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Europa League run throws up questions about Rangers’ future – Alastair Johnston

Rangers’ Euro achievement shows the club’s potential, says director Alastair Johnston (centre) (Owen Humphreya/PA)
Rangers’ Euro achievement shows the club’s potential, says director Alastair Johnston (centre) (Owen Humphreya/PA)

Alastair Johnston believes Rangers’ Europa League run has thrown up questions about the club’s future in any structural shake-up of the game.

The Ibrox club and its supporters are still euphoric after the thrilling 3-1 win over RB Leipzig at Ibrox last Thursday night took them to their first European final in 14 years.

Former Gers chairman Johnston, now a non-executive director, will be in Seville to see Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s side take on another Bundesliga outfit – Eintracht Frankfurt – on May 18 and he believes the achievement highlighted the club’s potential.

Johnston recalled the quick collapse of the bid to create a European Super League last April but insists the concept will come back under another guise and believes Rangers should be part of any conversations about restructuring football.

The United States-based businessman told the PA news agency that the Light Blues’ Europa League campaign leads to a bigger issue “in the context of where we are in the world of football today and where the world football is going to go”.

He said: “If Rangers are going to proceed into bigger leagues there is going to be a real chance of that happening within the next 10 years because the football landscape in the next 10 years is going to be significantly changed.

“Foreign owners will begin to bear their influence, their money and their aggression to create a restructuring of the game.

“They are not paying all that money they are playing for clubs without there being some ambitions in sight.

“The big five football countries will be under very strong pressure from investors and those with an appetite to make the top clubs’ European tournament which failed the last time.

“It was mishandled and it didn’t understand the most important thing which is what the supporters think – but it is not going to go away.

“It is a question of; How much does Rangers and our support want to move with that wave?

“As a board we recognise that without the supporters’ desire and without them basically supporting us, no one is going anywhere fast.

“But we also have an obligation to recognise that all Rangers supporters don’t speak with the same voice. We have to walk a fine line.

“How we have kept score for the best part of 150 years is winning the Scottish league, in the main, and secondly, if we beat Celtic in the process.

“There are certainly some that will say – and they tend to be supporters that live and work in and around the west of Scotland – it gives them great bragging rights at work on the Monday morning.

“Beating Celtic and winning the Scottish league is still going to be important to large swathes of the Rangers family but on the other hand, what has happened in Europe this season has actually been an eye-opener for what might be as far as Rangers fans are concerned.

“What happened at Ibrox on Thursday night and on four or five other occasions in this competition this season, is that Rangers showed that they can be a scintillating, appealing team that we can all be proud of.

“It is not just all about beating Celtic, or beating Rangers as far as Celtic is concerned. We can beat most of the clubs in Europe if we get it right.

“We want to see Rangers being talked about in European tones and be part of the football discussion wherever it goes, whether it is Europe or even beyond that.”

Johnston continued: “There is no question about the fact that when you are playing in the Europa League – we realise it is not the Champions League but it is a high quality – it is a step above the domestic competitions that 90 per cent of the teams play in their own countries.

“I don’t want to say the board are getting ahead of itself.

“We have to make a choice. What the fans want us to do is instrumental in the way we go.

“But I think there has been an awakening.

“I am pretty well tuned into what audiences in sport are doing and what the media reaction is.

“What Rangers did in the last week or so, it has made the world sit up and say Rangers are an appealing team, with good players, they just need a little bit more of a shot in the arm with respect to having bigger budgets.

“We are punching way above our weight when it comes to European football.

“But Rangers are not going to every year pay 10 per cent of what other teams are paying their players and expect to do well in European football on a consistent basis.”