2013, on a mixture of contracts, to add to the players who were already there – some of whom were on significant contracts. If you look at that in totality with the club’s projected income – last year’s income and the projected income from this year – there is a mismatch. So, if I was sitting making those decisions today, would I make the same decisions? No, I don’t think I would. But I don’t have all the background and facts that led up to those decisions being made so I think it is inappropriate for me to be pointing fingers.”