Rangers’ decision to play in the hugely-unpopular Sydney Super Cup has been met with derision from fans on both sides of the Old Firm – but some of the attempts by Rangers to justify the decision have been little more than patronising nonsense.
Commercial and Marketing director James Bisgrove appeared before the Rangers TV cameras before giving an interview to Heart and Hand‘s David Edgar, and the interview with the fan media outlet has given arguably the biggest insight into the club’s decision-making process.
When asked about the “depth of feeling” and whether the board anticipated it, Bisgrove made it clear that the club were “disappointed” with the reactions of supporters before taking a leaf out of David Murray’s playbook by claiming the fans who were upset are the same ones who demand success.
“We’ve obviously seen the reaction and to be candid, we’re disappointed,” Bisgrove said.
“When the opportunity came [to speak to fans] we want to do that. For the support not to see this in a positive light is not something we’re comfortable with but what we want to get across is the reasons we’ve made this decision. We feel the supporters who are disappointed will be the same supporters who will demand this club be successful on the pitch and that’s what’s driven this decision. It is to give the best possible resources to the club to be successful and be competitive.”
With no sign that the club are having any second thoughts, Bisgrove was asked what ‘mechanisms’ existed for Rangers to withdraw from the tournament, with the Ibrox director scoffing at the idea and drawing a misleading comparison with Rangers’ involvement in a pre-season tournament in Lyon, saying:
“I think what we absolutely need to do is have a dialogue, hear the views, to explain and have the debate and listen to that strength of feeling but to be clear it is an invitation the club has accepted for the reasons that I explained.
“We participated in a pre-season tournament in the summer of 2020 in Lyon, we weren’t the only Scottish club to participate in that tournament and it was worth a fraction of what this is worth so I think that is a further context that needs to be considered when people are forming opinions on this decision.”
Despite Bisgrove’s experience – or perhaps because of it – he also tried to lay the blame for some of the controversy over the way the news was ‘leaked’ in Australia.
The Commercial and Marketing director thinks the club ‘rightly’ updated fans yesterday, even though the organisers had announced the competition almost 24 hours earlier and the resulting lengthy silence from Rangers allowed the complaints to grow.
“I’m not naive to this,” bisgrove added. “We are not going into this with out eyes closed. It is something that has unfolded in the last 24 hours.
“The communications strategy was interesting in that it seemed to be leaked out of Australia [on Tuesday] and then another club confirmed their participation so we’ve come out and, rightly so, updated the Rangers fans from our perspective.”
As many of the Rangers board are fans, the decision to be a sideshow in ‘Ange’s homecoming tour’ has particularly annoyed supporters.
When asked about this, Bisgrove doubled-down on the financial aspects of the deal saying it is “unlike anything” the club have been presented with before, concluding: “The board of this club, the investors, the chairman, deputy chairman and the rest of the board are Rangers fans so they will be highly tuned in and they will be very receptive to the feeling and the feedback so there is no way they aren’t aware of this.
“However, this was something that was looked at by the board and, for the reasons I explained, was seen as a positive opportunity and a very unique one. These aren’t the sort of offers that non-Champions League clubs are receiving every week.
“It is circumstances that have come together from Australia where someting has been put on the table and has really been unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
Rangers haven’t been shy in making money off fans over the last few years with the club releasing five new kits this season, countless limited edition training ranges and all sorts of fan loyalty shemes aimed at helping drive up the club’s revenue and improve the team on the pitch.
So to essentially be told ‘sit down, shut up and hand over more money’ when the club get it badly wrong isn’t acceptable.
Bisgrove has been pretty vague over just how much the club can make from the trip to Australia but with reports of around £3million being the magic number, it’s hard to get behind the financial argument from the club.
The sad fact is that Rangers are going to Australia later this year and the club simply don’t care about the opinion of fans on it.
You could almost excuse it if the club was owned by foreign owners who were largely unaware of the history of the Old Firm rivalry.
That it has been pushed through by a board of ‘Rangers men’ before critical fans were told they were wrong is a real slap in the face.
Rangers fans have made their feelings perfectly clear about the Celtic clash in Australia with fan media leaders claiming the board are “out of touch”.