Football: Rangers' domestic strife

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In a case of pity the poor rich, the Rangers chairman, David Murray, yesterday conceded the "unbearable" pressure of maintaining domestic dominance may have undermined his club's ambitions on the European stage. Few clubs in Scotland, particularly Glasgow's green and white tendency, will have any sympathy for the chairman's woes.

All this after Rangers announced an annual operating profit of pounds 6m. There was little surprise, then, when Murray promised to protect the club's position of financial strength from further revisions of the Bosman ruling.

In a statement to shareholders, Murray admitted the club's pursuit of a record-equalling ninth successive Premier League title had become a "diversion". But he remained adamant that, despite the difficulties caused by bringing in pounds 15m worth of summer signings, the spending would still pay long-term dividends.

"Last season was a landmark for the club and achieving the record was a source of great pride for everyone associated with Rangers," he said.

"But I believe it was the focal point for everything we were trying to do last year and it became unbearable. I think the media created the hype - you saw stories every day about `nine-in-a-row' - and in the end it got too much."

After a qualifying round exit to IFK Gothenburg in the European Cup and last week's Uefa Cup humiliation at the hands of Strasbourg, Rangers will undoubtedly face a similar pressure in their pursuit of a record 10th successive title. Yet Murray believes that maintaining supremacy at home was one with which the majority of fans could identify.

He said: "We have no divine right to do well in Europe and domestically everybody treats playing Rangers as a cup final.

"You look at teams like Milan and Borussia Dortmund, who are not finding it easy to make an impression on their own leagues this year, whereas we are the only undefeated team in Scotland. No one's criticising Arsenal, who also went out of Europe last week, and they have spent as much money recently as we have."

With an annual turnover of nearly pounds 32m - an increase of pounds 1m - and net assets of pounds 56m, Murray described the balance sheet at Ibrox for the year to 31 May as "unparalleled in the club's history".

However, Murray declared that players would no longer be regarded as assets, to protect the club from what he fears will be significant changes to the Bosman transfer ruling.

"I don't think you will be able to get a fee for domestic transfers between British clubs as well as players with freedom of movement at the end of their contracts," he said.

"I believe the Bosman rule is going to dig into clubs like ourselves bigger than people realise. We were in a special situation last year with one big investment [the pounds 40m from Bermuda-based billionaire Joe Lewis] and it was a lot easier for us to balance the books."