Rangers Vice President Jon Bennett gave an interview to Rangers TV Where he tried to address a number of issues.
Here’s everything he had to say in the second part of his two-part interview.
It’s great to see the women’s team clinch their first league title and the impact of the academy players.
Ross Wilson rightly used the phrase “join me.” I’ve used the word “align” in the past. You need to join and you need to coordinate. If you look at those aspects… I remember the board meeting when Amy MacDonald came and talked about it. We were far from professional in terms of the support, infrastructure and funding that we were providing to women. We were the first in the country to professionalize women’s football and now you’re seeing tangible results in our women’s football – European football, they’ve won the league – and that’s what Rangers are all about in every aspect of their football division. Men’s first team, B team, youth team, women’s soccer, first of all, win the league. First and foremost, you win your league, and the women did. I remember saying to them after they won the league, I went to the game where they grabbed the league, and I remember saying about the pioneers in the history of Glasgow Rangers. I said: You are pioneers. I did this. Here’s the bad news, the bar is going up and you need to come back up again. It’s Rangers. You need to keep going, keep going, keep going and win the league over and over again.” This applies to every team in this football club.
How do you see things outside the field and business at the moment?
I think there is a song that says “simply the best” and when it comes to Rangers, you have to be the best in the class. How do you recruit and lure Tom Lawrence, who says no to Premier League clubs to come here? You can do this by being the best in its class, by offering European football. Best in class also means what you can give them about that: player contact, player support and the best facilities. When I look at Rangers today, the facilities we offer our players and staff, we can now say “Auchenhowie is best in class” and all the support network around them is the best in the class. You won’t make the players come if you don’t. The infrastructure and support network around them are able to play on the big stage of European football. Again, all of that required and will continue to demand investment. The whole infrastructure of this club and around this club, from Auchenhowie to New Edmiston House, to the stadium in Ibrox, to the elevators that just weren’t fit for purpose…the roofs, the roofs were literally falling off. All fixed. Stewart told me they will last 40 years and they are better because they cost a lot of money. £23m in hard cash in those three years, also during the Covid period. When I talk about the best in class, this only goes hand in hand with the high bar, especially at a club like Rangers. Only the bar that applies off the field rises as well. I have previously talked about the best player support and infrastructure. We want and need to provide that to support us as well. I know areas of this stadium, from the restrooms, to the lifts, to the rooftops, that were not fit for purpose and in some places still not fit for purpose. Definitely not suitable for Rangers purpose and Rangers standard. We keep pouring money into it in order to correct and upgrade it. It’s so interesting, some of it can even be criticized. Recently, someone did some wisdom along the lines of “I wonder how many passes the new Edmiston House will make?” You can be damned if you do, or damned if you don’t. But we’ll go ahead with that. I want to give that support to the best of my ability on and off the field. Our museum, our place will provide that. I really want this museum to exist for present and future generations. This is the best in its class. That’s what the Rangers deserve. Blue Sky Lounge. Stewart told me he overheard someone trying to do this. “Why spend money on that instead of on the field?” You have to do both. We do both. Yes, Blue Sky Lounge is a source of income. It has a spin-off in terms of revenue generation but also for our fans. What I mean by that is just over 200 extra seats. Of course, this is not enough. Is it a drop in the ocean? It is progress.
How do you see the business pillar of business at the moment?
