Scapegoats & Scaremongering

“People come out and say ‘Ah, it’s not necessary for them to have those players in that division’. But it’s not just the division that matters at Rangers, it’s the fact that you have 45,000 people coming to watch something on a football pitch “ (Walter Smith)

It is particularly difficult writing an article which disagrees with one of your all time heroes but difficult times call for difficult decisions. Whilst Walter’s synopsis is a popular ideology it lacks in financial reality. We may well still be Rangers but we are a Rangers operating with with vastly reduced revenue streams in terms of income from season ticket sales, sponsorship and commercial hospitality as a consequence of the league we have been forced to operate in. It’s easy to say this is still Rangers if you don’t have to, or are not responsible for picking up the bill for operating as in days of yore.

The financial state of our club is once again the subject of much speculation, which has been exacerbated considerably with the news that a 15% reduction in player’s wages was muted a cost cutting measure. The subsequent anxiety which this caused amongst our support, and the treatment (perhaps scaremongering) of this story in the media, resulted in the search for the inevitable scapegoat. I’m not convinced that two of the eventual “suspects” put in the frame – Ally & Brian Stockbridge – were placed on the list of potential suspects with reasonable suspicion – or consideration of all the relevant facts.

Let us start with Ally – I’m sure most of us agree that his wage was excessive for our current league position in fact the whole expenditure with regard to the costs of our coaching staff would be worthwhile of critical review. Furthermore as is now common knowledge Ally has agreed to take a considerable pay cut. Perhaps even more unfair is the suggestion that the current squad along with the wages and contracts of some of our players are too high – and it’s Ally’s fault. This would only be a valid criticism if Ally had negotiated the contracts in question, and the overwhelming evidence appears to suggests this was in fact done by others. The suggestion that Ally should be a scapegoat for our financial woes is further usurped when you consider our playing staff bill as a percentage of our club’s overall operating costs.

That is not too say either our squad is too big for the current demands upon us , nor that there are not players on wages which are as unrealistic as our manager’s wages were, simply that it is unrealistic to lay the blame with Ally

Brian Stockbridge presents considerably more of a challenge in terms of offering a defence – he is after all financial director of our club. Furthermore he is on record as saying our wage bill was sustainable when quite clearly it is not, not if a 15% wage reduction is being considered as an option. In fact, had it not been for Ian Hart’s recent interview, I doubt very much I would be offering any kind of defence.

“Brian was met with pre-arranged costs to do with the takeover of the club and the IPO. The IPO costs were high but, then again, at the time it was hard to get money into a club which was facing administration and then liquidation. The costs were high – probably too high – just to attract that money in the first place. Brian was faced with either resisting these costs, or meeting them and getting on with the job of getting Rangers moving again. They were one-off costs which he inherited. I think some of the criticism of Brian has been unfair. The IPO costs were severe, but they had to be paid, and had already been agreed under the Charles Green takeover. I think Brian took the view that we simply had to pay these costs and move on, just to get the club going again.”

Whether Hart’s defence of Stockbridge is merited is open to debate – it would perhaps have been more cut and dried if Hart’s interviewer had asked more probing questions regarding the remit and expectation of our Financial director.

Whatever your view of Brian Stockbridge, perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is would the immediate sacking or removal of Mr Stockbridge bring an end to the culture of excess which has befallen our club for far too many a year ? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Some will have already made up their minds about the competency or incompetency of Brian Stockbridge as a financial director, or Ally as manager, and perhaps with good cause. But to lay the blame for our financial woes at the feet of either of these gentlemen is merely skirting over the more serious issues affecting our club. We need to eradicate the culture of excess at our club from top to bottom, from directors to tea lady if required.
Let us not allow the settling of old and tired arguments, or other agendas distract us from the challenging and possibly painful task which lies ahead. We don’t need scapegoats – particularly when some of our financial failings are clearly cultural and process driven – we need honest assessment and a willingness to be prepared to accept the necessary changes.

It wont be easy nor do I suspect it will be painless. Our new CEO claims he is up to the task – I hope to God he is right.