The easy answer to that, and indeed the honest answer, is that no-one really knows.
No-one. Keep that in mind.
The internet is full of self-proclaimed experts on the subject, but the fact is that if the board at Sevco are even semi-competent they can find ways and means to keep the lights on for months.
So take off your shoes and pop the slippers on. We may be here a while, and the best advice I can offer is that we all get comfortable.
Let me assure you all of something though, before the muttering starts. It might appear that the big show has been postponed, but that’s simply not the case. The main fireworks event might have been pushed a little further up the schedule than many of us would have liked but there will plenty of entertainment to keep us going in the meantime.
If reports are accurate then less than 12,000 season tickets have been sold at Ibrox. There’s a word for that. Disastrous. The “business plan” which saw losses of £1 million per month last year was predicated on a number three times that. There’s also a £1.5 million sized hole in the balance sheet before the season even starts, because that money’s going back to the investors who loaned it to them just so they could get through the last one.
Ally in the meantime is banging a pudgy fist on the boardroom door every day, asking where the money to top up Kenny Miller’s pension pot is. Oh yeah, and if they can throw in the money to assure a more secure retirement for Madjid Bougherra, well that would be nice too obviously.
They aren’t without problems at Ibrox, and that’s just inside the stadium. Outside it, the fans are split into so many groups it’s difficult to see where the healing can ever start. The spectacle of their internal squabbling has been intriguing me for months, and as disenchantment continues to spread through their ranks you’re going to see outbreaks of it everywhere.
Oh how interesting the Marching Season could be this year. One gets the distinct feeling a lot of these people have been avoiding each for months. What I wouldn’t give for Big Brother style cameras in some of the Orange Halls and bars down Bridgeton Cross! As I said in my previous piece, Game of Thrones might seem tame compared to this.
Tensions will rise in direct proportion to how much backing Ally gets.
For those of us without “iron clad sources”, those of us who have to rely on what our own eyes and ears tell us, instead of whispers in back-street boozer bathrooms, will be able to gauge pretty accurately who is winning and who is losing in the boardroom battles inside the ground by what happens next with Mr McCoist.
All common sense shrieks at you that Ally should be getting told to cut the budget. If they couldn’t afford his team last year they certainly can’t afford it now. Far from being allowed to strengthen, they should be telling him to take a hacksaw to the playing squad. If he’s not willing to do it himself then they should bring in someone above his head who will.
That person will be the most unpopular man in Scottish football for the whole duration of his term – the media will flay him like a badly behaved slave in Roman times – but too bad. The job needs done.
Will it impact on their promotion chances? Hell yes. It might kill them before a ball is even kicked. Ally’s utter incompetence will assure a season of high drama and trauma even if he gets Miller and Boyd because, and we can say what his pals in the media won’t, he’s about as useless as a cigarette holder on a space suit.
Next season will be a battle, and long before it’s done his hairline will have retreated another few inches and his waistline expanded another ten.
If McCoist is allowed to go out there and bring in more over-priced players, pushing the wage bill up further, then you know one of two things; either the lunatics are still in control of the asylum or, and this is more likely, the asylum is in a state of anarchy, with no-one at all in charge, with the loonies dancing through the halls, the dopers lying in corners wasted, the staff soaked out on cheap gin and RP McCoist cavorting freely and doing what he likes, with absolutely no-one daring, or believing they have the authority, to stop him.
If he’s told to get cracking with the sacking then the men with the little pocket calculators are in control, and when that starts they ain’t gonna stop until, in the words of Frank from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, they “cut the crust off the shit sandwich.”
In those circumstances, they might even dodge administration entirely … but it will come at a colossal price just the same. I don’t think it will happen, and I’ll tell you why later in the piece – but let’s not kid ourselves; if they start cutting now, and they change the business plan up enough they could survive. They could limp on and pull themselves out of the mess.
As much fun as it would be to see this club collapse like a house of cards again, don’t underestimate the years of mirth and merriment we will get out of seeing them climb just so far and then fall, climb just so far then fall, just so far and then fall again.
Whether an SPL club or not, they would be cannon fodder for the likes of ourselves and other ambitious, well run clubs and that, alone, might well be worth watching, and for a long time to come.
People will say that a club with those many tens of thousands of season tickets must rise to challenge us eventually. Is that necessarily true? When you have the infrastructure that Sevco Rangers has, it costs as much to run it as you are likely to get in by ticket sales. I keep coming back to their accounts and the club’s general running costs before football costs. They, alone, swallowed the entirety of season ticket income.
