Paul Murray-The Rangers Standard Interview

At the end of 2012, The Rangers Standard interviewed Paul Murray, the former Rangers director and Blue Knight. In this first extract from the discussion, he discusses the recent share issue and offers his views on both the future of Rangers and Scottish football in general.

Alasdair McKillop: The IPO has just concluded this week. It raised just over £22million by various means, institutional investors, the fans and so on. Do you feel the financial future of the club is now stable or certainly more stable than it has been in the past number of years?

Paul Murray: I think you would have to say yes. I think first of all it’s a great achievement to raise that amount of money for almost any venture at the moment given the current state of the economy. To raise it for a Scottish third division football club is remarkable. I don’t think people should be quibbling over ‘oh it was meant to be £10million from the fans and they only got £5million’. To raise £22.5 million pounds from investors is a fantastic achievement.

Chris Graham: There have been a lot of plans to increase the revenue. Jim Traynor has come in and the club are talking about doing their own media. There’s also the old stuff about increasing the profile abroad and having lots of people overseas running about in Rangers strips. A lot of these are things that we’ve heard before to an extent, how realistic do you think those plans are? Rangers and Celtic have always had a view that their own media rights are worth much more to their own clubs and they’re not really getting value for them in terms of having to split it out. Do you think these extra revenue streams are realistic given what you know of the club’s finances and what’s gone on before?

PM: I think the answer is possibly. When I was there as a non-executive, we asked the executive directors, Martin (Bain) and so on, about all these things so it’s not as though no one has thought about this stuff and we’ve been looking for quite a long time. I think it’s good there are some fresh eyes on the thing and there’s a new board and that’s great and they should look at all this stuff. What I would say is it’s not quite as easy as people think. It’s not just a question of suddenly flicking a switch and Rangers are being played in China-it just doesn’t really happen that way. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to NARSA (North American Rangers Supporters Association)? I’ve been to quite a few of the NARSA conventions over the years and there’s a big support over in North America but it’s an aging support. It’s guys who went to America and Canada 40-50 years ago, who by the way still speak with broad Glaswegian accents, but their kids...they are interested but they’re not as passionate as these guys. It all sounds great in theory about the brands and global brands and all the rest of it and there’s no doubt Rangers are ‘a big club’ but are they as big as some of the English Premiership teams, the Spanish clubs, the German clubs? I think even us as supporters have to be a bit realistic here and I think as long as Rangers are playing in the Scottish league in some shape or form the potential is actually that much more limited. Really the media is all about, let’s be honest, people watching the games. The reason the English Premiership has been so successful is because of the great players and the reason they’ve got great players is because they’ve got the ability to sell the TV rights for a lot of money to pay for those players. There’s just not those rights in Scotland, they just won’t be there. So I think there is potential but it’s going to need a pretty fundamental restructuring of world football, not just Scottish football and it’s been on the cards for a long time. When I was on the board there were various discussions with the English Premier League and various votes taking place but it’s not quite as simple as people think it is.

CG: One of the things that has been mentioned is possibly renaming the stadium-have you got any views on that? Is that something that was ever looked at during...

PM: Not in any great detail. I think this is a personal thing isn’t it? My view is, and sometimes you have different views at different times, it will always be Ibrox-that’s just the reality of it. It will always be Ibrox so even if it’s called The MacDonald’s Stadium people won’t be saying ‘I’m going to MacDonald’s’ it will be ‘I’m going to Ibrox’. The view I take, frankly, is if you’re getting paid quite a lot of money by someone to name the stadium and they understand it will always be called Ibrox then actually you’re pragmatic and take the money. I think if you’re moving the stadium that’s different, I would be against that. But if you’re getting paid quite a lot of money to brand something and we know it will always be Ibrox then I’m reasonably relaxed about that.

AM: What about your own future with Rangers? Would you ever consider going back onto the board again at some point in the future? I believe Graham Spiers actually recommended that in the Herald earlier in the week. Presumably you’ve been under quite a bit of pressure in past couple of years with your involvement with Rangers, do you feel like you’re just going to take a step back for the foreseeable future?

