The commercial situation at Rangers has been well documented and everyone has been aware of the situation. Hamstrung by legacy issues it was not uncommon for the supporters to be without a club shop or merchandise to buy.
In March 2019 James Bisgrove was appointed and that landscape began to change dramatically. Within a year that vital breakthrough came when Rangers were able to break commercial ties with Sports Direct. Rangers announced a stand alone commercial deal with Castore and suddenly the clubs prospects started to look a whole lot better.
So who is James Bisgrove? The Commercial chief at Rangers is responsible for the growth in Rangers brand. A former Uefa executive, he has huge respect within his field.
He is polite but instantly you can tell he is a man of great intelligence and belief in his role. I was keen to quiz him on the commercial growth of the club and nothing was off the table.
Q – Would it be fair to say that between Castore, Shirt deal and various new club partners, club income has dramatically increased towards £10m yearly income commercially? (Speculation has suggested it could be that much, especially as Tom Beahon suggested Rangers could earn as much as £5-7m on a good year in an interview with us last summer)
JB “Yes, commercial income has dramatically increased in the last 18 months, driven primarily by commercial partnerships, and the new kit and retail deal with Castore”
That is huge for the club, from virtually zero income to sums around £10m annually is incredible.
Q – So how has this happened?
JB “The growth drivers specific to their areas has been:
- An increase from 10 to 30 commercial partners, and an increased group of top tier partners paying significant rights fees for association with Rangers on a global level
- A revolution of our commercial concept focusing on driving value for brands, digital rights and our international strategy
- The structure of the Castore deal ensures Rangers receive a significant share of the kit, merchandise, and retail sales
“We can’t comment on the financial values linked to commercial contracts but the increase in commercial income has been significant and would be reflected in the next accounts. It should be mentioned however that COVID has impacted the scale of the growth”
That is huge for Rangers, the commercial department has trebled in less than two years under James and has now a valid income of anything in the region of ten million pounds. A quite incredible turnaround and whilst we all love and adore the high value players in our team, arguably Bisgrove is an important signing as any when he is bringing in such income every year.
So what about Castore?
Q – Castore is obviously the big deal for the club, the first away from the legacy deals of the past, how would you assess the first year with them both from a club and fan perspective?
JB “The first year of the Castore partnership has been a phenomenal success due to the fans backing who have purchased over 500,000 strips, training wear, merchandise items etc”
“A new online store, three retail stores and a fourth to open at Glasgow Airport in July”
“The partnership required an unprecedented approach to the initial launch with a 2–3 month window to design, manufacture and distribute the strips and naturally has provided several learning areas to ensure the huge demands of the Rangers fan base can be met in future seasons”
“The foundations have been placed for the 150th anniversary season that will allow the club and Castore to plan for a world class retail offering”
Of course it hasn’t been plain sailing for the support, which is recognised, but the financial value for the club is huge. Rangers were much derided for suggesting this deal may be the highest value in the country, but with such high volumes passed it is certainly heading towards maximum income for Rangers.
Tom Beahon confirmed that Castore will pay Rangers annually £3m no matter what else happens. Merchandise sales could then raise that as high £5-7m if specific targets are hit.
Castore themselves have made changes in their business approach to ready themselves for another huge kit launch.
They are now aligned with new manufacturers to produce much better quality produce for Rangers, the same manufacturers used by top clubs like Man City.
Those are lessons hopefully learned going forward. But there is no doubting that if these problems can be overcome then Rangers have got a fantastic profitable deal for everyone.
Q – The Edmiston house rebuild and the new £150 offer to the fans is the new initiative currently, how excited are you surrounding the rebuild and the potential future income and events it could bring to the club?
JB “Everyone connected with Rangers is hugely excited at the relaunch of Edmiston House and the opportunity it presents across a number of areas to enhance the match day and non-match day experience for Rangers supporters”
“The objective of the venue is to transform the match day experience and give Rangers fans a reason to spend more time at Ibrox”
Q – How much could Edmiston house be worth to the club when fully functioning?
JB “Commercially, we have developed a ambitious business plan for the venue to generate a seven-figure annual profit for Rangers across multiple revenue streams such as live events (focusing on gigs, concerts), conferences, the club museum, match day fan zone and club events (live screening events, Legends nights etc)”
Q – Will you be running Edmiston House or will a dedicated team be in place?
JB “The venue will be managed by the Commercial & Marketing department, and a high calibre General Manager has been recruited from a leading live events venue in London, who joins the club in July with a strong background in music, concerts, club nights.”
The first things that jump out is the plans for live events and concerts at the new venue. Between that and the much needed museum, it’s a potential gold mine for Rangers and that’s mirrored by the aim of a seven figure annual profit. A new General manager recruited means an exciting professional to drive the venture forward.
Overall it’s an exciting time for Rangers commercially. Under Bisgrove Rangers will continue to strive and expand the Rangers brand both domestically and internationally.
Of all the things this outstanding Rangers board have done, appointing James Bisgrove may just be amongst the smartest.
He has massive vision and belief in the Rangers brand. A clear passion for the club to drive it to the absolute top and continue to maximise potential income. For every bit James Bisgrove brings in, it pushes Rangers further towards financial parity.
It is refreshing and exciting to see someone with such a drive to succeed. He wants more, more income, more partnerships and a bigger global reach.
Much like the manager said of his team, “this is just the beginning”, well commercially that is just the same.
Under Bisgrove it’s onwards and upwards for the Rangers brand.
* Huge thanks to James for his time, a charismatic and intelligent man who is doing an incredible job. Also thanks to David Graham and Greg Marshall of the club, both of whom have been incredibly supportive and helpful of the blog. Not only for this interview but overall support of 4lads blog and fan media. *