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Setting the Standard: Selling Rangers to the World

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Part 1




Football is not just about the trophies or the glory anymore: money is as big a part of the modern game as success on the field. It is what keeps clubs afloat, allows them to buy the players and to improve the facilities for those players and the supporters who follow the club. It is these supporters who collectively provide football clubs with much of the revenue needed to achieve these goals. Rangers Football Club are well aware of this fact and know that the unwavering loyalty and devotion shown by us supporters can be exploited through the sale of merchandise and memorabilia to increase the yearly turnover.


If ever there was a more critical time for this loyalty to be utilised, it is now. The club is enduring a period of financial insecurity after two consecutive summers of big spending coupled with failure to make the group stages of the Champions League this season and the �£10 million cash incentive that coincided. In January, David Murray was forced to admit that all offers for our big-name players would be considered due to our financial predicament. These are tough times, but is the club exploring every avenue of generating income? What of our merchandising revenue?


The Rangers support is vast, you will find Bears in all corners of the world who are devoted and loyal to their club. Around 200,000 of these supporters descended on Manchester last season for the UEFA Cup Final, an unprecedented number of people actively following a football match. That single event served as proof of the enormity of the Rangers fan base, and the truth is that most of these fans would have come from the United Kingdom alone. Think of the thousands upon thousands of others who would have packed their local Rangers or Scottish bar in the cities of Canada, America and Australia to watch their beloved team contest a European final. What I am trying to emphasise here is that with these great numbers comes great marketing potential. Which sadly isn't being explored.


On the 9th of March 2006 Rangers Football Club signed a ten year licensing agreement with JJB Sports PLC. As contained within a press release from the sportswear distributor, it was announced that JJB would;


“…design, develop and source all Rangers merchandise throughout its substantial network of 439 stores”.



Also JJB was tasked with the “maintenance and order fulfilment of the Rangers online retail facility where Rangers product will continue to be sold”.


The deal was struck and an initial payment of Ã?£18 million was paid to Rangers on the 6th June 2006. This is accentuated by a minimum annual royalty of Ã?£3 million which is then added to if sales thresholds are met and exceeded. The deal was put in place just as Alex McLeish’s tenure at Rangers was running out and the arrival of Paul Le Guen was looking more likely. The deal, brokered by Sir David Murray and Martin Bain, meant that 18 club shops were closed, leaving somewhere in the region of 200 Rangers workers unemployed.


But what has the deal brought to the club? Surely it is a good thing? On paper it is a guaranteed minimum Ã?£48 million pounds until 2016, rising if we meet certain sales targets. But upon closer inspection of the 2008 accounts, it can be seen that we cannot have met these thresholds as we were only paid the minimum of Ã?£3 million. In a year where we pushed to a European final and brought 200,000 fans to Manchester, when will there come another time where there will be more replica jerseys sold? If we didn’t meet the targets then, will we ever within the 10 year deal?


Another consideration that needs to be discussed is whether JJB are actually keeping up their end of the deal. How many JJB stores have you been into recently that have a good breadth of Rangers products to purchase or have made their Rangers merchandise clearly visible? I tell you what, let’s do a small experiment. Go to the JJB website now as you are reading this. Using your internet browser, go to (http://www.jjbsports.com/football/shirts) and click on the “Scottish Teams” shirts that are available for purchase. I’m sure once you have clicked on this you will see the point that I’m trying to make.


Problems of JJB mismanaging the deal could have been prevented. The conspiracy theorist in me might make the point that JJB are not pushing the Rangers merchandise as they do not want to pay more than the minimum payment to the club. But that is merely conjecture, we will never really know.


But what could not be legislated for was the financial crisis which has been thrust upon our country. JJB as a company was no different and is facing the prospect of closure. Now I would not claim to know the inner workings of what would happen should this occur. But it would seem that if it were the case, Rangers and Murray would need to have a Plan B.


Would we go back to handling our own merchandising and sales? Perhaps it would be a blessing in disguise if the deal with JJB was vetoed – allowing us to reanalyse and come up with a new innovative strategy.


Although the JJB deal has been a bonus for the club financially, I do not feel that the small increase of annual profit from our merchandise sales in the UK since the deal came into fruition is enough to justify the loss of the Rangers name from the high street, or the reduced range of merchandise available. Yes, there is a wider range available online but the fact is that most supporters still prefer to shop in the high street, as do most consumers in general. People feel a sense of pride and excitement when we purchase something we can take home. That is somewhat lost with internet shopping.


