For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Would the value of the Rangers FC brand be improved by a move to England?

The news that Rangers FC, a famous old Scottish football club, would be liquidated caused a shock in the world of sport.  Here was a sporting institution, founded in 1872 and league champions a record 54 times, being dissolved forever… at least in the legal sense.  The goodwill and the brand, if not the club, will undoubtedly live on.  However, this Kat wonders whether rebranding an English football club as Rangers FC and playing in the English league would bring greater fortune for the brand, or kill it altogether.

As with the assets of most companies in administration, the trade mark rights relating to Rangers FC, have reportedly been sold on to a 'newco'.  Although this phoenix club will play under the Rangers badge next season, the right to play in the Scottish Premier League has been forfeited.  The newly-formed club, whose predecessor had an average attendance of around 45,000 spectators per match last season, will begin next season in the fourth tier of Scottish football; an exiled king banished to suffer the ignominy of playing in front of one man and his dog (or should that be Kat?). 

Please sir, can I have some more?
The financial effect of Rangers' punishment will be severe, not only for Rangers but for other clubs who rely on the gate receipts from Rangers' huge support as well as the league itself (the Brand Finance Football Report 2012 ranked the Clydesdale Bank Premier League as 16th in Europe, just below Romania and around 3% of the value of the Barclays Premier League).  Without the 'old firm' matches between Rangers and Celtic (one or the other having won the league every year since 1984), television receipts will be significantly lower.  South of the border, in the English Premier League, things look a bit rosier: income from television alone is around £1 billion per season.  As the financial gulf grows between Scottish football and its counterparts, the incentive for Rangers, and indeed any other Scottish club, to leave and start in another league grows greater. 

One method of achieving this would be for Rangers' owners to rebrand an existing English club.  Such a suggestion is anathema in the world of modern football, though it does not seem to have always been this way [I wonder if Newton Heath's rebranding to Manchester United in 1902 was controversial - Merpel].  Today's game, with its vast investment and commercialism have inevitably raised the stakes.  But it can be done... just - witness Wimbledon FC's move to Milton Keynes, a town 56 miles away, in 2003.  The host club would simply become licensee of newco's UK trade mark registrations for the Rangers brand.  However, fundamental problems are inevitable with the transfer to the rebranded club of Rangers' goodwill and the disposal of the rebranded club's goodwill. 

There is no doubt in this Kat's mind that the asset sale agreement transferring the trade mark rights also expressly referred to the sale of accompanying goodwill associated with the Rangers brand.  However, ownership of goodwill on paper and control of supporters' goodwill are entirely different beasts.  Football support is often very tribal and the support very local.  Even though the brand may have a reputation across Europe, the goodwill is very concentrated within a few miles of the team's home ground. That makes it virtually impossible to transfer to another part of the country. 

One alternative is to have two teams, one playing in Scotland and a rebranded one playing in England.  Again however, given the tribal nature of football supporters, it is virtually guaranteed that fans of the rebranded club will prove hostile to their new name and prefer to maintain their allegiance to their old club.  It is therefore a gamble as to whether the goodwill of old Rangers can inspire a new generation of English fans.
Ok, I get it: no rebranding!

Moving a football club even just a few miles away from the local area presents a huge risk of alienating its fans.  And without their support and income, the club will fail.  Only where a club has enormous goodwill and an international reputation is there likely to be any degree of 'portability'.  A franchise model will inevitably prove to be extremely acrimonious.  

As it stands, Rangers' season will likely start with an away game at Peterhead FC, a team with a ground capacity of 4,000 who were playing in the Highland Football League until 2000.  It may take a sobering trip to Aberdeenshire for Rangers to appreciate the magnitude of the situation.  At that point a move away from Ibrox may seem worth the short-term fallout.  For the future of the brand overall, a move away in one form or another seems necessary. 

7 comments:

Gentoo said...

You enter the topic of football at your peril.

There is little room for well argued, reasonable debate or any other ill-founded speculation.

This is football, recall the sage Bill Shankly:

"Football is not a matter of life and death... it's much more important than that."

So just to remind you: Rangers are Scottish. This is England. Got that?
Good, move along.

BTW How many Man U fans does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but you've to bus them in from Kent first.

Anonymous said...

While I'm not a great football fan, I was under the impression that Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes was generally regarded as a disaster, with the team now stuck in the third division and having to renounce any connection with Wimbledon. Fans have a great loyalty but don't take kindly to having their club abused by people who are trying to simply cash in on the name. As Cardiff (the Bluebirds who will now be playing in red) are likely to find out soon.

Gareth said...

And yet relocation of major sports teams seems to be much more prevalent and successful in the US - see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relocation_of_professional_sports_teams - which article suggests is due to different league structures and ownership (although I'm not sure if ownership is a difference any longer).

And don't forget the move of Airdrieonians to Clydebank...

Anonymous said...

Bit of a schoolboy error in saying Rangers are being punished by being made to play in the 3rd division. The club are being liquidated and as such are very lucky to be allowed to play in any professional league. As a new club they should have to provide 3 years of audited accounts to be even considered.

Project Walliams said...

Moving the arguement away from Rangers but retaining the franchise concept - would not a model of the more successful world known clubs not flourish under such an arrangement.
Imagine a Manchester United, Dubai; Liverpool FC of Singapore or Barcelona, Shanghai - playing in the same team colours as the founder club with only slightly adjusted crests - pre season friendlies and young playeer exchanges to reinforce the connections.
There is already a lucrative market for the big clubs abroad, why not go the whole (snouts in the trough) hog?

Anonymous said...

Your comment quote 'an exiled king banished to suffer the ignominy of playing in front of one man and his dog' shows a complete lack of understanding of the Rangers' support. The Scottish 3rd Division teams are already rubbing their hands at the prospect of completely selling out their grounds on the 2 occasions this season when they play Rangers at home. I also foresee Rangers home gates smashing all known records for attendance at 3rd Division games - upwards of 40,000 fans could be seen for the first time in this League.
You also make the comment that Rangers are Scottish as if that makes a difference to where they should be playoing without any reference to Berwick Rangers, an English team who play in Scotland, and Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham, all Welsh teams who play in England. A team's country of origin has no bearing on the country in which they play. Relocation also does not apply to Rangers' case as there will be no relocation as Rangers' home games will still be at Ibrox Stadium.

Anonymous said...

Anon: "Relocation also does not apply to Rangers' case as there will be no relocation as Rangers' home games will still be at Ibrox Stadium."

I think this is a key distinction missed in the original piece - and where whats being suggested significantly differs. I think the 'English Rangers' would be the purchase of a place in the English League (eg Carslile just 90 miles down the road) but playing, as Anon said, out of Ibrox. This is materially the situation with Cardiff, Berwick Rangers etc. (without the buyout of course). In theory I could see is being made to work legally, but in reality the initial enthusiasm from Rangers fans waning when they see how many other large clubs struggling through the leagues there are. They may just be another of these - stuck in the lost lands of League 1/ The Championship. How long will the glory-hunters remain in those circumstances?

...and as for the views of the good folk from the bought-out club...!

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