For context since January 2022 the club has had two record player sales – with another significant departure in the shape of Joe Aribo – in addition to the proceeds of reaching a European final and then qualifying for the supposed holy grail of the Champions League. Rewind to December 2021 and there is no fan or director that could realistically have envisaged more money flowing into the club coffers in such a short period of time. And yet the transfer spend has been comparatively modest.

The summer spend likely stands somewhere in the region of £15m. For some context to that the team that actually won the league last season spent a whopping £38m in the year to 30th June 2022. This is significantly more than we’ve spent in the last three years combined and all despite our record revenues coupled with record player sales. And with the team trailing in the league, being humbled in Europe and with the largest signings failing to make it off the bench, or sometimes onto it, grumbles began to fill the void that had been left by the board’s silence.

That silence was broken this week when Deputy Chairman John Bennett, usually an adept and confident communicator, appeared on Rangers TV in an attempt to address concerns and provide some clarity that had been badly lacking. Some 33 minutes later however and I’m not sure supporters were any further along as Bennett veered off on tangents and failed to provide any real overview as to the current position.

In one of the few details provided, the deputy chair confirmed that £23m was or will be spent on capital expenditure such as roof improvements and the (delayed) construction of Edmiston House. Again this figure wasn’t broken down in any way and required a follow-up article via the Rangers Review website to fill in the gaps that the interview had left. Similarly Bennett conceded that the club hadn’t communicated well enough on what Champions League income meant for the club, right before failing to communicate it in his own interview.

The tone of the interview was also somewhat questionable. There seemed almost to be an annoyance either at having to answer such questions or that this was something that hadn’t been better managed by others at the club. Perhaps that’s why the club decided to hide the video behind a paywall – while ironically preaching the need for better communication – but of course this was another decision which was hastily reversed after much online mockery saw the clip was duly posted on Youtube.

The communication issue isn’t just one of silence, it’s that the messaging now appears to contradict the messaging that’s gone before. Prior to the final in Seville, Stewart Robertson was more than happy to boast:

“it’s been a fantastic boost to the club’s finances. It’s been a fantastic addition to what we budgeted for so that allows us to look at strengthening the team in the summer […] The run we’ve had now is probably slightly more than we would have had from the Champions League. It’s a terrific boost, it allows us to do so many things”

We should remember that since then we have sold Calvin Bassey for circa £20m and qualified for the Champions League, effectively making it two consecutive seasons with CL levels of income and with a record player sale in each. Commercial revenue, we are told, has also increased by circa £14m per year while ticket prices and MyGers membership numbers also trend upwards.

The message from the Rangers’ managing director however appears to have gone the same way as the spending plans and reversed. Speaking this week to the Rangers Review he has now told supporters:

“Some think money has fallen out of the sky but it’s not like that because we know we will be in the group stages of the Europa League. That’s budgeted. The £40m figure is just wrong. […] I hope people can now see the reality”

Champions League levels of finances have therefore gone from a “terrific boost” to the modest, downplayed levels of income we’ve seen ‘explained’ this week. It would appear therefore that the issue isn’t just that messaging is sometimes lacking, it’s that it’s wholly inconsistent and contradictory.

Fans may now look at the summer spend and rightly question just what our outlay would have been had we not sold Bassey or had not qualified for the Champions League. Would we have suffered another summer of minimal spend and further regression but this time on the back of a lucrative European journey? Nothing that has been said since has really provided an answer.

Celtic’s larger continued transfer expenditure, which totals £72.5m over the last 36 months, is almost wholly funded by player trading. This means that when they sell a player, the entire proceeds are reinvested directly into transfer fees. This allowed them to overturn a 25-point deficit to win their 10th league title in 11 years. Rangers meanwhile have brought in nearly £40m for Patterson, Aribo and Bassey and yet have outlaid only £15m this summer in addition to the small January spend on loan deals despite a European final and Champions League income to boost the coffers.

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Is it the case that the £11m Edmiston House costs have swallowed up the transfer budget or has the wage budget been allowed to become too bloated? If so then questions do remain as to whether a project that will take a decade and a half to break-even is really the best use of our apparently limited resources right now. The cost of losing the league for example and missing out on next year’s Champions League could be more than the cost of the building and around 10 year’s worth of profit from the eventual project. While the club does need to look longer-term, would this build have been sanctioned if the now-increased costs were what was proposed at the outset? I’m not so sure.

The above is of course speculation. But there is room for such speculation because of the poor communication from the club. It goes without saying that directors cannot be reasonably expected to sit down and provide detailed financial updated every other week however we’ve already seen interviews where boasts of revenues and income have been made without the balance or context of spending requirements and, at a time when fans are paying more than ever, a little more honesty or transparency shouldn’t be too much to ask.

As if to emphasise the point Celtic have this week published their Annual Report well in advance of ours and will also publish interim accounts halfway through the season, something which we choose not to do. So while their fans will know details of their summer spending within the current season, we will need to wait until December 2023 to find out the details of transfer activities in July 2022.

The board and executive team simply must accept that while they are happy to charge fans through the nose at every turn then those same fans have the right to expect transparency and accountability from those running the club. It shouldn’t take grumbles and discontent for the board to break cover as a last ditch attempt to communicate with the true lifeblood of the club. We employ a dedicated PR executive. Surely to goodness he should be ensuring the message is not only out there but is consistent and accurate?

I hope the last few weeks serves as a reminder to the board that they cannot exist in a vacuum. Silence simply allows for rumours, and often misinformation, to fill the void and so it is better that they set and control the narrative. That narrative is almost certainly better than allowing for speculation to take control.

It is a shame that no proper forum exists for paying supporters to hold the board to account. The breakdown in relationship between the club and Club1872, as well as the general failings of the latter, has meant that a short Q&A session once a year at the AGM is about as open as it gets for the club board, and that’s just not good enough. The supporters deserve a voice and the right to ensure our club is being looked after. It’s about time the board embraced that truth and took a meaningful step towards fan engagement.

At the very least they must stop hiding in the bunker of the Blue Room and start being proactive in their communications rather than firefighting after the event. Social media and the age of instant communication makes this easier than it has ever been and yet we operate a head-in-sand engagement policy.

John Bennett stated the fans will never be taken for granted. Perhaps it’s about time the board proved that.

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