Rangers – Europa sings the blues

RANGERS may have looked out of their depth in the UEFA Champions League group stage this season, but the club’s financial position continues to gradually improve, so much so that they enjoyed record revenues in 2021-22 and posted an operating profit of £ 5.9 million and an overall pre-tax loss of just £ 2.2 million.

Rangers reached the UEFA Europa League final in 2021-22 but were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt. This made up for losing the league title they won in 2021 and the loss of manager Steven Gerard, who defected to Aston Villa in mid-season. The club received more than £ 4 million in compensation and also settled their dispute with Sports Direct, which cost them £ 6 million.

Rangers’ overall revenues totalled £ 86.8 million versus £ 47.7 million in 2020-21. The increase was attributable to Rangers’ Europa League run, which allegedly generated close to £ 30 million, and a return to near normal conditions on matchdays. Income from matches totalled £ 41.9 million compared to £ 18.2 million in 2020-21 and higher than the previous best of £ 35 million in 2020. Earnings from broadcasting, again boosted by the Europa League, rose from £ 18.9 million to £24.5 million. Rangers’ commercial revenues almost doubled to £ 20.5 million.

Rangers have moved closer to Celtic in terms of turnover. In 2018, Celtic’s income was £ 102 million while Rangers’ was £ 33 million but the gap has now almost completely closed.

While turnover was at an all-time high, wages also went up by 15% to £ 54.8 million, representing 63% of income. Rangers also showed a healthy profit on player trading, some £ 11.2 million, the highest figure in the past decade. Rangers received £ 11.5 million from Everton for Nathan Patterson and since the end of the 2021-22 financial year, they received £ 19.6 million from the sale of Calvin Bassey to Ajax. Player trading will form a key part of Rangers’ financial model going forward and the latest financials indicate that they have moved a step forward in this direction. This is a priority for highly-rated sporting director Ross Wilson and his team.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire said Rangers’ Glasgow rivals Celtic, for example, have become adept at producing £ 15-£ 20 million players that can turn a good profit for the club. In 2021-22, Celtic’s profit from player trading was £ 29 million. Record player sales of £ 11.2 million meant Rangers were able to reduce pre-tax losses from £ 24.7 million to just £ 2.2 million. Nevertheless, the club has made a loss for nine consecutive seasons, although the board anticipates making a profit in 2022-23. But they reminded the Rangers fans that when the current administration took over in 2015, they envisaged a 10-year recovery period.

The club’s net debt has reduced to £ 3.9 million, a £ 5 million improvement on the previous year. Cash has increased by almost £ 10 million to £13.1 million, while borrowings total £ 16.9 million, some £ 4.5 million higher than 2020-21. The club said that in raising £ 10.1 million of new equity and taking on £ 3.6 million of new debt, Rangers’ financial position has been strengthened. They have also repaid £ 15 million of loans to Dave King, John Bennett and George Letham.

Although Rangers will benefit from their involvement in the UEFA Champions League this season, it is unclear how their financials will look in 2022-23. On the evidence of the latest report, revenues were outstripped by costs and the current wage bill may prove to be far too high. Rangers will be back in Europe next season, but it probably won’t be in the Champions League as they are currently lagging behind another Glasgow side.

Who are Bonnyrigg Rose?

THE Scottish Professional Football League could have a new, romantic name among its membership next season in the form of Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic, a team from a small town in Midlothian just eight miles south east of Edinburgh. The Rose (or the Rosey Posey) won the Lowland League in 2021-22 for the first time, by a 14-point margin, and went on to beat Highland League champions Fraserburgh 3-2 on aggregate in the pyramid play-off and are up against the team that finished bottom of the Scottish League Division Two, Cowdenbeath.

The first leg of the tie that may completely transform either Bonnyrigg or Cowdenbeath saw the non-leaguers win 3-0 at their New Dundas Park stadium. The second leg, on May 14, may not be a formality, but it will take a huge effort for “the Blue Brazil” to overcome the three-goal deficit, particularly as they only won three league games at Central Park in the league programme.

Bonnyrigg’s rise has been impressive as they only entered the Lowland League in 2019 from the East of Scotland Football League, beating Penicuik Athletic and Broxburn Athletic in the play-offs are a barn-storming campaign in Conference B, winning 22 of their 24 games and scoring 105 goals while conceding 17.

One of this tiny club’s former players was none other than Sean Connery of James Bond fame. Connery played on the wing for Bonnyrigg in the 1950s. He’s not the only big name to have worn the club’s colours, John White, who was part of the Tottenham 1961 double-winning team, and later died in a tragic accident on a golf course, and Pat Stanton, who starred for Hibernian, both started their careers at Bonnyrigg.

More notable in recent years was the club’s recovery after almost suffering liquidation in 2009 due to the accumulation of huge debts. Chairman Charlie Kirkwood claimed the club was 48 hours from going under. Kirkwood’s connection with the club goes back to the 1960s, starting out as kit boy and ended up in charge as the financial crisis threatened to kill-off a club formed in 1881.

In front of a 2,200 crowd, Bonnyrigg defied the odds to beat Cowdenbeath 3-0 after manager Robbie Horn urged the town to get behind the team and act as a “12th man”. Horn said his side were the underdogs, especially as Cowdenbeath had picked up in recent weeks after a dismal season as they sought to preserve the league status they had enjoyed for 117 years.

Sean Brown, Neil Martyniuk (penalty) and Dean Brett scored the goals for Bonnyrigg and Cowdenbeath received a further blow when left back Harvey Swann was sent off for a challenge on Brett. Horn admitted it was a soft penalty but felt his team were in control after Swann’s dismissal. “We’ve out ourselves in a good position with a solid performance. They put out a strong side and I thought we matched them physically,” he told the local media.

If Bonnyrigg win the play-off, they will be the third successive non-league side to win promotion, following Kelty Hearts and Cove Rangers.