02 October 2013

On Brian's Interview

By Andy McGowan | Contributor

I am sure it was a mere coincidence that the interview done by Rangers' Andrew Dickson with Brian Stockbridge was posted around a minute after Barcelona saw off FC Brave at Parkhead but attentions should have immediately turned to the interview to see what Mr. Stockbridge had to say, and what he has to say is certainly interesting.

When asked about the £14 million loss over the 13 month period he said it was ‘part of the plan’ and the club is ‘on track’ — in fact a 14 million pound loss was downright expected. He rightly pointed out we have £11 million in the bank and no debt. Yet he failed to mention at the current rate the money is running out we will be out before the next round of season ticket income and that there isn’t £11 million in the bank. There was £11 million in the bank in June; that number is likely closer to £7 million now, given that retail was counted in these figures, a number that does not represent available cash. He also reassured us there will be no sale and lease-back of the stadium, something that was never an option anyway as I am informed it requires 75% shareholder approval.

He rightly explained the club shouldn’t be expected to make a profit in the lower leagues of Scottish football. This is true, but how the club justifies massive losses – mainly on wages — is another matter entirely. Despite losing £14 million on a turnover of £19.2 million (part of the plan remember) Stockbridge for investment in the club which is required to get us back to the top division. Sorry Brian, did we not just recently have an incredibly successful IPO? Where has our £22 million pounds gone? We know 25% has gone on ‘IPO Fees’ (the cost usually being 5 or 6%) so why was the rest so frivolously spent? Did Charles Green not promise £10 million would be set aside for the very purpose of strengthening the club on its return to the SPFL? Did the CEO not say just a short while ago that no investment would be necessary?

Stockbridge took the moral high ground on wages saying, “You can’t just take a big red pen and cross people’s names out.” You perhaps lose the moral high ground on out of control wages when giving yourself a 111% bonus for making a loss of £14 million, Brian. Perhaps in the spirit of togetherness the board should have forgone their massive inappropriate bonuses based on playing staff performance as well as saving jobs. In the end though redundancies have been made at the club such as Lindsay Herron leaving — the big red pen must have slipped a little.

Brian categorically stated, “The club aren’t running out of money.” Now I’m no accountant and maybe the maths is a little above my head but in June we had £11.2 million pounds in the. If the club operates at a £14 million loss on what level is that not running out of money? Even speaking optimistically if we say after one off expenses the club is running at a £9-10 million loss that still leaves us running out of money and needing next year’s season ticket income just to keep the club afloat. It’s dangerous and unstable and it’s a contradiction to what Brian tells us in the first 40 seconds of the interview when he explains the club needs more investment to get back to the top division. He talks about more season ticket money to come and match day income, retail and so on, but he offers nothing more than that and doesn’t address that all football clubs finances are in decline once season ticket money has been paid – which it now has in full, other than those on the 10 payments plan.

In hindsight, Brian agrees he shouldn’t have accepted a bonus based on Rangers winning the league and he won’t take this particular bonus going forward. If that’s the case why not give it back? If you are telling us we’ve lost £14 million and you as financial director have been paid a bonus for something you shouldn’t have then why not give the money back to the club and earn your bonus based on financial results rather than the results on the park in which you played no part?

He tells us the trading position is doing well. I’m no financial whiz kid but I’d hazard a guess the trading price of the company falling around 50p in the space of a few months isn’t ‘doing well.’ There seems to be a lot of statement and not a lot of fact to back it up. If the accounts were bang on and the trading position was sound surely we’d have seen heavy movement on the street yesterday given the supposedly shimmering results.

The club also spent a lot of money on legal costs. Well, Brian, that’s what happens when you use the Club’s money to sue fans and explore banning them from Ibrox. How Mr Stockbridge can justify ‘defending’ the Club from concerned fans is simply beyond my reckoning. It is disingenuous to suggest that is what they are doing when the simple fact is they are using Club resources to defend themselves.

He also, to my surprise, explained that legal costs have been incurred fighting off the prospect of a general meeting. If the board, who claim they didn’t want to have an EGM because of the £80,000 cost, have nothing to hide why not simply allow the ‘troublemakers’ to make their case at a general meeting rather than wasting time and money fighting it? It has to be asked how it is even right to ‘fight’ a general meeting. A PLC is not a dictatorship — if there are concerns raised by a significant number or shareholders it is surely in the interests of the Club to address those rather than spend money trying to bury them. After all, the board, including you Brian, are supposed to be there to make sure the Club is run as well as it possibly can be. It is irresponsible to use the Club’s resources to fight a war which is being waged because of board’s refusing to justify actions shareholders find unacceptable. I am also not sure Brian has been paying attention as the accounts ended in June and the proposed General meeting was requisitioned on the 1st of August.

The five year plan is to 1. Be financially sound – We are on track to do this with a loss of £14 million in the first year; and 2. Return to the top of Scottish football. That is it that is the five year plan from Financial Director Brian Stockbridge. No outline of implementation, no hint of how we are on track or how this plan will work. Presumably the plan is just to keep signing players and losing money and stay on track.

When asked about the 90%+ of turnover being spent on wages Brian told us unbelievably to focus on player wages and not the higher non-playing-staff wages! Perhaps he doesn’t want to talk about his 111% bonus again, or the £1 million (six zeros: 1,000,000) Charles Green took out of the club, but rather he wants to remind us that our player salary to turnover is just 41% and one of the lowest in the industry. It’s certainly an interesting argument. What should be and normally is any club’s biggest yearly expenditure is just 41% of turnover yet somehow we’ve managed to operate at a £14 million loss and spend the majority of TWO years of season ticket income and a £22 million cash injection via the IPO.

Perhaps the one moment of comic relief in the interview is when Brian told us he’s not going to complain about the fans. The board is currently trying to pull two through court. Members are in favour of banning fans who speak out against the board. And only last Friday the board released a statement wrongly claiming the Sons of Struth protest was an attempt to incite trouble on matchday.

All in all it was another exercise in propaganda from Rangers, or at least the people claiming to be Rangers. There were several phrases repeated throughout which in my opinion Brian Stockbridge was coached to say by his PR snake Jack Irvine, whose fee of course won’t appear until next year’s annual accounts. Throughout the interview he repeats lines such as, “We aren’t running out of money;” “The club are financially secure;” “We have no debts” — It’s buzzword bingo and Brian gets a full house tonight.

There was very little substance to the interview which was Comical Ali-ish in delivery: Simply denial and deflection and the inability to back up what was said up with anything real, a worrying lack of affluence in his promises and excuses.

Talk is cheap Brian; running Rangers under your board isn’t. I hope you are prepared for the AGM because talk won’t cut it when your behaviour is questioned in front of angry shareholders. You may have ducked responsibility at the fans meeting in August but you won’t be able to escape it on the 24th of October.

We'll have a concise breakdown of the accounts coming later on Wednesday. Stay tuned.