Big thinking: It's a question of ambition

Last updated : 08 January 2008 By Strathclyde Bear
The festive period was a busy one for football news. We had the very welcome news last week that Alan Hutton rejected a move to Tottenham and is extremely happy at Ibrox, certainly for the remainder of this season, if not longer. The bastion of one-sided reporting that is Radio Clyde, who laughably claim not to have an agenda despite just recently attempting to stitch up the Rangers Supporters Trust, are using the predictable line that Alan Hutton lacks ambition by not moving to England. Boruc and his contract extension, however: great news! No mention of his lack of ambition by not sealing that move to AC Milan that the Celtic minded polluted the airwaves with a few months back.

Clyde isn't alone with this ridiculous reporting of the Hutton bid. It shows not only an underlying anti-Rangers slant but also a startling lack of integrity, consistency and professionalism within the Scottish football media. Mind you, that's hardly something new. The saddest part remains that there is still so few Rangers-friendly voices out there. You only have to look at the people most often cited as "Bears in the media" to see how bad the situation is: Iain King, who's happy to fabricate stories about Rangers fans to put us down; and Darryl 'Online Social Networking Creep' Broadfoot. With friends like these...

One positive and very surprising story to appear over the last few days was that of possible stadium redevelopment. As a support we seem to be experts at putting ourselves down and dismissing things before they even begin. Longer-term users of the messageboard will recall numerous occasions over the last few seasons where new signings have been labelled as 'duds' before the contract details have even been confirmed. In the case of the recent big story, a few reasons kept appearing as to why we should settle for Glasgow's third biggest stadium.

"We can't fill Ibrox as it is. There's no appetite. Why bother expanding?"

"We wouldn't fill it for games against Gretna, St Mirren etc."

"Where's the money coming from for this? We're broke!"

The last statement is, of course, completely valid and one that feeds the suspicion surrounding this story. If David Murray is selling, why would he do this? How could we possibly generate the £200 million required to knock down and rebuild three quarters of Ibrox? These questions and similar are something for the bean counters and people upstairs to sort out. Football supporters may be keen armchair managers but raising hundreds of millions of pounds is something we may struggle to contribute workable ideas to. The other points, particularly those of crowd size, are something that we can consider.

Glasgow, I believe, is the only city in the world to have three football stadiums with over 50,000 capacity. To suggest there's a lack of appetite to fill a 70,000 seater stadium in this city, our city, is ludicrous. There is nowhere around as football-obsessed as Glasgow (which makes our amateurish, Celtic-minded media even more sickening) and when you consider where our club draws its natural support from, I think it's fair to say there are plenty of people out there that would come to Ibrox if given just a little encouragement.

Something people are either ignoring or are not aware of is that back in the day we had a stadium with a capacity of 120,000. This was at a time when we shared a league with the likes of Albion Rovers, Queen's Park, Clyde, Hamilton, Arbroath and Ayr United and crowds approaching six figures weren't unknown. The attendances fluctuated but I don't recall reading about anyone connected with Rangers obsessing over what our rivals thought when a 118,000 crowd was followed up with just a few thousand at the next home fixture. If an expanded Ibrox wasn't packed full for a Scottish Cup tie against East Stirling, who cares? Barcelona don't sell out every home game but would you suggest they knock a couple of tiers from the Nou Camp?

Of course, redevelopment wouldn't have to end with the stadium. The plan could include a long overdue Rangers museum. Hamburg's club museum paid for itself within a year and makes a profit. With all due respect, Hamburg is no Rangers. We have a story to tell and if told properly it would attract visitors even on non-matchdays. The Ibrox tour doesn't appear to be particularly well advertised but still pulls in a crowd and a Rangers museum could quite easily improve on this. Another popular idea is a Rangers themed pub. Not only would this generate further matchday revenue, but if it finally stopped Bears filling the coffers of the tim-infested dive that is the Stadium Bar, even better.

The issue of crowd size and empty seats can be addressed quite simply if a sensible pricing structure is put in place. A trip to Ibrox for a dad and his kids is an expensive one, so why not let youngsters in to a bigger Ibrox for less money? Having people there will generate cash in other areas and, most importantly, you're starting off the next generation of season ticket holders and members of the 70,000+ crowds of tomorrow. If we draw a third division side in the Cup and end up playing them on a manky January weekday, let the kids in for nothing. It costs nothing to put people on seats and the chances are they'll buy some food, maybe a programme and some merchandise. Encourage people to come along and they will.

To question the pull and attraction of Rangers is absurd. Take a minute to check our record home attendance for a league match. It's on this site. Now have a look at the corresponding record for Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Celtic, Everton, Newcastle - any British side you care to name. None of them even come close to six figures; they're utterly paltry in comparison and our record smashes the six figure mark, and then some. It was Sky money and the revamped Premiership that stopped us being Britain's biggest club in financial terms but there is no reason we can't attract a crowd to rival that of Old Trafford.

The news that leaked this week isn't just about stadium redevelopment. The plan mentioned was one option of three and could easily turn out to be Murrayspin. But I think the day that the Rangers support dismisses potential positives like this out of hand is a very sad one. As Rangers, we should always be ambitious, both on and off the field. To paraphrase John Allan, "this was the philosophy of the Rangers since the days of the Gallant Pioneers." During the formative years of the 1870s, the pre-league years of the 1880s and throughout the time of William Wilton and Bill Struth up until the 1950s, one thing you could be certain of is that Rangers would aim for the very top in all areas, and it showed. Even in the earliest days, the youngsters that founded our club simply did not settle for second best. If you want to talk about "the Rangers way" then you have it summed up perfectly: setting the standards for others to follow.

We reside in the biggest city of a country with over five million people. We draw a large, loyal support from Northern Ireland and some from England. With this in mind, do you really believe that only 50,000 want to turn up to watch the Gers every other Saturday?

We've become cynical over the last few years after failed promises and down-sizing so it's only natural to be suspicious when a multi-million pound stadium is mentioned as part of a £700 million development. I believe this is the first decade in our entire history where our average attendance has been second to our city neighbours. The point is that there are plenty of people out there that want to see us remain in second place both on and off the field and we, as a support, simply cannot allow our collective ambition and hopes for Rangers to be dragged down.

For anyone that believes 50,000 is our limit, for anyone that accepts falling from being the biggest draw in British football to the second biggest attraction in Glasgow, you're letting the side down. We have no God-given right to be at the top - it has always been about hard work - but we have to aim for it. It's what the Rangers is all about.