Rangers fans group urge boycott on back of last weeks financial results
If it wasn't bad enough that last week's interim financials showed an £8 million shortfall now a Rangers supporters' group has urged fans to stop buying club merchandise. That move can hardly help turnover.
The Union of Fans (UoF) spoke out after analysing Rangers International Football Club plc annual results.
They are critical of the retail deal with Sports Direct, whose owner Mike Ashley holds almost 9% of RIFC shares.
The UoF said: "We urge fans to stop buying merchandise from club stores, which are now under Mr Ashley's full control or being shut down, and Sports Direct."
The UoF believe that the Sports Direct agreement compares unfavourably with a previous contract struck with the retailer JJB Sports.
The RIFC results revealed that losses of £8.3m were made in the 12 months to the end of June 2014, and that the auditors Deloitte warned of "material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt over the group's ability to continue as a going concern".
The RIFC directors revealed that funding of £8m will be required, through loans or equity, to ensure that the business continues to trade for the next 12 months, on the assumption that season ticket sales will return to around 38,000, despite around 15,000 fans refusing to renew last summer, and an increase in season ticket prices.
UoF, a coalition of Rangers supporters' groups, sought analysis of the accounts to look at the detail of the agreement between RIFC and Sports Direct, with the two companies having a stake in the joint vehicle Rangers Retail Ltd.
Mike Ashley Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has made £3m available to Rangers in the form of loans
Since Ashley increased his stake in RIFC, his long-time associate and former Newcastle United managing director, Derek Llambias, has joined the RIFC board as a non-executive director.
Sports Direct also gave up the naming rights to Ibrox that they purchased for £1 from former Rangers chief executive Charles Green, and consolidated "existing marketing arrangements between the parties and results in a more normalised retail joint venture marketing arrangement in which Sports Direct will continue to have certain advertising rights".
Union of Fans' statement
"In light of the information revealed in the accounts we urge fans to stop buying merchandise from club stores, which are now under Mr Ashley's full control or being shut down, and Sports Direct."
"That means for every £10 spent by Rangers fans on merchandise, the club receives only around 75p. The accounts also reveal that Rangers Retail has an obligation to purchase stock at a higher price than it is able to be sold at.
"In the second half of the year covered by the accounts, it appears that the portion of profit due to the club is £2,000.
"For comparative purposes, the much maligned JJB agreement, our previous retail deal, made the club a minimum of £4.8m a year over the term of the deal, over eight times the amount we are making from Sports Direct.
"Crucially, it is also not clear whether the club has yet received a penny of the £590,000 it is due or whether it is still retained within Rangers Retail. Indeed, from inception it would appear that the club has only received £100,000 in dividends from the venture with Sports Direct."
Meanwhile, Rangers will seek a fresh share issue following the announcement of a £8.3m for the 12-month period to 30 June 2014, with fresh funding needed as soon as January. This is on top of the recently secured £3m loan from Mike Ashley.
However, the preliminary results report warned they would need an extra £8m investment in the next 12 months.
The club say costs have been "significantly reduced", and are down on the previous year's £14.4m loss.
Club directors say they have been "approached by several parties offering funds on a secured basis".
They added: "Conversations are at an early stage but it does appear that a commercially acceptable agreement can be secured."
Auditors have included an emphasis of matter paragraph, highlighting that there is "material uncertainty on the Group's ability to continue as a going concern".