JUST OVER a week ago, at a meeting of the various supporters’ groups at Ibrox, the Rangers hierarchy sold a vision of the future that must have looked so extraordinarily bright that some in the room may have been tempted to reach for the credit card there and then in order to get aboard the Charles Green Express.
From the top table, a vista was created where the global reach of Rangers amounted to 500 million people; 500 million people being about seven per cent of the world’s population. Green imagined how good it would be if these 500 million Bears just threw in a couple of quid every week to watch their team play live on their mobile phones and their tablets from far-flung places on the planet. He concluded that Rangers could generate £100 million in media rights every year. We’ll say that again; £100m. That’s £39.4m more than Manchester City made from Sky Sports when winning the English Premiership last season. That’s still £10.1m more than City would make even if they won the league again when the new and eye-watering £3bn Sky Sports/BT deal kicks in next year.
Is £100m do-able? Of course… for the likes of Manchester United. When Sir Alex Ferguson’s team won the Premiership in 2010-11 they also won seven Champions League matches out of nine, drawing the other two, on their way to the final at Wembley against Barcelona. Their television revenue for the season amounted to something approaching £119m, so there you go. It can be done. But Rangers aren’t Manchester United. They don’t play in the Premiership.
They’re not even in the SPL, never mind the Champions League. Green reckons he can rival the big guns down south in terms of media rights by live streaming their games, the example he cited on the night he met the fans’ groups being Rangers’ Third Division clash with East Stirlingshire which is being sold to web viewers online in the UK and abroad. This is the future, says Green. Let’s see how many of the 500 million buy into it.
Oscar Wilde once said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Maybe Green is looking at the stars and who could blame him? Selling a vision of what Rangers might become is great. That’s what chief executives are supposed to do, but the plan has to have some semblance in reality to have meaning and Green’s presentation lacks meaning. Five hundred million Rangers fans watching live streams and, get this, live interaction during games with non-participating players as well as with the management? How does that work? “Ally, before you make that substitution can you answer a question here from Joe in Cumbernauld?”
Green spoke about Rangers one day having an annual turnover of £100m plus another £100m on top of that from new technologies. He stated that the group stages of the Champions League should be the club’s minimum expectation every year, with Rangers making the quarter-finals every other year and, in a particularly good season, maybe even the semi-finals. They will do all of this, of course, without entering the SPL and winning the title that allows them entry to the Champions League in the first place. Quite how Green intends to make the Champions League every year while maintaining his stance of having nothing at all to do with the SPL is something he hasn’t explained beyond making a prediction that the SPL will die and that Rangers will soon be playing their bread-and-butter football in some kind of pan-European competition instead. Watched by their 500 million fans worldwide, no doubt.
This is what Green is brilliant at. He plays on the supporters’ love for their club and their view that they have been done in to a scandalous degree by the media and the footballing authorities for too long and that now it’s time to fight back.
Green feeds off that stuff. Recently, he told a story about a meeting he had in Geneva with delegates from other European clubs. Many of the delegates, he said, were shocked and appalled at the way Rangers have been treated. He said he couldn’t name names, but revealed that one delegate had admitted his own club had bribed referees and hadn’t received as harsh a punishment as Rangers. If you were a Rangers fan listening to that it could only serve to reinforce the sense of anger you have towards the domestic game as well as convincing you even further that Green is the Messiah who will put things right.
But the Messiah needs watching. There is no doubting his skills as a salesman. In the space of two or three weeks, Green went from being a pariah among the Rangers support to being a great Redeemer and protector of Bears everywhere. It was a tactical masterstroke achieved by telling the fans everything they want to hear, from the jealousy and vengeance and bigotry of some of their SPL rivals, to the shady practices of the SFA and SPL, to the bitterness of the media. It was a smorgasbord of things, all of which resulted in Green going from persona non grata among the Ibrox masses to some kind of hero to whom they seem ready to part with their cash ahead of the floating of the club on the stock exchange.
Some Rangers fans are asking questions of Green. Some still believe that he’s just too good to be true. Their cynicism is well-placed. Green’s explanation of what he intends to do with the money they invest in shares in the club – minimum price of £500 per investor – was paper-thin and demanded challenging.
The crowd-pleasing line was that he would spend some of it on strengthening the team, but Rangers folk have heard that from him before. In the summer he said he had 19 signing targets of whom five were playing in Euro 2012, which was taking place when he made the comment. None of the five arrived. Indeed, Ally McCoist said publicly during the transfer window that he needed about half a dozen new players and he got nowhere near that amount.
When Green dangles the carrot of new players coming to the club, supporters shouldn’t forget what he said in the past just because they like what he says in the present. He hasn’t delivered.
There are many, many questions to ask of Green and the people behind him and where the money has come from, where it’s going and what kind of state Rangers will be in when the Green years are at an end and he’s “retired in France”.
For a support that feels persecuted it’s easy to believe in a guy who tells you everything you want to hear. Scepticism is a useful trait in football. Never more so than now.