RANGERS are enjoying a tremendous start to the 2020-21 season, opening up an 11-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership and pushing well ahead of old-firm rivals Celtic. They have won 13 of their 15 league games and have yielded just three goals, keeping eight clean sheets in a row at Ibrox Park. After a grim period in their history during which Rangers stared into the abyss and have been completely overshadowed by Celtic, the Gers could be on the brink of winning serious silverware once more.
Financially, Rangers are closing the gap on Celtic, largely thanks to a successful UEFA Europa League run in 2019-20. They are going well in this season’s Europa League, so there’s every chance they could reap further rewards from this competition. No wonder the club’s Chairman said in their annual financial report, “we are getting ever closer to success.”
Rangers managed to increase revenues in 2019-20, up 11% to £ 59 million. Their neighbours Celtic’s revenues totalled £ 70 million, so the gap between the two clubs in terms of income has narrowed from £ 32 million to £ 11 million.
If the pandemic hadn’t closed stadiums to fans, Rangers’ momentum in 2020-21 would have resulted in a further increase in commercial and matchday income, not to mention a rise in supporter passion across Glasgow.
Revenues from matchdays actually increased in 2020-21 to £ 35.7 million (£ 31.9m 2019) and media also went up from £ 10.9 million to £ 13.5 million. Only the commercial stream went down from £ 10.3 million to £ 9.8 million. Nevertheless, the club made a pre-tax loss of £ 17.8 million, some £ 6.5 million higher than 2018-19. Given the impact of the pandemic (Rangers officials believe the crisis will cost the bigger Scottish clubs around £ 10 million each), the damage could have been worse.
However, Rangers’ operating expenses increased by 17% to £ 76.9 million, attributable to an increase in staff costs of 25% to £ 43 million, including £ 29.7 million for first team wages (+29%).
Although Rangers have admitted it needs in excess of £ 20 million in fresh investment, chairman Douglas Park and director John Bennett have confirmed they will continue to provide loans to cover the club’s shortfalls. At the same time, this suggests Rangers’ finances continue to be fragile, although a title win and subsequent Champions League participation in 2021-22 would provide a greater cushion over the coming seasons.
The club could also do better in player trading. Their profit in 2019-20 was just £ 0.7 million, but they do have a number of players who could make Rangers some serious money in the near future. These include: Croatian defender Borna Barisic, who cost the club £ 2.2 million from Osijek; Glen Kamara, the 25 year-old Finnish midfielder (ex-Dundee £ 50,000); former Liverpool midfielder Ryan Kent, who cost £ 6.5 million; and Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos (£ 1 million from HJK Helsinki). Some fans believe most of these players will be sold next summer to help balance the books at Ibrox.
Kent is one player that fans want to see tied-down ahead of the next transfer window. He first joined the club on loan from Liverpool in 2018, but he’s now a Rangers player and a popular one at that. The club is being urged to renew his personal terms in a bid to keep him happy. He currently earns under £ 20,000 per week but a new contract will arguably make him Rangers’ highest-paid player. At 24, Kent’s time is now, so whether he stays in Glasgow depends on how attractive any potential move will be. Rangers also need to bring down their wage bill, so there’s the dilemma – can they afford to keep Kent?
Rangers’ performances on the pitch can help improve the club’s financial position. Rangers’ statistics this season are really quite phenomenal – a goal difference of plus 38 after 15 games. Rangers haven’t won the Scottish league since 2011 and Celtic are currently on a nine-year run as champions. If Rangers end that sequence, they will avoid equalling their worst-ever run without a title, an 11-year spell between 1964 and 1975. At present, it looks good, but there’s a long way to go. The green side of Glasgow is hoping their experience of winning titles (they have two games in hand) will eventually overcome a Rangers team unaccustomed to being Scottish champions. For once, the battle at the top will not be a foregone conclusion.
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