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Old Firm In Line For Cash Bonanza

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By Graeme Bryce, 22/11/2008

SIR DAVID MURRAY claims the next multi-million-pound buyout of a British club could rock the football world � because it could happen in SCOTLAND rather than the Premiership.


The Rangers chairman insists the prospect of a Russian billionaire, oil-rich Sheikh or American tycoon making a major investment in Rangers or Celtic isn�t as fanciful as it seems.


He reckons the Premiership can no longer guarantee their mega-rich clubs a passport to the Champions League they crave every season.


In recent years Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have effortlessly cruised through to the group stages of the tournament.


However when the Abu Dhabi United Group turned Manchester City into the richest club in the world overnight, the odds were altered dramatically.


Now with American tycoon Randy Lerner�s Aston Villa on the rise and Newcastle the latest Premiership club attracting serious Arab and American interest, up to seven of the world�s richest clubs could soon be chasing four places at Europe�s top table.


But in Scotland it is a two-horse race between Rangers and Celtic every year.


That is why Murray, who celebrated his 20th anniversary as owner of Rangers this weekend, believes it�s not fantasy football to suggest a mega-rich foreign benefactor could soon turn Scottish football on its head.


He said: ââ?¬Å?If it is more difficult for Premiership clubs to qualify for the Champions League then of course itââ?¬â?¢s an advantage to Rangers and Celtic.


ââ?¬Å?A football club is a risky business, itââ?¬â?¢s not really the best investment. It needs to have somebody with deep pockets and a plan.


ââ?¬Å?If you ran Rangers as a conventional business, without any benefactor element, you would need to downsize the club by 20-25 per cent wage wise. But if somebody wants to use it as a tool for a different means, theyââ?¬â?¢d probably spend a bit more.


ââ?¬Å?Joe Lewis was a business recluse until he bought shares in Rangers. That afternoon helicopters were flying over his house in the Caribbean!


ââ?¬Å?So if somebody wants a high profile, buy a football club.


ââ?¬Å?Roman Abramovich gained Western acceptance when he bought Chelsea. All of a sudden he became a business face, which would not have been known if he hadnââ?¬â?¢t bought Chelsea. It helped him greatly.ââ?¬Â


Murray believes if serious foreign cash was invested in either half of the Old Firm it would floor their rivals.


He added: ââ?¬Å?Thereââ?¬â?¢s not much between Rangers and Celtic. They beat us, we beat them, generally. Weââ?¬â?¢ve both got a lot of Ã?£2-4million players, so thereââ?¬â?¢s little to choose between the squads at the moment. But if somebody put some serious money into one club, I think the other one would be away in the background again for a while.ââ?¬Â


Murray has made it clear for some time he is willing to step aside, after two decades in charge of Rangers, provided the right buyer can be found.


He admits he came within seconds of selling his stake in the Ibrox club last year to an un-named British buyer, only to pull out at the last moment.


He said: ââ?¬Å?Thereââ?¬â?¢s been a few potential buyers on the dance floor over the years. Weââ?¬â?¢ve had a few people interested, but weââ?¬â?¢ve only had one over the line.


ââ?¬Å?We were actually very close to completing a deal with a British investor a year ago in July. I was in the Dorchester Hotel with Martin Bain, the legal documentation was done, the deal agreed, all I had to do was sign my name. My team had worked very hard, but I said ââ?¬Ë?Tell me one more time what you intend to doââ?¬â?¢, then said it wasnââ?¬â?¢t for me and left. I saw a bit of asset division getting made.


ââ?¬Å?Some people say on these websites Iââ?¬â?¢m an asset stripper. But Iââ?¬â?¢ve never known how you can asset strip something which you own 92 per cent of yourself.


ââ?¬Å?All I had to do was sign my name, but the investor was fine about it afterwards.


