Obituary: Hugh Adam, visionary former director of Rangers FC who predicted the club’s woes a decade ago

Hugh Adam. Picture: Robert Perry
Hugh Adam. Picture: Robert Perry
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Born: 20 September 1925, in Hamilton. Died: 29 December, 2012, in Hairmyres Hospital, Lanarkshire, aged 87

If anyone wishes to see the true legacy of Hugh Adam, they must visit Ibrox Stadium, home of Rangers FC and one of the finest stadia in Europe which was years ahead of its time when it was reconstructed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As the hard-working and visionary chief of Rangers Pools, the largest such club pool betting operation of its kind in the UK, Adam took charge of the Rangers Development Fund and, in that capacity, he led the drive to raise the funds for the new stadium.

Its creation, masterminded by the then former manager Willie Waddell, followed the second Ibrox Disaster, that of 2 January, 1971, in which 66 people were killed and more than 200 injured by the collapse of stairway 13 of the old Ibrox.

The 1971 disaster cast a huge pall over Rangers for years, but, led by Waddell and with Adam making the development fund four times larger than that of any other British club, the new Ibrox took shape, fully opening in 1981 with a then capacity 
of 44,000, since boosted to 50,000.

Adam was associated with Rangers in one capacity or other for 30 years, including three spells as a director of the club.

Yet his first loves were athletics and rugby union, which he took up while a pupil at Hamilton Academy in the town where he was born, the fourth son of Robert Adam, a miner, and Elizabeth Rennie Walker. Their other sons were John, George and Bob, and all four attended the fee-paying Academy thanks to the financial sacrifices made by their parents.

Hugh Adam was the schools Sports Champion and came second in the 440 yards at the Scottish Championships. He remained sporty all his life, playing rugby for the Academy FPs for many years as well as taking up golf, snooker and table tennis, beating a certain Ally McCoist on one occasion at the latter game.

He did enjoy football and 
followed the fortunes of Hamilton Academical, while his mother’s brother, Duncan Walker, played for St Mirren, Northampton Town and Scotland.

Adam’s mother died when he was 17, which undoubtedly played a part in curtailing his studies in mathematics at Glasgow University. That he had a good head for figures was shown in his business career in which he first of all worked with his brother in their drapery business in Blantyre, before serious illness saw him hospitalised for a long period, ending with him losing a kidney.

After a spell with Rediffusion, Adam gained the position of 
assistant manager with Rangers Pools, becoming full manager shortly afterwards on the retirement of Alex Paterson.

With energy, foresight and natural good humour, Adam built up the Rangers Pools, setting turnover records year after year – by 1981, they had a turnover of £7 million with profits of £1.3m.

In all, the Pools raised an estimated £27m for Rangers during his time in charge.

Adam was first made a director of the football club in 1984, but resigned in mysterious circumstances three months later, following then chairman Rae Simpson and Willie Waddell out of the door.

He remained managing 
director of the Pools and Development Fund, a situation which caused some upset when David Murray took over the club in 1988.

Adam joined the board under Murray but left in 1992 before a final spell as director ended in 1996 with the relationship between chairman and 
director clearly sundered.

Shortly before his 1992 departure from the club’s board, Adam joined forces with a Labour MP whose footballing allegiances lay with the other side of the Old Firm, Brian Wilson, to oppose the introduction of the National Lottery on the grounds that smaller lotteries run by organisations such as football clubs would suffer badly.

Not for the first or last time, Adam was proved correct once the National Lottery came along, though such was the manner in which he made his arguments that he was taken on as an adviser to the Gaming Board on the Lottery.

In retirement he came to public notice for his statements about the way in which Rangers FC was being run, correctly predicting that the club would eventually face serious financial difficulties and stating that the club had operated dual contracts against football rules, a claim which is currently under investigation.

He sold his 59,000 shares in Rangers in 2002, saying they would soon be worthless. It gave him no pleasure whatsoever to be proven correct a decade later when the disastrous stewardship of Craig Whyte led to the club going into administration.

In retirement, Adam helped other clubs such as Derby County with their finances.

Adam suffered a heart attack at the age of 77, and though he recovered well, the seeds were sown of the heart failure which eventually led to his death. He had been hospitalised last summer but was in sufficient good health to be allowed home to celebrate his 87th birthday and his diamond wedding anniversary with his wife Jean.

Hugh Adam is survived by Jean, his daughter the Rev Dr Elizabeth Adam and son-in-law Matthew Henderson. His funeral has already taken place at Burnbank Parish Church in Hamilton.

At the service, Rev Elizabeth Adam gave an address in which she said: “Dad was a man of great integrity and honesty, who showed great kindness to others in his own life and his business practice.

“He will be sadly missed by many.”

MARTIN HANNAN