I’ve only ever seen Rangers play once, which was at the 2008 UEFA Cup final. It’s fair to say that there was a discrepancy between the number of people who came to Manchester for the event and those who had tickets. The following morning I was on a breakfast TV show, and had to walk around and over hundreds, if not thousands, of Rangers fans who had decided to sleep al fresco on the streets following the match.
2016/17 saw a return after four years to the Premiership, Joey Barton scrapping with team mates, lawsuits against former directors and Mike Ashley, three managers, fan groups buying shares in the club, fan groups falling out with each other after buying shares in the club and occasionally some football.
Rangers accounts are…err… comprehensive, clocking in at 59 pages. Having said that, there are some excellent disclosures that put other clubs to shame, showing a degree of transparency at times that is a credit to those who prepared the information. The financial statements touch upon the ongoing disputes with enemies both within and external to the club.
The club’s recent history is a source for fiery debate in Scotland, and the legal status of Rangers International Football Club plc provokes incendiary comments on social media from polarised views on both sides of the divide.
None of the name calling is of any interest to us at the Price of Football, we are non-partisan. As someone who works in higher education though, it is nice to see so many people from East Glasgow enrolling on night courses on Scottish Insolvency Law in recent years.
Suffice to say a club called Rangers ended up applying to join the Scottish Third Division, and schools in small towns such as Elgin, Peterhead and Alloa had to introduce seventeenth century Irish history into the curriculum for the impending visit by the club and its fans.
The accounts don’t really answer the question as to how big are Rangers, as the numbers reveal a paradox when comparing to clubs south of the border.
Unlike clubs in the English Premier League, some of whom have 80% of more of their income from broadcasting rights, Rangers are reliant mainly on matchday income as a source of revenue. This is unlikely to change until the club starts not only competing but also progressing in UEFA competitions.
Rangers total income rose by just over 31% in the year to £29.2 million. This is some way behind Celtic’s total (for 2016, they have not yet published their 2017 figures) of £52 million, but way above that of the next largest Scottish club, Aberdeen (£13.4 million). Rangers third place finish in 2016/17 is poor compared to the club’s financial advantage over every SPL club except Celtic.
Compared to England, the income total places Rangers between Wolves and Leeds in the English Championship, but behind small clubs in the Premier League such as Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.
Promotion back to the Scottish Premiership (SPL) in 2016 led to an increase in average attendances at Ibrox from 44,359 to 48,893, of which over 43,000 were in the form of season tickets.
Such attendances drove matchday income to £21.6 million, far in excess of any club in the Championship, and would put the club in the top half of the English Premier League (EPL).
Admittedly Rangers matchday totals includes ‘hospitality’, of which there is probably copious amounts at Ibrox to help the locals give vocal backing to the team.
Broadcasting rights, whilst better in the SPL than the Championship, are still miniscule at £3.6 million compared to the £100 million minimum in the EPL.
‘Other’ income including shirt sponsorship (£1.5m) and commercial income (£0.3m) are also up significantly by 43%. Rangers should benefit in 2017/18 from having greater control over their merchandising in future years, following the resolution of a dispute with Sports Direct. This can be a significant sum for a club with such a committed fan base. Celtic, for example, had merchandise sales of over £12.5 million in 2016.
Rangers have had the second highest wage bill in Scottish football for a number of years. Even when they were playing against the local amateur teams in the third division the wage bill was over £17 million, more than the total of the bottom two Scottish divisions put together.
Wage costs were brought under control slightly in subsequent years, but promotion to the SPL resulted in a 35% increase in total wage costs.
Rangers’ unusual (but welcome) breaking out of player from other wages shows that player wages took up £10.4 million (59%) of total staff costs. This is quite low compared to English clubs, where player wages are usually in the 80-85% of total staff costs range.
This means that player wages as a percentage of total income was only 36% (29% in 2015), and total wages to income 60% (59% in 2016), a figure that would make many English owners jealous (in the Championship wages were 101% of wages in 2016).
Part of the reason for the good wage control was due to highest earner Joey Barton being only paid for a couple of months before getting a free transfer to Ladbrokes, and Kenny Miller was old enough to claim a pension and so wasn’t officially on the payroll.
How the other £7 million wages are distributed at Ibrox is not disclosed. If the club has an in house legal team I’d expect that they have been very busy in recent years and will have been paid accordingly.
In past years the highest paid director at the club has been on a significant sum, especially if viewed solely in the role of running a lower division Scottish football club.
As boardroom regimes have come and gone at Ibrox that particular cost has diminished, and directors have not rewarded themselves for the last couple of seasons. This is in contrast to Celtic, where the directors took home over £1.6 million in 2016.
