Money lost off the pitch

20 January ~ Ally McCoist must hate going to Forfar. Last August the Rangers manager woke to headlines in which former Ibrox chief executive Charles Green insisted he win a cup this season as well as topping Scotland’s third tier. Rangers exited the League Cup at Forfar that day. Having avoided defeat in every domestic game since, McCoist returns to Station Park tonight, on SPFL League One duty, at odds with the current Rangers chief executive over a proposed 15 per cent cut to player wages. Clearly, his will be a selling transfer window.

But, just 18 months after the club was liquidated, Rangers fans’ real worry is entering administration again. The cuts, part of new chief executive Graham Wallace’s “120 day restructuring project”, were rejected by the playing staff on Thursday. McCoist, who recently agreed to halve his own wages, wasn’t present when captain Lee McCulloch put the proposal to the squad. But at Friday’s press conference he supported the players’ decision.

Less than two years ago, in order to prevent redundancies, Rangers players agreed pay cuts of up to 75 per cent. That bid to avoid liquidation failed. But fans have backed the players in both instances. In a disturbing parallel with the recent banking crisis, Rangers’ boardroom fat cats have lined their pockets, survived a stormy AGM because of institutional investors, and now want the customer-facing plebs to take the hit. A £7million wage bill is undeniably ridiculous for a team playing in part-time leagues. But Rangers International Football Club plc has lost virtually the entire £22m raised in a share issue just 13 months ago.

Building the second-costliest squad in Scotland – goalkeeper Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock) and striker Jon Daly (Dundee United) left top-flight clubs to join – was a tactic of large private investors making a quick buck through seemingly reviving the Rangers behemoth. Most of the money blown since December 2012 has gone on exorbitant payouts to various fly-by-night executives or negligently high costs for launching the share issue itself.

Since July 2012’s relaunch home crowds consistently exceed 40,000. Rangers could easily outspend everyone in Scotland’s lower leagues – and half the Premiership – through gate receipts alone. But businessmen like Green feared a support reared on success wouldn’t buy season tickets for a lower-league standard Rangers.

The consequent overspending means Rangers shares have lost two-thirds of their value in a year. Now the prospect of going 20 points clear tonight and the top flight coming within view again is replaced with the threat of points deductions for entering administration and the team breaking up. When asked who he thought was responsible McCoist said "I have my own ideas” and claimed to have asked Wallace if the board was taking pay cuts. Apparently this was being looked into.

While Scotland full-back Lee Wallace is the most saleable asset, he’s also the only player likely to fetch seven figures. Wallace categorically denies any possibility of “Administration II” but Rangers fans have heard those kinds of reassurances all too recently. Alex Anderson

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