PM: You obviously never say never but I don’t think so. I think in any walk of life going back to something is never quite the same as it was the first time. You see that even with the players the second time around. It wouldn’t be the same now so I think the answer is probably no. Obviously I’d be happy to help at any time and I think I’ve got a lot to add to the club but I’m happy to let the guys there just now take the club forward. I’ve spoken to Malcolm Murray a few times in passing and given him my thoughts and views and if I can help in any way then I’ll do that but I don’t think going back again is going to be the right thing to do. We’ve moved into a new era now and I think the people that are there have to take forward what they think is best now and I think going back to the past...I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.

CG: It will be quite nice to go to the games without the pressure of being a on the board as well.

PM: I’ve not been to many games actually. The whole thing has sickened me a little bit, the whole way the club has been treated and the last couple of years. I’m going to start going back but it’s taken something away from it for me to a certain extent. But I’ll support the club and if I can help the club in any way then I’ll do that.

AM: Do you have any concerns about the club going forward, about Charles Green’s stewardship? Or are you reasonably relaxed, reasonably confident about the way things are developing at the moment?

PM: I think the circumstances in which Charles Green bought the club were, as I said before, a little bit clouded in the sense that he came in at the last minute. When you think about the middle of June and John Brown standing on the steps of Ibrox with x-thousand guys calling for Charles Green’s head, as it were, and Walter and Jim McColl and Douglas Park trying to buy him out at the same time, to go from that position to where we are now is actually quite a remarkable job. So I think he’s done a pretty good job to turn that round and I think to raise that amount of money in this environment is pretty impressive. I just hope that Craig Whyte is not involved somewhere. I just hope there’s not some deal been done with him for him to get paid or for him to get something out of this because that wouldn’t be good. He (Green) has said that is not the case and I’m happy to accept that but I hope that’s not the case. There have also been various rumours about that and in fact Craig Whyte has said it himself a few times but I just hope that isn’t the case.

CG: Do you have any concern over the makeup of the shareholding now? Obviously the institutional investors who have come in are of quite a high quality, is there maybe a little bit of an issue there in terms of them wanting to get a return for their investment and how they might actually get that out of the club?

PM: That is a slight concern. I think the thing about Charles Green that is refreshing...he’s like a modern-day Fergus McCann. He has said from day one ‘I’m here to make money’ so he’s not trying to delude the fans into thinking he’s a Rangers fan. He is there to make money which is absolutely fine. He has been clear, he has been honest. The difference between him and me is that I would not have done this for that. I was coming in not to make money, we didn’t want to lose money, but we didn’t want to make money so we would have been reinvesting the proceeds in the club in a slightly different way. Obviously, as you say, when you get institutional investors on board, they’re not doing it for the sake of their health, they’re doing it for a return. They’ve also bought into the business plan which is great for Rangers but at some point they will want to realise their investment we’ll have to see what happens.

CG: What do you think of Jim Traynor’s appointment? You said earlier on that you went to him with the story about Ticketus, do you think he’s a good appointment?

PM: Jim Traynor, in my opinion, is, by a country mile, the best sports journalist in Scotland. He is a fantastic journalist so from that point of view he is a quality guy. I suppose at this moment his role is quite a specific role. If you actually read the prospectus, one of the key planks of the business plan is actually to make money from media in all shapes and sizes be it the website, be it social networking, be it digital TV rights. As I understand it, Jim is effectively managing that part of the business which is a pretty big job. Whether Jim is qualified to do that I don’t know because that’s different from being a journalist but I do know he is a smart guy and he is a good media guy but whether he is able to exploit that to make money I don’t know-time will tell.

CG: Do you think it will help with the media perception of the club having somebody like him on board? Obviously certain sections of the media have been quite scathing about the club over the last year or so, do you think we’re going to have the ability to see less negative stories in the press or do you not really think that will be his remit?

