31 December 2014

Dreaming on

Glasgow Rangers FC is in something of a mess.  The Scottish football authorities, as well as various interests in the Rangers boardroom, appear to be resisting the gradual (and possibly inevitable) takeover of the club by Mr Mike Ashley of Sporting Direct and of Newcastle United.

The Guardian is today reviewing Mr Ashley's record at Newcastle, and its conclusions should perhaps be borne in mind by those advocating an alternative future for Rangers:
This is a club [Newcastle Utd] who have existed in a state of gloriously thwarted ambition for the last 60 years but who are now in the grip of a business model designed not with glory or even particularly entertainment in mind. Ashley’s sights remain set on staying in the top 10, selling profitably and sitting on the club like a London property tycoon watching the TV rights market rise around him, all the while providing a global billboard for the world’s most bizarrely overexposed cut-price tracksuit shop.
It is always tempting to paint Ashley as a kind of corporate homunculus, draining the city’s historic passions to service his interests elsewhere but like the notion of Pardew as a grand managerial villain finally ousted, it is a construct that falls to pieces under any serious scrutiny. Ashley is a shrewd and timely operator who has bent Newcastle United to fit the restricted horizons of the new football world. Seven years ago the club was in hock at every level and making unsustainable losses. Ashley has invested (with loans) close to £300m and despite some disappointing commercial revenues transformed the club into a profitable concern.
It is a considerable achievement, albeit one in which successive managerial place-men have had relatively little input, and in which the desire of the fans to be transported, seduced with dreams of something larger, has been essentially ignored. 
So is the choice between, on the one hand, financial regularity and diminished footballing ambition and, on the other, dreams of glory while leaving the finances to sort themselves out?  Too simplistic, perhaps, but just the same, all very difficult ...


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