Football: CALLED TO ACCOUNT; QUESTION TIME: OLD FIRM CHIEFS COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE SHAREHOLDERS Sun Sets in the East as Ibrox Club Sever Links with Chinese Partners

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael BAILLIE

RANGERS have severed their ties with Chinese outfit Shenzhen Jianlibao because they believe the Far East is not financially viable for a Scottish club.

Chief executive Martin Bain announced at the Ibrox club's 106th AGM that they have ended their commercial link-up with their Oriental partners after almost three years.

Instead, Rangers will concentrate on strengthening their appeal in North America and could run football camps there.

While Old Firm rivals Celtic are attempting to crack open the Far Eastern market and have recruited internationals such as Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura and China's Du Wei, Bain does not feel the region is a potential gold mine.

He said: "We've severed our relationship with Shenzhen Jianlibao. It was a partnership we went into not knowing if it was the right thing to do or not.

"We've looked at our fan base throughout the world and we have a core support in Canada and North America so we've decided this is where we're going to be aggressive in terms of our marketing - soccer camps, etcetera.

"In China and the Far East you need a media visibility and Scottish football competes with the Premiership, as well as Italy's Serie A and the German Bundesliga.

"Chelsea have a core fan base in north America and I know from discussions with their chief executive they have also targeted North America, China and the Far East.

"But I've still to have anyone say to me, 'Here are tangible numbers and profits to come out of this part of the world' - certainly in this country."

While Rangers may not be looking towards the Far East for future stars, manager Alex McLeish, who received tremendous backing from the shareholders, revealed he hopes to break into the eastern European market for signings.

With the SPL champions still operating mostly in the Bosman market, the Ibrox boss admits bargains can still be found on the continent.

He said: "I've made contact with agents in the Czech Republic but with their national side doing well the prices are inflated and when Rangers are involved they tend to become even more so. …