Rangers: Hard road to rescue reputation and revive revenue

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Rangers are third in the Championship, level on points with second-placed Hibernian
Rangers are third in the Championship, level on points with second-placed Hibernian

For Rangers, the process of moving on from the recent past is necessary but also bruising and challenging.

The interim results for the six months to December 2014r eveal a business that still needs to manage costs and increase revenue streams, as well as complications that the new board members need to address.

The finances are consistent and can be placed into context. Other notable revelations cast a little more light on the decisions taken by the previous directors, two of whom - Derek Llambias and Barry Leach - remain suspended from their executive positions.

There has been a change of control in the boardroom, but the sense is still of a club trying to come to terms with the financial chaos of recent times.

"The vision is to focus on the next seven years so that by 2022, the club's 150th anniversary, Rangers will be back at the very top," said the interim chairman Paul Murray.

That begins, though, by continuing to look back at what brought the club to this point.

Financial figures

In some ways, the least surprising aspect of the interim results were the figures themselves. They reveal a business that requires ongoing problem-solving and investment to merely balance the books.

The bigger issue for the board is that growing the business, and specifically the football operation, requires significantly more fresh investment.

The operating loss of £2.8m was down from £3.6m in the comparative period during the previous financial year despite the club operating in the Championship.

The revenue was £13.1m, down £100,000, but the details are interesting. Gate receipts, sponsorship and advertising, commercial and retail income were all down, but there was extra revenue from more League Cup games than the previous comparative period, an increasing in broadcasting income and money raised from Ibrox hosting the Commonwealth Games rugby sevens tournament.

Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall are still on the Rangers' payroll
Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall are still on the Rangers' payroll

The operating expenses were also down, by £900,000 to £15.7m, in part due to a £400,000 reduction in retail costs and staff costs falling by £300,000 to £7.1m.

Further cuts can be anticipated, since the former management team of Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowall are serving their notices and permanent replacements will not be employed on similar wages.

Twelve players are out of contract in the summer, which provides an opportunity to further manage the wage bill.

Nonetheless, the figures emphasise several key points, most notably that any uplift in the financial state of the business will need to be underpinned by the re-engagement of the fans, beginning with the return of the 15,000 supporters who did not renew their season tickets last summer.

Retail income is tied into the joint venture with Sports Direct, and interim chairman Murray struck an open and constructive tone with the retail company - whose majority shareholder Mike Ashley owns a 9.2% stake in Rangers International Football Club - by saying "we will be working towards creating better relationships with all our commercial partners, including Sports Direct".

Rangers need to maximise the income steams they retain control over, at least until the joint venture with Sports Direct reaches the end of its agreement.

The wage bill can be more economical, but promotion would bring with it additional costs that would also need to be factored in to investment that is already required for the likes of a chief scout and other essential roles.

The revealing details

Two inclusions in the results made immediate headlines. Murray began his comments by noting that the previous auditors, Delottie, had informed the directors in June 2014 of their intention to resign. That was never revealed to shareholders, and Deloitte's final involvement was to audit the annual results published last November.

Murray also highlighted that no replacement auditors had been appointed by the outgoing board, so the interim results were "reviewed" by Jeffreys Henry LLP.

That would have made corporate figures wince, but football fans would have been more irked by the note under Contingent Liabilities, which emphasised a clause that Newcastle United will be due a £500,000 payment should Rangers achieve promotion.

This is part of the deal that saw five players arrive at the club on loan in January, although it has since emerged that no player underwent a medical.

Rangers loan signings (L/R) Haris Vuckic, Remie Streete and Gael Bigirimana
Haris Vuckic (left) is the only loan player to make a contribution for Rangers

Of the five, two are extremely unlikely to figure at all due to illness or injury, another has yet to play for the club, a fourth who was recovering from injury was hurt after one brief appearance, and only Haris Vuckic has contributed to the team's recent upturn in form.

Stuart McCall, the interim manager, also recently confirmed that the club is contributing to the players' wages - estimated to be £1,000 per week, per player - meaning that should Rangers be promoted the total cost of the loanees could be as much as £600,000.

The prize money for finishing second in the Championship is £342,000, although promotion would clearly enable Rangers to raise their income steams next season.

The deal with Newcastle was agreed while Llambias, the former Newcastle United managing director, was chief executive at Ibrox. Leach, who was finance director at Rangers, left his executive role at Sports Direct to move to Glasgow.

The interim accounts also noted that Rangers paid £54,000 to Keith Bishop Associates, a PR firm that Llambias was also a director of.

The future

There is a seven-year plan to restore Rangers competing for honours and playing in Europe, which coincides with the club's 150th anniversary in 2022. That is intended to be the culmination of the rebuilding process.

"In the very near future we will present a medium - long term funding plan for the club," said Murray. The interim chairman added that the "board have identified a number of potential investors".

Rangers' financial results
Six months ending 31 Dec 2014 (£'000)Six months ending 31 Dec 2013 (£'000)
Operating loss£2,840,000£3,643,000
Loss before taxation£2,666,000£3,534,000
Loss for the period£2,856,000£3,716,000

There are more immediate deadlines, since a new nominated advisor - the firm which manages a company's listing on the stock exchange - needs to be appointed before close of business on Thursday.

The RIFC shares are currently suspended, since the previous nomad WH Ireland resigned at the beginning of March. The board's intention has been to re-list them on the Alternative Investment Market, which would also allow funds to be raised from a share issue.

Given the toxicity around the club in recent years, fresh funds are only likely to come from supporters, though, with existing shareholders Dave King and Douglas Park at the forefront.

King had stated that he had a new nomad lined up, but that the company still had to carry out its own due diligence on the company and its listing once the new board were in place.

On the share suspension, the results noted that "the company is currently investigating options in his regard".

The reputation of RIFC remains badly damaged, and the new board is left with the challenge of trying to fix that as they move the business forward. Old constraints remain for now, though.

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