Therefore, as has been said, the club must either cut our ties with the failing retail chain and negotiate a deal with one who will promise to make Rangers supporters feel like they have a place to come and buy a wide range of merchandise and regalia. Or else reinvest in introducing the traditional Rangers superstores back onto the high street. Sometimes you have to take one step backwards to come two steps forward.



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Part 2


Now, let’s have a look at how our generated merchandising income compares to others in Europe. International sports business group, Deloitte, recently published a list of the top twenty richest clubs in the world. Included in the report was a breakdown of each clubs' revenue, merchandise sales being of particular interest for this article.


Unsurprisingly, the top two clubs, Real Madrid and Manchester United made a whopping �£102 million and �£64 million respectively on commercial revenue. It would be unrealistic for Rangers to ever dream of competing with those figures in the short term. But clubs lower down the league, such as Tottenham and Manchester City are also streets ahead in the commercial and merchandise department. Tottenham last year generated �£9.7 million in merchandising sales alone, while Manchester City, bottom of the rich list, bagged �£7.8 million. Both of these clubs have a substantially smaller worldwide fan base than Rangers, yet are generating almost treble the amount of merchandising revenue. This cannot just be down to these clubs having the prestige of playing in the English Premiership with its endless popularity all over the world. Do these clubs have ingenious marketing structures which allow them to make more profit than they otherwise would from their fan base? Are they doing so by enticing neutral football supporters to buy their products? Or are Rangers simply neglecting our own massive support by not providing them with the opportunity to buy Rangers our product? Shall we ask the supporters themselves?


Starting from South of the Border in England, you would expect there to be an abundance of Rangers merchandise given the large amount of JJB stores in the country. This is what an English Rangers fan had to say:


“I couldn't even get the home shirt in JJB this season until about September. The away and third shirts were never available. Anything we English Bears need, apart from the home shirt, has to be obtained either from the club shop or the official site online shop.


I'd like to see us promote and significantly expand the American market, as well as promoting the Rangers name in general within the rest of the UK, particularly England”



It seems that JJB are proving to be just as poor in providing a good range of Rangers merchandise in England as they are in Scotland. The recent Uefa Cup Final where a great many English Bears looking to purchase Rangers kits for the big day, were told that there was no stock, shows that JJB are not supplying to satisfy the demand.


Outside of Scotland, there are more Rangers supporters in Northern Ireland than in any other country in the world. Historical associations over the years has created a unique situation where thousands of Ulster men and women support the Light Blues and travel in vast numbers across the sea every week to lend their support. Here is the opinion of two such Rangers fans from Northern Ireland on the issue:


“In Belfast we used to have a Rangers superstore, but like everywhere else they were replaced by JJB.


JJB stores in Belfast started off with rather large RFC sections, but they have shrank down as time has passed, and now they rarely carry an more RFC stuff than say Man Utd etc.


Celtic still have a megastore in the city centre, whereas the availability of Rangers stuff is much more scattered and fragmented.


I do notice in Glasgow the JJB stores make much more of an effort to provide a 'Rangers section' than here in Ulster, but even in Glasgow I would say it’s a far cry from a Rangers store.


I would say that in the high street, since the Rangers store closed, the lines available to buy over the counter have reduced by at least 75%.


The merchandise that the Rangers shops carried such as DVD selections and leisure clothing is almost totally gone.”


In short, its internet only for anything much more than a full strip.”



Yet another example of JJB failing the needs of Rangers supporters. There is not a great range of merchandise available, even in the Glasgow stores, and it is apparent that in Belfast there is less still. This is the same situation across Northern Ireland:


“I find that Rangers merchandise isn't as readily available here as it is in Scotland, although it's still easy enough to go out and buy a strip at certain shops. I know of one small retail shop in town that sells Rangers jewellery but you'd be hard pushed to find anything else. There's a Celtic shop in town, and you're far more likely to come across their merchandise here than anything else.


In saying that, I am from Londonderry, the town is mostly occupied with Catholic residents and the waterside with protestants, the Waterside doesn't have half as many shops, so it's understandable why it's hard to find anything in town. There is no reason there shouldn't be one in the Waterside. There is a JJB store, but there isn't much in it. For all I know Belfast or other places in Northern Ireland may have more products available, I just don't shop up there often.