I think under James Bisgrove and the team it’s been a huge success. This column was standing and standing penultimate, which is the circulation of players. If you look at the progress the club has made in all aspects of the commercial, it has been a huge success. I have been asked how we view the club’s performance off the field in the last two and a half years. Perhaps the most honest way to answer that from a personal perspective is: Rangers, since I was a kid, have given me sleepless nights because it’s the team I love, the team I love to see win and I hate to see lose. And until very recently, sleepless nights didn’t just revolve around the playground. I lost a lot of sleep on things off the field in Rangers, finances, etc, especially at the end of 2019 and going into 2020 and Covid and so on, I felt like that was a particularly worrying time. Not just for Rangers or the Football Club, but for many companies. It was a time when there were many sleepless nights. Now I’m in a position where I can tell you that sleepless nights around Rangers – and they’re still there – on the field. This is as it should be. This is a measure of how far we are going. But it is also an honest assessment of the fact that these four pillars have been developed and are only working recently. Our player trading model, if you really look at it, is months old. Not the investment side of it, not developing players and investing in players. These were years in the making, especially under Rus. Fully planned, integrated, integrated and planned. We’ve sat through board meetings looking at that, examining that, and questioning what the board should do. And we get the answers. Look at the player’s trading model. Two record transfers outside the club. But it only started in January of this year. That’s why sleepless nights have only recently been all about football. And this is the way I want it. Part of the bar that rises in terms of off-field expectations. To give our fans the best facilities possible. I’ve talked several times about how embarrassed I was when Amy entered the main board and introduced women’s soccer before we even got into it. I no longer feel embarrassed there. But our facilities to support the disabled are not acceptable. While there will be a small item on which we can redevelop the Blue Sky Lounge, it is only small. This is a fragmented thing. We need to meet the rising bar of expectations. It’s not acceptable to all of us at the club. At our most recent board meeting, we asked for a customized presentation on where we are at. I received a very brief phone update on our whereabouts. We want the Chairman, myself, and the entire Board of Directors at this general assembly to be able to share with our shareholders, with our supporters and the wider public, our plans, what they look like, the timelines and what we’re going to do within that great stadium. We will do whatever it takes, financial or otherwise. We need to understand it properly. We were talking about it, ‘let’s not do enough’. This is not the Rangers way. Let’s do enough. Let’s be the best in class. Within the confines of that stadium, infrastructure and constraints, can we be the best in the country. This is the challenge that TRFC Board members are leading and driving. This is the challenge they face. Bring it to us. We will finance it. We need to understand it properly.
John, how do you deal with recent online rumors about acquisitions and shareholder interests?
It is not unusual, certainly for a football club and perhaps other football clubs, for potential investors to be contacted and some of them pay off. Some of those paid off, Stuart Gibson came to us and did it for both ends. John Halstead, this is a business for both parties. Both, wonderfully supported investors in this club. And in this respect, both in the boardroom and outside, I’ve talked in the past about people like George Lytham, and George Taylor was outside the boardroom, now he’s in the boardroom, but others who aren’t in the boardroom, we’ve been wonderfully supportive of investors. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the facts. They went to the well again and again to make big investments on the pitch and big investments off the field. There has been speculation about the American group in particular lately, which is one of a number of groups that have come to talk to us and I think this will continue to happen. The thing that surprised me is when I was in Amsterdam, noise levels seemed to rise a bit around would-be vendors from inside the meeting room. I think I know Douglas Park as well as anyone who knows Douglas Park, and I know him well and consider him a friend and president of the football club. Douglas is not a seller and I am not a seller. In fact, I recently increased my position above 5 percent, and when said US group contacted us, they actually took it as an opportunity to poll most of our large investors to say, ‘Look, where are you? What do you think of this?’ And they rightly said, ‘Not only is there no harm in listening,’ and we are listening too, listening politely to a number of propositions and it will happen again I am quite sure. No harm in listening, it is the right thing to do also from a fiduciary standpoint , so we’ve given a lot of time to this situation and listened in. But what was so interesting from John Halstead to Julian Waldhart to the people in the boardroom and beyond, there is no selling interest at all.
Now, the phrase “never again” in this context also struck me. The phrase “never again” was used at the time of regime change if you remember back in 2015. It probably can’t again mean different things to different people, what I’m trying to get across is that this is the board of directors and a group of investors who really believe by “never again” in relation to one individual or one party who is the decision-maker and ownership of the club. This is my view and I know it is a view shared by our current board that ownership of Rangers Football Club should rest on a number of shoulders. You know what can happen when one individual or one entity walks away. People can get bored, people’s lives can change, people’s priorities can change, so when you rest on one set of shoulders as we saw at Rangers Football Club, things can change. When you have a number of groups of shoulders to carry the load, you don’t look at a single individual that gets carried away or might hit that person in their life or anything else. This is what “never again” means to me and my colleagues.