Rangers did disclose that ‘key management personnel’ costs were £455k for the year. This is presumably the combined costs of Mark Warburton and the Yoda like Pedro ‘The dogs bark and the caravan keeps going’ Caixinha.
Other costs rose by 30% to £12.3 million, this is not fully disclosed, but increased repairs, stewarding, policing and travel for an overseas pre-season tour have contributed.
Rangers invested significantly in the squad in 2016/17 following promotion, with £10.3million being spent according to the accounts. This might cause a few eyebrows to raise amongst Rangers fans, as apart from £1.8 million for Joe Garner from Preston most signings were thought to be for no more than low six figure sums or free transfers. Perhaps Mike Ashley managed to sign himself for the club for £5 million in one of his more creative moves, as the numbers otherwise look very strange.
Alternatively there may have been some payments in relation to previous signings that were conditional on Rangers being promoted to the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic, by means of a benchmark, spent £8.8 million on players in 2015/16.
Equally baffling is the amortisation charge on these transfers of ‘only’ £1.6 million. Amortisation is the cost of the players spread over their contract period, so we would expect this figure to be much higher (£10.3/4 = £2.6 million, plus amortisation of the existing squad) if players were on an average of a four-year contract.
Rangers showed a cost of £3 million in respect of resolving one of their many disputes. This particular one was with a man who is as unpopular in Newcastle as he is at Ibrox, Mike Ashley. The settlement did however allow Rangers to have greater control in terms of selling and making profits from merchandise sales. Rumours that all you can eat restaurants in Glasgow were celebrating as Ashley severed his ties with the city, as they lost money every time he visited, have yet to be confirmed.
Profits are income less costs. Rangers losses more than doubled in the year to £6.3million (£2.7 million 2016). Excluding the Mike Ashley payoff, the losses are broadly the same as the previous season.
Losing £120,000 a week is substantial, although half of it is a one off cost. For Rangers to turn to profitability they will need to make progress in Europe, as it is not realistic to increase their other income streams, and for that they will need to invest in the playing staff, or get a manager who can manage.
Rangers have claimed that their EBITDA profits (which exclude non-recurring items, depreciation and amortisation, are £110,000. We’ve done our own calculations and arrive at a loss of about £700,000. There’s no agreed definition for this category of loss, it just depends on the assumptions used. What is important is that Rangers losses are looking far lower than a few years ago.
Whilst Rangers do have a fair amount of debt (£14.4m), most of this is in the form of loans from directors and friendly parties. These loans are due for repayment in July and December 2018, and July 2019 It’s not possible to see how such repayments will be made, so we anticipate lenders will roll over the debts to a later date. Alternatively, Rangers might issue shares to investors which are used to pay off the loans.
Rangers have other outstanding legal issues, which may or may not increase the level of indebtedness.
To a certain extent Rangers are boxed in. Celtic have had the benefit of Champions League participation, which, even if they are regularly knocked out in the group stages, gives them a minimum £25 million a year advantage in terms of income, which can be used for player recruitment and wages.
Celtic benefit from the market pool in terms of Champions League distribution, which is where British clubs take more money out as a result of BT Sport paying such a huge sum to broadcast the competition.
The Europa League is a more realistic option for Rangers at present, but it is long haul before it starts to be lucrative for competing teams.
Whilst there is regular talk in the media of both Old Firm clubs playing in England, there’s no realistic chance of this occurring. English teams probably don’t want the competition, and there could also be a breach of UEFA rules.
Rangers therefore need to hope that they can secure investment, from a benefactor, rather than an investor wanting a financial return, to be able to topple Celtic and then have the riches that Champions League membership brings. But the club has seen in recent years promises from some of those at the top turn to dust.
Five Year Financial Summary
|Rangers International Football Club plc||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||Year|
|Non-recurring income (costs)||16.2||0.0||0.0||(0.8)||(2.5)|
|Gain on player sales||0.0||0.4||1.2||0.1||(0.4)|
|Net interest paid||0.2||0.1||0.1||0.0||0.0|
|Profit before tax||1.2||(9.5)||(8.8)||(3.3)||(6.8)|
|Profit after tax||1.2||(9.2)||(8.6)||(3.3)||(6.7)|
|Highest paid director||716||378||225||0||0|
|Total player cost||19.6||14.9||13.1||13.7||19.6|
|Total player cost/income %||103%||85%||79%||62%||67%|
|Balance Sheet Highlights|
|Net player addition/(disposal)||0.6||(0.2)||(1.0)||1.6||9.5|
|Post year end player trading|
|Net cost (income)||0.0||0.0||0.7||3.0||(0.2)|
|Position||3D 1||L1 1||C 3||C 1||P 3|