AS in previous years I take the opportunity at the commencement of a new season to provide our supporters with an update on where the Club stands against our stated objectives.
Three years ago, the Board committed to a programme of significantly increased investment in all areas to ensure that we get our team and facilities to the standard that we all expect and demand. We have had to invest more than we committed to for two main reasons.
First, the facilities at Ibrox and the Hummel Training Centre were much more dilapidated than we had initially anticipated. We have now significantly refurbished and improved Ibrox and our training facilities, including the installation of a new state of the art pitch during the close season, to ensure that our players can now train on the best surface available.
Secondly, the need to replace managers has been costly in terms of severance packages and the cost of bringing in new players to support each new manager. The replacement of the football management team is a difficult time for everyone at the Club. There is not only the financial impact but the need to deal fairly with people who worked extremely hard and gave their all – even though that turned out not to be enough. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met and worked with Pedro (Caixinha) and Graeme (Murty) and I am truly delighted that Graeme chose to stay and will continue to play such an important role in the development of our youth. I am also grateful to all the outgoing players for the efforts they made during their time at the Club and wish them well for their future careers in football.
I made it clear in prior statements that your Board will always act in the long-term interests of the Club and not be influenced by a minority of vociferous supporters, or members of the media who continuously attack our Club. This was never more evident than in the appointment of our new manager – Steven Gerrard. We were constantly put under pressure to make an appointment even though we did not consider the available candidates to be suitable to take the Club forward. We had many candidates with managerial experience, but the experience was not necessarily successful or of the standard that we felt we needed – particularly given our desire for stability after our recent experience of manager changes. We resisted the pressure and made an appointment only when we felt that we had an outstanding candidate that we could support. We ultimately appointed a man whose football pedigree, knowledge, character and winning mentality is unquestioned and we will back him while he gains management experience. A winner is a winner.
In that regard, it was pleasing to see the new squad settling down with the successful navigation last night (especially after last year) of a potentially tricky Europa League fixture with two clean sheets to the players’ credit. On this point, I am conscious that we were top scorers in the SPFL last season but conceded far too many goals to be able to finish higher than third. This leakage will be much reduced in the coming season thanks to the efforts of Mark (Allen) and Steven in the transfer market. This team will continue to improve which makes me more relaxed for this coming season than I have been for any since regime change.
Unfortunately, we are still dogged by some of the off-field activities that we inherited from the previous board. We still hear and receive complaints about Sports Direct’s performance as our retail partner despite the overall settlement agreement that we reached last year. Communication with them remains difficult and, having initially indicated their desire to deal amicably with the transition and handover, we are now back in court with the uncertainties that entails. The Board will continue to do what is best for our Club and supporters and seek to minimise any disruption.
I am also still dealing with the Takeover Panel (“TP”) following complaints by the old board and supporters of other clubs to hold me personally liable to make an offer for all the non-consortium shares of RIFC. This follows similar efforts to deny me fit and proper status with the SFA. Certain individuals believe that if they can disrupt the current boardthe recovery in Rangers fortunes over the last three years might be reversed. It is noteworthy that the SFA have still not approved Alastair Johnston’s fit and proper status despite his impeccable record as a businessman and as a protector of our Club during its darkest moments.
The initial TP ruling was strange in targeting me personally when I have never held any shares in my personal capacity. However, eventually the TP agreed that it would be practical if one of my trust companies in South Africa (“SA”) made the offer on my behalf. At the TP’s request cash of approximately GBP 11m was ring-fenced in a lawyer’s trust account to fund the offer. After agreeing to the public announcement of the offer by the SA company the TP changed its mind and asked that the funds be placed in an account in the UK. I agreed to this but explained to the TP that I have no account in the UK and would need time to open one and to get exchange control approval to transfer funds out of SA. The TP refused the necessary extension of time and instituted contempt of court proceedings against me for not complying with the original ruling to make a personal offer. That strange decision has now caused further unnecessary delay, with no end in sight. Fortunately, it does not affect the operations of the football club.
Litigation with the TP is another unwanted personal and financial cost to me of my initial decision to get involved with the Club again to assist in rescuing it from certain demise under the previous board. Since then, I have devoted far more time to Rangers than to my other business interests. This was necessary because those who benefited from the previous regime adopted every legal strategy to avoid losing the vice like grip they had on our Club. Supporters will remember that I faced another contempt of court application when Mike Ashley tried to put me in jail for standing up to Sports Direct. That is what we are up against.
My fellow directors and I have all had to endure personal attacks and we all spend far more time dealing with Rangers interests than any of us truly expected. But we did it willingly and continue to do so for no financial gain. Those that wished our Club to fail have failed themselves and we will continue to progress despite inevitable set-backs that will come our way from time to time.
I wish you all an enjoyable and successful season in following Rangers.
July 18, 2018