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Johnston reveals Gers objectives

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Johnston confident of buyer for Rangers

Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston has listed finding a new owner for the club and retaining the services of manager Walter Smith as his two main targets.

"One of my objectives is to remove the reliance on external financing - finding a new owner would address that," said Johnston.

"The board is committed to maintaining the management team that's in place and we are working towards that end."

Johnston took over the chairmanship at Ibrox from Sir David Murray in August.

The new chairman took the opportunity to brief reporters on the challenges he believes he and the club face in a media conference ahead of Rangers' Champions League clash with Sevilla at Ibrox on Tuesday.

Describing his appointment as chairman of "this venerable Scottish institution" as "a privilege and an honour", Johnston said his first duties in his new role included having discussions with the Rangers board, the club's senior management team and the bank.

Johnston's view is that by finding a suitable investor to buy Murray's shareholding, the club would be freed from servicing the heavy levels of debt necessitated by external financing.

And, despite the severe financial difficulties facing teams in Scotland, describing income from the Scottish Premier League as "modest, to say the least", Johnston believes that the club has plenty to offer prospective buyers.

For the good of the game, change will happen: it's a question of figuring out what that is

Alastair Johnston on European football

"There's a cache attached to Rangers Football Club, it punches above its weight in the world of football in terms of its image, the passion of its fans, its heritage, its brand value," said the former Strathclyde University accountancy graduate.

"We are Scottish Premier League champions, we're holders of the Scottish Cup, we're in the Champions League and tomorrow we'll be playing in that competition."

And the lure of Champions League football is, Johnston believes, sufficiently attractive to compensate for the paucity of domestic revenue.

"We have arguably just three or four teams in Scotland who would compete for that position, so the chance of playing on the world's biggest football stage, for clubs, is a realistic scenario for a future proprietor," he said.

As it stands, there are no bids being considered by Murray and Johnston, but the latter expects more visionary investors to spot the potential of the Rangers brand.

"There is the opportunity to expand beyond the current business model, so I think there is an opportunity for a new owner and therefore there is a realistic chance that one or two candidates may appear," Johnston told reporters at the Ibrox media conference.

While acknowledging that the global recession and the associated lack of credit facilities could hinder potential buyers, Johnston insisted that the Rangers board would "determine the viability and credibility of a new owner".

It was, said Johnston, not a case of finding any buyer, but one who has "the ability to underpin the financial requirements of Rangers as an operating, progressive, ambitious team".

Club boss Smith's contract runs out in January and there have been suggestions that its renewal might be the decision of a new owner.

Put simply, new investors might want their own man at the helm.

However, with Smith having effected a turnaround in the club's fortunes since Paul Le Guen's tenure, his stock is high.

Smith, Johnston and Bain
Johnston will hold talks this week with Smith and chief executive Martin Bain

Johnston says that "issues remain" after "progressive discussions" and he plans to hold in-depth talks with the veteran manager in the coming days.

A likely topic in those discussions will be the funds available to Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist, who have trimmed the first-team squad to around 20 players.

Asked if the club would need to sell players in the January transfer window, Johnston said: "We'll address that a couple of months from now."

Johnston has spent almost 40 years working with IMG, the international talent agency and production company that specialises in televised sport and endorsement.

And it is this experience and the contacts that he has gleaned in his long career that Johnston believes he can use to Rangers' advantage.

"For many years, we've laboured under this view that if Rangers don't join the English Premier League then we're never going anywhere," he said.

"I think the landscape of football in Europe is going to change gradually. I want to ensure that Rangers' value and prestige is maintained and, when the invitations are sent out to the new party, Rangers are on that list.

"What you see is the winds of change, with the various rules and regulations with respect to roster sizes, caps on salaries, limitations on how much you can spend.

"A lot of these ideals are not practical, but it tells you that there is an increasing momentum that is building throughout Europe."



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see also
Rangers 1-4 Sevilla
29 Sep 09 |  Europe
Derby not new to Mowbray - Smith
03 Oct 09 |  Rangers
Johnston arrives with global pedigree
29 Aug 09 |  Rangers
Murray relinquishes Rangers role
26 Aug 09 |  Rangers


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