In other words, a well-run Hibs, Aberdeen or Dundee Utd could, with some ease, with much less to pay out in running costs, afford a comparable level of player as a well-run Sevco Rangers, provided that club was willing to live within its means and not spend its way to oblivion.
It would mean a complete mind-set change. An entire generation of fans has been brought up to believe they are a superpower and should act like one. McCoist won’t even face the fiscal realities enough to stop taking the club to fancy hotels before games. “This is Rangers,” is the mantra that drove them to the grave and has brought them right to the edge. If they die again, it will be what’s carved on their headstone.
Even leaving aside player costs on top of running costs, we all know full well – the stories have been going about for a while now and there are dark hints in the accounts and elsewhere – that there are problems with certain aspects of the stadium. Even at a conservative estimate, these will cost mid seven figures to put right, and that’s money they just don’t have.
They’ve talked about building a new scouting system. They’ve talked about a huge revamp to the youth operations. All of this costs money. Building a scouting system sounds easy, yet it took Celtic over a decade to establish themselves in the markets enough to spot players like Wanyama and Emilio Izaguirre ahead of the clubs from England and elsewhere.
These players might have been cheap, and proved themselves worth the outlay many times over, but the network that found them cost tens of millions to assemble, it took years and it required patience and resources to spare and it still produces Mo Bangura’s from time to time. We are in the fortunate position of being able to afford these misses, but Sevco Rangers will not be in such a good place for many, many, many years to come.
The rumours about administration being imminent are, I think, just that unless season tickets sales at Sevco Rangers are worse – much worse – than we’ve been led to believe. Even then, I think there are ways of getting through at least until the season starts. If McCoist is allowed to start spending money, then you’ll know the crash will be sooner rather than later. If he’s deprived of the cash then there is, at last, someone with their hand on the tiller, trying to steady the ship.
I’ve said all along that administration is inevitable. I still believe that it will happen. It will probably happen before the independence referendum, and if not then certainly before New Year. There are too many people surrounding Sevco Rangers who’ve bought into this “the history that did not die” nonsense, and those people are determined to see “their club” restored to former glory. They have no interest in business plans or cold logic. They are driven by the over-riding need to feel important, to push Celtic, to wrestle the title away from Parkhead.
They will never accept a board that wants the club to live within its means. They will never tolerate austerity that costs them trophies and where finishing third or fourth in the league, and qualifying for Europe, will seem like a victory every year. Their club hasn’t had to live like that – with normality, with common sense – for thirty years now. They don’t know how.
The media will never accept it either, as filled as it is with men like Gordon Waddell and his ilk, who want them to wear, as a badge of honour, that two “badly run clubs” reached the youth cup final over the backs of “better run teams”. The media role in this should never be forgotten, nor should we lose sight of their desire to see “Rangers run by Rangers men”. That assures more bloodletting over the next few years, more failed business plans, and more administration events.
But not yet, my friends. Not yet.
It might not come in days or weeks or months, but it’s coming, and only an outbreak of sanity amongst the owners of the club can prevent it.
But there are no real owners. There are just a disparate group of interests and investors, each with their own agendas and ideas as to how things ought to go. Outside there is a howling mass of fans, some loyal, some not. There is no unity at Ibrox, and to dig themselves out of this trouble requires that every hand pick up a shovel.
If certain people get their way, this will go much quicker. If they are stalled, or thwarted, the process will slow to a crawl.
Either way, the team on the park will suffer. Promotion to the Premiership will be very much up in the air. McCoist will flirt with crisis and disaster on a game-to-game basis.
When a young player like Andy Little is allowed to leave for free on the possibility of bringing in Kenny Miller, you know this is a manager incapable of planning medium term, far less long term. That story does not have a happy ending either way. I have said, on the record, many times that this guy will never manage a game in a top division anywhere, ever again. I hold to it.
If you have a schedule open in front of you, look beside the words Main Event. It might not be for a while yet, but sit back and relax and open the popcorn.
We have lots more to entertain us in the meantime; everything from watching the circus fat man flail around to watching the death-defying high-wire act, to watching a man in a cage full of lions trying to get them in line to clowns and dancing bears.
This circus is going to run and run and run.
Roll up, roll up. Get your tickets here. Ice cream and jelly is on the menu, but optional for now.
We’ll get to it eventually.
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