PM: I think it will be part of his remit. Obviously he will have to manage, with advisors, the PR. One of a football club’s biggest assets is the content it has got-it has great content. It has all these stories about players and managers and so on and what they regularly do is waste that content by giving it away to journalists. So a player will speak to Keith Jackson and give him an exclusive story without the club getting some value for it. So I think what they’re going to try and do, as I understand it, is drive more people towards the website. So if you want to find out about Rangers, go to the website. And that is a sensible thing to do because otherwise you’re essentially wasting your content. So he’ll be able to help with all that. He’s obviously a well-connected guy but like everything in life he’ll have enemies that he’s built up over the years at different newspapers and so on, so I’m sure some people will be his pal and other people won’t be. He’ll have to take more of a rounded view, he can’t just go to the Record all the time and say ‘right, that’s the main story’, he’ll have to bring in the other tabloids and indeed the other newspapers. It’s a big job, it’s a really big job and it’s critical to the club’s future success.

AM: How do you see Rangers future in Scottish football? Obviously in recent months Charles Green has been adopting a fairly hard-line approach towards the football authorities and other teams partly, or to a large extent, reflecting the views of the fans on these issues. Do you think that is a viable strategy going forward or do you think there’s going to come a time when Rangers are going to have to start building bridges with some other clubs and the football authorities and start healing some of the wounds which have opened in the past year?

PM: I think the answer is yes and yes. To play in any competitive sport you’ve got to have competition by definition-so you’ve got to have people to play. You can’t just fall out with everyone and be on your own. There’s been a feeling that’s how it has been for the last six months, like we’ve been on our own against everyone else. I think the biggest issue the club faces from a financial point of view is what will happen to Scottish football in general and I think maybe we’ll look back in ten years time and maybe one of the few benefits that will come from this dreadful chapter in Rangers history is that it caused Scottish football to change for the better. I’ve said a few times, and I’m sure you’ve got the same view, it’s farcical in a country of 5million people to have three governing bodies: it’s just a nonsense to have the SFA, the SPL and the SFL.

Germany has one football body and it’s a massive country but Scotland is full of all these jobsworths and blazers who have been there for years and who have got all these perks and views and they have to represented but they shouldn’t be the main representation. I really hope that someone of real credibility steps into the situation and takes control of it and says ‘right lets present a vision for Scottish football going forward with one body controlling the whole thing.’ Obviously there would be representation for different associations be it the Juniors, the Highland League, the Ayrshire League but one body with credible people going to drive the thing forward. I don’t know whether it’s better having a 12-12-10 or a 12-10-10 or 14...I think all that’s just detail.

I think what you’ve got to try and do is get a bigger picture. What are you trying to do in Scottish football? To me, the ideal person would be Alex Ferguson. A guy who has absolute credibility, he is a very intelligent guy but he wouldn’t want the job I don’t think because it’s a pretty poisoned chalice. But if he actually retired and said ‘I’m going to put something back and my legacy for Scottish football is to sort it out’ he would be the one guy that people would follow. I just look around at Scottish football at the moment and think who would anyone follow in Scottish football? There’s no one there that’s got any real gravitas and I think that’s the biggest problem we’ve got-where is this whole thing going? It’s great to work through the leagues and we’ll win the third division this year and the second division...but what are you moving towards? Even if you get back to SPL, what will the SPL be? I think that’s the bigger issue. If Charles Green is sensible, and I think he is, he should take a leading role to build bridges but to use that building process to get what’s best not just for Rangers but for Scottish football.

There’s no point in us and Celtic being dominant because that’s not a competition and you’ve got to find a way of making the whole thing more appealing. Otherwise we will become the League of Ireland or the League of Wales. I don’t know how old you guys are but I’ve been watching Scottish football since the 1970s and the decline in Scottish football in the last twenty years is staggering, absolutely staggering. It’s reflected in the national team, the fact that most of the teams in Europe get knocked out at the first round-it’s just an embarrassment isn’t it? We’ve got to find a way of moving the thing forward.    

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