Well basically after that rant, 'there's the odd stuff, but not a lot' sums it up”



Of course, in Northern Ireland the JJB deal also applies and therefore, like Scotland, there are no Rangers club shops. But it seems that there is also a lack of Rangers merchandise on offer despite the large Rangers support and relative ease of shipping merchandise across the Irish Sea. The club are not doing enough to provide supporters with official club merchandise in Northern Ireland and are subsequently missing-out on a great deal of revenue in the process.


In Canada there is also a very strong Rangers fan base, most member clubs of NARSA (North Atlantic Rangers Supporters Association) are indeed RSCs from Canada. Is there a good range of Rangers merchandise available to Canadian Bears?


“At the local level, I have never seen a single piece of Rangers merchandise in a store in Edmonton. Others who have been her longer than I have may have seen some once or twice, but I never have. You can get Celtic tops here though if you hunt around.


In other cities, I have occasionally seen Rangers shirts, but less frequently than their Celtic counterparts. The range is terrible, where there is anything available at all.


I don't have a problem with shopping on the internet but I have to say I have never used the official club site or the JJB site to see if I could get something sent direct from them. My mum or dad bring me a jersey when they come over and occasionally I get bits and pieces from them in the post.


The club should give the fans the sense that they matter. Get a shirt deal going with SportChek or someone here in Canada so I can buy the shirts easily. Or at the very least have it so I can shop online here without paying an import tax on a shirt that is already costing me in pounds, not dollars.”



So in Edmonton at least, it seems that Rangers don't exist. There is no club merchandise available anywhere in the city. Not good enough when you consider that the city is home to many Rangers supporters who would be more than willing to by Rangers merchandise if they could find it. What of elsewhere in Canada?


“The fact is that Rangers items are very hard to come by here. You walk in the shops here such as Foot Locker and other major retailers and you see nothing from Rangers. In saying that, Celtic are well represented. As are the likes of Man U, Barcelona and AC Milan.


For a continent such as North America where there are thousands upon thousands of Rangers fans, the ability to pick up items is poor. Furthermore, when items are here, they are extremely pricey.


For my last in Canada purchase I had to go to the Umbro catalogue and order from them because I knew a guy at the one store. It is horrible.


In my opinion, they should allow RSCs in North America to be able to sell the merchandise at UK cost levels. That would make sense to me.”



So this problem of Rangers merchandise being extremely rare seems to be an all too common story in Canada – and what little that there is available proves to be very expensive by UK standards. The above contributor makes a very valid recommendation too. Allowing NARSA registered clubs to import the merchandise in bulk and sell to their members is an interesting suggestion which will be explored later in this article.


This lack of merchandise seems to stretch across the border into the United States where the legions of Rangers supporters there too are finding it near impossible to find Rangers clothing:


“I cannot pick up any RFC merchandise in any of our local sports stores. Our largest store, Sports Authority have never stocked Rangers items. A definite no. The best that most of these stores can do is point you in the general direction of specialist European football stores which are very few and far between. Even there, you are not guaranteed to find Rangers items.”



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Part 3


There is a common theme occurring here, buying Rangers merchandise anywhere outside of the UK is close to impossible unless you are willing to pay over the odds by importing it from Scotland via JJB or the Rangers online megastore. Will switching to the other side of the world by getting an Australian supporter's point of view provide some much-needed positivity on the issue?


“Well I generally don't buy Rangers shirts here. For one there aren't that many in sports stores. They are available but compared to the number of Celtic jerseys it's low. They're also quite expensive over here so I just get my relatives in Scotland to buy them and send them to me.


As far as other merchandise is concerned it is non-existent. The only items available are football strips.


There is quite an extensive Scottish population in Australia who mostly support either Rangers or Celtic so I think it would be worthwhile for Rangers to open at least one superstore in this country.


Football is actually taking off in Australia with the new A-League and the international side becoming part of the Asian region and doing so well. It could be worthwhile for Rangers to do a tour of Australia and play some friendlies against the A-League sides to further promote the club. Setanta has done a deal with Foxtel (main cable tv provider) to use their satellites and this is mainly due to people who wanted to see the SPL so the market for the Scottish game is definitely here to be tapped into”



Evidently the same story is appearing the world over. Little to no Rangers merchandise to be found outside of the UK. This is absolutely criminal for a club our size to have such a poor marketing strategy. The demand is clearly there as our last contributor demonstrated. Football is becoming a major sport in Canada, America and Australia and a large Rangers support exists in all three countries. Yet the club either do not have the vision or the business acumen to satisfy this demand and make a substantial profit.


