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.

UEFA Champions League Preview: 11 places still up for grabs

ONLY FIVE teams have qualified so far for the last 16: Bayern, Bruges, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Napoli. So, there’s plenty to play for in matchday five and there could be a couple of high profile clubs finding their way to the Europa League.

Group A: Ajax – Liverpool; Napoli – Rangers.

Ajax, for all their European heritage, are almost out of the competition, although they will probably qualify for the Europa League. Liverpool, despite a stuttering start to the season in the Premier, thought they were finding their form when they beat Manchester City, but they had another setback and lost 1-0 against struggling Nottingham Forest. A draw for Liverpool in Amsterdam will send them through to the next stage. Napoli have already qualified, they are currently the most exciting team in Europe and their performances in Serie A and the Champions League have been impressive. Sadly, Rangers have looked out of their depth and their 7-1 humbling at home to Liverpool really summed up their experience this season.

Group B: Club Brugge – Porto; Atlético Madrid – Bayer Leverkusen

Bruges were one of the first teams to qualify for the knockout phase after winning three of their first four games. They are only the third Belgian team to reach the last 16 this century, Anderlecht (2000-01) and Gent (2015-16) were the others. Their opponents, Porto, need a win to keep some space between themselves and Atlético Madrid, but the second place in the group is likely to be decided by the meeting between these two teams on November 1 in Portugal. Leverkusen have been disappointing this season, both at home and in the Champions League, although they did beat Atlético in the last matchday.

Group C: Inter Milan – Viktoria Plzn; Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Barcelona went perilously close to elimination in the last group game against Inter, which ended 3-3. Inter know that a win against Plzn will put Barca out, regardless of how they face against group leaders Bayern. There has been much angst in Barcelona since the game with Inter, with concerns about their financial situation should they fail to qualify for the last 16. Barca have also lost ground in La Liga, despite the goals of Robert Lewandowski. Bayern, who have qualified, have been impressive in Europe, winning all four of their games and averaging three goals per game, while conceding just two goals.

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt – Marseille; Tottenham – Sporting Lisbon

Anyone could still qualify from this group, but victories for Marseille and Tottenham could take both through. Frankfurt were unlucky to lose 3-2 at Tottenham, but they bounced back with a five-goal performance in the Bundesliga against Leverkusen. Marseille have been going well but were beaten by title rivals in France, Paris Saint-Germain. Spurs’ early season effervescence has lost a little of its fizz, with defeats against Arsenal and Manchester United, but they are still upbeat. They are particularly strong at home.

Group E: Red Bull Salzburg – Chelsea; Dinamo Zagreb – AC Milan.

This group remains quite open but the fifth matchday should start to sort things out. Chelsea, leaders of the group, are in good form under new boss Graham Potter, although their last two games have been disappointing with draws against Brentford and Manchester United. Salzburg, league leaders in Austria, faced second-placed Sturm Graz. They are still unbeaten in the Champions League group. AC Milan and Zagreb are still in the mix but a win for either will knock the loser out of contention. Milan are still chasing leaders Napoli at home and have lost just once in Serie A.

Group F: Celtic – Shakhtar Donetsk; RB Leipzig – Real Madrid.

Celtic are out of the competition, but still have feint hopes of finishing third and qualifying for the Europa League. Shakhtar, who should be too strong for them, would probably keep themselves in contention with a win in Glasgow. They recently beat big rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League, but everything is overshadowed by the war with Russia. RB Leipzig have turned their season around in recent weeks and have won five of their last six games. Their two wins against Celtic in the group have revitalised their Champions League campaign. Real Madrid will be a tough task as they are unbeaten in La Liga and recently beat Barcelona in El Clasico, followed by a 3-1 win against Sevilla.

Group G: Sevilla – FC Copenhagen; Borussia Dortmund – Manchester City

This round of matches will effectively be the group leadership decider and the Europa League qualifier. Dortmund host City with the top two places up for grabs. City were beaten for the first time this season when they went down 1-0 at Liverpool, but they returned to winning ways against Brighton. Liverpool prevented Erling Haaland from scoring, but the huge Norwegian will be keen to score against his old club. Dortmund, who came through two table-topping games with Bayern and Union with just one point to show for their efforts, know a win will secure their place in the last 16. Sevilla have picked up in the past few games and should be too good for a Copenhagen side who struggle to win games, although they did achieve a credible draw with City in their last Champions League fixture.

Group H: Benfica – Juventus; Paris Saint-Germain – Maccabi Haifa

Benfica have enjoyed their Champions League campaign so far and are within touching distance of the last 16. Juventus, by contrast, are almost out, although a win in Lisbon will delay the ignominy of an early exit. Juve were beaten 2-0 in their last group game in Haifa, but won the Turin derby afterwards and beat Emploi 4-0 at the weekend. Speculation is still rife about the future of coach Max Allegri. Benfica warmed up for this game with a big clash against Porto. PSG should win against Maccabi Haifa and followed up their 1-1 draw with Benfica with a 1-0 victory against old rivals Olympique Marseille. PSG may be distracted due to the continued talk of Kylian Mbappe moving in January and there are also rumours about Lionel Messi returning to Barcelona.