Football Isn't Fun Anymore
boredom? Need to get away from the wife for eight hours a day? Frightened
of losing their pals? Or could they actually enjoy what they do? I1d put
David Murray firmly in the final category. Along with many other
millionaires with more money than they can sensibly spend over a normal
lifetime, and still leave a few bob for their kids - they get their kicks
out of the daily cut and thrust of business life.
For David Murray this would have been his industrial empire and 3his2
football club. And when it ceases to be fun, then why bother. It looks to
me that he1s played at football supremo for long enough and it1s not going
to be much fun in future. But why?
Running Rangers has been all about raising enough money to allow Souness,
Smith and Advocaat to buy players almost to their hearts content. High
profile players were all the better so that he could host a press
conference. I remember when Laudrup and Boli arrived. Guess which one
Murray described as the complete player and which one had a lot to prove -
wrong David. Mojo, Gazza, and latterly Flo, all had the press flocking to
Ibrox. One because of the religious controversy, one because of the baggage
he brought, and the other because it smashed the Scottish transfer record.
The chances of any other big names coming to Ibrox are remote. No more £12m for a Chelsea reserve, no more all Dutchmen are worth at least £4m (even Bert and Fernando), and hopefully no more dodgy knees.
Unlike Hugh Adam, I don1t believe Murray would have let (or will let) the
club go bust, but as I1ve written before a gap between income and
expenditure needs to be filled - either from more borrowings, or from new
money coming in. The experiences of Joe Lewis and Dave King, who1ve seen
their investments fall in value, and the capital they put in fill the
coffers of other football clubs, may be deterring other rich Bears from
parting with their hard earned cash, while the disappearance of big bucks
from TV companies may be causing the banks to think hard about extending any more credit to football clubs.
These factors were certainly behind the 3New Economics2 which have been put
Alex McLeish1s way - sell before you buy, and work with a smaller lower cost
squad. This is becoming the reality for much of football all over the world
now, but the position of Rangers is better than the other Scottish clubs and
a return to home-grown, or at least Scottish players, need not be a bad
thing. Our last decent run in Europe in 92/93 was in the days of the 3three
foreigners rule2 and when we beat Leeds home and away that season, we only
used two (including Hateley) in the starting elevens. But without the
glamour of the big signings, and the promises to spend a tenner every time
Celtic spent a fiver, and the hopes for the decent runs in Europe, where1s
Despite the move to Deputy Chairman, Murray will still be heavily involved
in the club in the near term. However, his influence and appearances are
likely to get less, especially if the team fails to close the gap with
Celtic which has been there for the past two seasons. Clearly as majority
shareholder he is in a very strong position to influence the direction of
the club, but he may be thinking of emulating his old pal Fergus, and offer
to sell his shares to the fans. It1s difficult to imagine him as a passive
investor - either he will be very hands on, or he will reduce his
So with his Murray Park as his legacy, he can leave with a mixture of
successes and failures. We equalled nine-in-a-row, but failed to beat it;
we have a stadium to be proud of, but he looked on Celtic and the SFA as
allies, and paid the price; we bought Brian Laudrup and we bought Peter van
Vossen; he welcomed hostile journalists into the stadium and banned Follow,
Follow; he promised much in Europe, and delivered little.
That1s how I see it, but how might he see it? He bought his initial stake
in the club for £6m and put up another £9m at the time of the rights issue
in 2000. Today the 37m+ shares he controls are worth around £60m, although
Dave King1s £20m investment is included in there as well. I guess that the
shares he owns rather than controls are probably worth around £50m or over
three times the cash he has put in. Financial success for him?
Definitely. Football success for us? More ups than downs, and plenty of
what-might-have-beens, but apart from Barcelona in 1972, most of my best
memories of following Rangers have been during the Murray years.