There are various ways in which Rangers Football Club should look to improve their marketing strategy both at home and overseas.


Firstly, JJB are clearly not holding-up their end of the bargain. The company is in serious danger of liquidation and is not providing a good range of Rangers merchandise in comparison to the former Rangers club stores. We are not making enough of a financial profit from this deal to justify the decrease in market standards. Therefore the club should either look to negotiate a deal with another high street sports store who will guarantee to provide a better range of merchandise, or simply revert back to the old system of having multiple dedicated Rangers stores across the country. Thus the name and logo of Rangers Football Club re-appears on the high street and the initial flurry of supporters looking to discover the new stores will create good revenue, even if that will only be short-term.


The same method should be applied throughout the UK where there is demand. Cities like Belfast, London, and Liverpool would all benefit from having a Rangers megastore.


In North America there is already an organisation in NARSA which has the power to bring together thousands of Rangers supporters either through local RSCs or the highly popular annual conference. The club must approach both the individual RSCs and the wide NARSA community in order to establish ways of importing merchandise which will be easy for Rangers supporters to buy.


Our earlier contributor from Canada had the suggestion of allowing North American RSCs to buy merchandise in bulk and sell it to its members. In essence, this is what should be happening. The club should welcome such initiatives and in turn reward the RSCs with discounted prices on all imported merchandise, free subscription to Rangers World for their members or signed strips and photos. It makes these alienated supporters feel like they are still part of the Rangers family despite being so far away from their spiritual home. The club will also make serious amounts of money by tapping into this market.


In Australia ORSA and the local RSCs, although not as many exist, should be given these same opportunities. But the club could also engage with the local sports retail chains all over the country to establish trading links whereby they are willing to have plenty of Rangers club merchandise imported. With football becoming such a popular game Down Under it would be beneficial for the club to exploit this trend and make money and possibly new supporters from it. Why not also show some invention and adapt our merchandise to the climate of the country? Residents of Australia are hardly going to be responsive to buying padded Rangers training jackets and raincoats in such a sun-scorched country. Rangers beach towels, Sun hats, baseball caps etc. etc. would sell much more.


The possibilities are endless.


Once successful trading systems are in place in the countries where most Rangers support comes from, there is the possibility to expand our horizons further still. The history of Rangers Football Club is an awe-inspiring story of rags to riches, of success and skill and of loyalty and devotion. It is a story that everyone loves, a success story. This story should be told to the world and not just those willing to seek it and learn about it. There are many great books which have been written on the story of the club and the various periods of our history. We could export these books to North America, Australia, Europe and even Asia ( in varying languages) to captivate the world by the club's rich history. This will undoubtedly prompt a bigger demand for Rangers merchandise on these Continents.


It would be unreasonable to expect there to be Rangers merchandise at a local level all over the world so this is where the club must embrace the internet much more than it currently is. The current online megastore does not offer value for money for supporters or customers outside of the UK. It is also not a swift and reliable delivery service which is why many overseas supporters are relying on family or friends to send them the latest gear rather than buy from the online club shop. Many British clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool have deal with international export companies who are paid to handle the delivery of all club merchandise around the world at a speedy and reliable rate. Rangers should look to make similar deal if we are to maximise our selling potential. The cost of a quick, reliable courier service will be more than expendable given the revenue we will earn from satisfied customers.


In conclusion there is no doubt that Rangers' current marketing strategy is failing both the supporters and the club itself. In times of financial trouble we should be looking at initiatives to improve our income and with their being a huge, unsatisfied demand for Rangers merchandise all over the world, there is an ideal opportunity to gain revenue from this.


The club should work with RSCs and Supporters organisations around the globe to develop measures in which the demand for merchandise is satisfied and also to open new markets. The supporters in each country can provide the club with good knowledge of the local markets that can be used to our advantage. It is not an impossible task, we have a fan base to rival any of the major clubs in the world but we simply don't have the vision to exploit it.


Now is the time for vision and constructive dialogue between the club and the Rangers support to build towards a more profitable future where merchandise is available to all whom desire it.


