“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.” (William Pollard)
For those not familiar with the writings of William Pollard, despite his use of words such as “organized, processed and format”, he was in fact a Quaker clergyman from the 1800’s rather than some modern day technological soothsayer. But that in itself serves to underline how valuable a commodity information has been throughout the ages.
Furthermore his reference to “the right people” has particular significance for this article. Regular readers of this blog will be more than familiar than my much repeated mantra of “more information for the Rangers support”. The fact that it was the subject of my inaugural article for WATP magazine, should leave no-one in any doubt at how highly I value its importance. The propaganda war for control of our club has seen our support subjected to the release of information, much of which has proven to be a burden rather than a benefit in the battle for hearts and minds. To an extent as a support, we are still suffering from the hangover of information overload, much of which was neither organised, processed or presented in the right format.
Often it is against this backdrop, we as a support have been asked to make decisions which affect, not only the direction of our club, but without being too melodramatic, on occasion, the very survival of our club. (The spontaneous and mass purchase of Season Ticket’s after being consigned to Division 3 springs to mind for the latter)
Last week Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct managed, via the courts, to place further restrictions on our capability as a support to make informed choices. The value to our club of the Rangers Retail deal with Sports Direct will remain anything but clear and transparent. I’m well aware that attempts have been made to put this deal into some kind of perspective with the figure of Rangers making 75p for every £10 of merchandise being sold being widely circulated. But for those of us who don’t have a retail background, this figure has an element of jargon about it. Even if this figure is 100% accurate then what we need to know is how it compares to other club’s income from merchandise. That is not meant to be a criticism of those who have probably poured over accounts to arrive at that conclusion, just an admission that for some of us, that figure means relatively little other than being a series of numbers in the absence of comparative figures.
The problem for Sports Direct is that in denying the Rangers support information which I would argue we are entitled to, they have not only treated their targeted client base with contempt, but as a consequence left us with little option to search amongst the “circumstantial evidence” in order to evaluate the benefit to our club of this deal. That circumstantial evidence does not make a particularly good case for its defence.
We know it was negotiated at a time when the deals being brokered at our club were later criticised as “ill-defined, short term focused decisions with little advance recognition of medium or longer term requirements”
We also know that Craig Mather’s described it as follows “It’s the worst, most one-sided commercial contract I’ve ever seen.”
Pollard’s opening quote made reference to the “right people”. Unfortunately for Sports Direct, in this situation we can alter that to the “only people”. Despite my extremely limited knowledge of retail, I think it’s a pretty safe to suggest that the vast majority of people buying Rangers merchandise will be Rangers fans. If there is a considerable element of doubt that buying such merchandise will be of little benefit to the club then we will make informed choices about how best to spend our cash for the benefit of our club.
I suspect Sports Direct victory in the courts last week will prove to be one of their most hollow victories ever.
It is a mistake for Rangers fans to factionalise events this week. This is not about board’s or individuals, irrespective of allegiances or suspicions. This is about a deal where the best interests of the club are not being served and that, above all, should be the starting point in any subsequent debate.
As a support we have made errors in the past, often due to the lack of available information, it is not only imperative, it is critical, that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.