Tom English: Rangers flunked their finances
LAST summer, when Ally McCoist’s request for nine new players was granted by his then chief executive, Craig Mather, who was at fault? This was a club that had financial problems, that didn’t have the luxury of adding players to an already gob-smacking wage bill and yet added them anyway. Who was to blame?
It wasn’t McCoist. Managers everywhere will push their luck from now until kingdom come. It’s part of their gig. They go to their boss with a sob story and a cap in hand and hope for the best. Sometimes they get a result and sometimes they don’t. And McCoist got a result. You cannot blame the Rangers manager for recruiting but you can most certainly blame Mather and his financial director, Brian Stockbridge, for allowing him to recruit.
McCoist looks after matters on the field, the others were supposedly monitoring things off the field. They flunked it. They looked at the state of the finances and either mis-read them or ignored them and added to a wage bill that was drastically in need of a cut. This, of course, has been the way of things at Rangers for far too long. Mistake follows mistake. Irresponsibility follows irresponsibility follows irresponsibility. The names change but the hubristic decision-making remains the same. Mather and Stockbridge are guilty in this instance, but only one of them remains. Quite how Stockbridge is still in his position is a wonder to behold.
That’s not to absolve McCoist, whose public comments over the past would indicate that he hasn’t fully grasped the situation he is in at Ibrox. Or maybe he has and is railing against it, like a man raging against the dying of the light. A week ago, McCoist said this about the Rangers way of doing things: “It makes sense to me that we continue to have a higher wage bill than the opposition that we’re playing against.” Higher, yes. But how many times higher? Ten times? One hundred times? A thousand times? It brings us back to the old question: why spend money that you don’t need to spend? That’s a question that too many at Ibrox – Graham Wallace, the chief executive, excluded – continue to struggle with.
McCoist, pictured left, continued: “I didn’t give the contracts out and it would be unfair of me to comment on previous people within the club who made those decisions. I would certainly not be critical of them.”
Wouldn’t be critical of them? Well, he should be. He should be very critical of them. McCoist was given permission to bring in players on wages that Rangers could not afford by executives who should have known better, executives whose decisions have landed Rangers in another desperate mess. He’s almost duty-bound to criticise them. Mather was a disastrous chief executive for Rangers but his was just another ill-advised appointment in a long series of ill-advised appointments.
The Rangers manager said on Friday that he now understands the “severity of the situation”. That’s progress at least. The first step towards fixing a problem is to accept that you have a problem in the first place. Mather never could. Others, too, some of whom are still at Ibrox.
McCoist was right in supporting his players over the pay-cut proposal but only in so far as that the cuts should have been made higher up the tree first. The executives should have taken a pay cut and should have announced it publicly.
That would have been good leadership, but good leadership is not something this Rangers board – or many that went before it – would recognise.
The bottom line is that costs must be cut – and players and suits alike need to take their share of the pain. McCoist has too many players offering too little and being paid too much. He needs to accept that. It seems he’s still struggling with the concept at the moment. And he’s not alone at Ibrox. Wallace has much work to do. In many ways he is fighting against the mindset of the club’s past in an effort to secure its future.