[With special thanks to: BoltonLoyal, Brissyger, Toni, Bobby, Nvager, CanadaReady, CanadianGer for your fantastic contributions to this article.]



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I am totally flabbergasted at the JJB link. In fact at this moment my blood is reaching boiling point.

Firstly i want to say i scrolled down and saw three pages and thought god three pages."" It was an excellent read and held my interest to the end.Well written:thup:.

Looking at the problem of merchandising, i am sorry but i do not believe the right way is to go is through RSC's or the organisation they are part of. Personally i think that is small minded and selling the bible to the converted. In my eyes the answer has to be with the big manufacturers like Nike Adidas, Umbro etc. They have to be seen to get our merchandise into sport shops over the whole world.Where the RSC's could come in is, monitoring the availability of our merchandise and be in contact with someone at Rangers marketing who can give the manufacturer feedback on availability.

Rangers shops have to reappear certainly in Glasgow and other cities with a large support. JJB are obviously not fulfilling their part of the bargain at least in promotion of our merchandise, so we really have to look at what it will cost us to quit the deal.

Our product seems to have died in the JJB storeroom.


JJB going bust would be a nightmare for it's staff but a Godsend for Rangers in my opinion.

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Superb article that did nothing to reduce my anger at the lack of foresight and sheer commercial nouse at Rangers. I know you can cry wolf only so often but I have to say that my blood also boils at the incompetence that allows one of the best-supported clubs in the world to fail so utterly to exploit that huge advantage. Not only through running such a poorly developed marketing strategy but also by continually driving a wedge between the club and the support.


If I set out tomorrow to improve the situation, I can think of little of what currently exists that I wouldn't sweep away. The JJB deal isn't the real problem, it's the short-termism and knee-jerk mentality that saw this as an acceptable alternative to doing a proper job. By going down this expedient route, Rangers is systematically disenfranchising the market it depends upon.


Everything about the club these days speaks of neglect, poor decision making and loss of direction. It is becoming extremely serious.

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Guest therabbitt

The JJB website link is the perfect summary to all of the problems with the deal. They just don't care at all. It almost looks like an intentional decision to only have Celtic there.


I'm with you pete - it does nothing but make my blood boil and is exactly the reason I/we included it - needed to share the anger it gives me...

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The JJB website link is the perfect summary to all of the problems with the deal. They just don't care at all. It almost looks like an intentional decision to only have Celtic there.


I'm with you pete - it does nothing but make my blood boil and is exactly the reason I/we included it - needed to share the anger it gives me...


Great article!!


I agree that there's something very fishy going on with JJB, but I also think that there's an element of complete mismanagement in their company, which goes right through the ranks. Most of their stores that I've ever walked into are obviously mismanaged at the local level because they're a complete disgrace of a sports shop with as many racks of cheap crap packed into a small space as the mind & senses can cope with, so much so that it starts to make your head hurt as you can't see the goods your after for all the crap & the way the stores are usually so poorly laid out (re- too much packed into their space). It's almost as if they hire their store management staff from indoor markets or The Barras. That leads on to the fact that the regional managers are obviously not doing a very good job either or else you'd walk into a JJB store in any town or city in Scotland & it would be immaculate, you'd be saying to yourself 'wow, this is a bloody nice sports shop'. So, that leads onto me thinking, well if the regional managers aren't doing a very good job, what are the main managers & directors for the whole company doing despite collecting a fat salary? Should they not be trying to make sure that their regional & local managers are doing a great job & at least TRYING to make JJB shops a great place to go and shop for sports goods?


Utter shambles of a company. People are talking about the mismanagement at Rangers (some of which I agree with btw), but if our club was run as poorly as that chain of sports shops it would have been down the stanky & liquidated long ago.

Edited by Zappa
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Guest therabbitt

The way that JJB have handled their contract with Rangers is shambolic.


Its alluded to in the article, but the conspiracy theorist in me has been of the opinion of late that they are not pushing us and our products purely so they don't meet the sales targets that will kick in meaning they will have to pay us more...

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The run-up to Manchester was proof positive of the abject incompetence of Rangers and their marketing department, if it even exists. I am sure I wasn't alone in May 2008 in searching high and low for a Rangers shirt to take to Manchester with little success. I eventually had to settle for one two sizes too big - the only one in the store. A shambles. The club could literally have made millions more from shirts alone during those days and weeks before Manchester.

Edited by Norris Cole
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