ââ?¬Å?It wasnââ?¬â?¢t a case that I couldnââ?¬â?¢t give up being chairman of Rangers, I wouldnââ?¬â?¢t go that far. It just wasnââ?¬â?¢t right. There might be flats at Murray Park today otherwise. I didnââ?¬â?¢t feel the way they were going to run the club was the Rangers way.


ââ?¬Å?The proposed plans we have for stadium re-development cover 45 acres, so thereââ?¬â?¢s more money to be made on that than the club. Maybe that tells you a little bit about why we didnââ?¬â?¢t do the deal. You go through life and you have to make decisions. It would have been easier to take the money and go. My life would have been easier for the last 12 months, but in my mind it just wasnââ?¬â?¢t the right thing to do.


ââ?¬Å?If I had known the credit crunch was coming it might have been slightly different, not to be dishonest.


ââ?¬Å?But that was a decision I made and you live and die by your decisions. The deal had been three months in the making but my family backed me.


ââ?¬Å?You hear all that stuff, ââ?¬Ë?Murray must goââ?¬â?¢? Well tell me about it, because my family want me to go!


ââ?¬Å?Twenty years as chairman of Rangers is a long time, but contrary to what people say, the fact I have said Iââ?¬â?¢d be willing to sell doesnââ?¬â?¢t diminish my efforts to try and win things.


ââ?¬Å?Anyone who knows me, knows thatââ?¬â?¢s not true.


ââ?¬Å?How much longer will I go on for? I donââ?¬â?¢t know, thatââ?¬â?¢s for others to decide. What I would say is Iââ?¬â?¢ve never hidden, Iââ?¬â?¢ve tried to give leadership and hopefully integrity.


ââ?¬Å?Iââ?¬â?¢m the longest serving chairman in the clubââ?¬â?¢s history. Iââ?¬â?¢ve been here for 15 per cent of the history of Rangers Football Club and weââ?¬â?¢ve won 30 per cent of the trophies in that time.


ââ?¬Å?Iââ?¬â?¢m happy to keep going for now, until I can pass the baton on to a suitable owner.


ââ?¬Å?But I wouldnââ?¬â?¢t put my children through it. Let them have a life. Theyââ?¬â?¢re both happy, married with children, doing well in their careers.


ââ?¬Å?Goodness me, put them through all of this for another 20 years?ââ?¬Â



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He reckons the Premiership can no longer guarantee their mega-rich clubs a passport to the Champions League they crave every season.

What they crave is making more money, glamour and/or a worldwide high profile.


We have proven that we can't make money when we qualify for the CL. Scottish football isn't glamorous and the TV coverage of our games is very limited worldwide.


His comments are based on false assumptions.

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What they crave is making more money, glamour and/or a worldwide high profile.


We have proven that we can't make money when we qualify for the CL. Scottish football isn't glamorous and the TV coverage of our games is very limited worldwide.


His comments are based on false assumptions.


A billionaire wouldn't be looking to make any money. What Murray says is true about high profile businessmen getting more publicity and kudos from owning clubs that compete at a high level. Being owner of Rangers has surely paved the way to a few deals etc for SDM. Whilst the SPL is poor and coverage limited as you say, should a Russian/Arab/whoever billionaire invest in Rangers and we started signing high profile players then coverage would improve and we would be in the CL every year, bringing said kudos and profile. To be honest though if that were to happen, you would hope that another investor would come in and buy another SPL club or two (hearts perhaps? lol) as our league is monotonous enough already.


I think I would have to say though, that if I were an oil oligarch looking at the EPL and thinking it was already too competitive, I would buy a club in Spain, Germany or France before I would go near the SPL. We can but dream though...

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For a hobby then a billionaire may come to Scotland, but the challenge would be to buy the likes of Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen or Dundee Utd to make them challenge the OF - just like RA did for Chelsea breaking into Arsenal and Man Utd domination.


For a crack at europe then the OF would be appealing.


IF there was an atlantic league or the OF joined the Premier league then the OF would be snapped up quicker than anyone else IMO.

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