A regional radio ad, a press ad and an e-mail ad, for Rangers Football Club:
a. The regional radio ad stated "Join Scotland's most successful club at IBROX and guarantee your seat for the last four games of the season. Rangers season tickets are priced from £69 for adults, £48 for concessions and just £17 for kids ...".
b. The press ad stated "JOIN SCOTLAND'S MOST SUCCESSFUL CLUB AT IBROX ... STILL GOING STRONG ... 54 TITLES ... RANGERS THEN ... RANGERS NOW ... RANGERS FOREVER".
c. The e-mail ad stated "JOIN SCOTLAND'S MOST SUCCESSFUL CLUB AT IBROX".
Eighty two complainants challenged whether the claims "Scotland's most successful club" and “RANGERS THEN... RANGERS NOW... RANGERS FOREVER” were misleading, because they understood that the current club had only been formed in 2012.
The Rangers Football Club Ltd (Newco) explained that The Rangers Football Club Plc (Oldco), which previously owned and operated Rangers Football Club (RFC), went into administration on 14 February 2012 and that, in order to preserve RFC after a Creditors Voluntary Arrangement failed, its business and assets were purchased by another corporate entity, which was now known as the Rangers Football Club Ltd and that, therefore, the same Club was now owned and operated by themselves. They provided an extract from a Decision concerning RFC, by an Independent Commission appointed by the Scottish Premier League, in which it was stated that "in common speech a Club is treated as a recognisable entity which is capable of being owned and operated and which continues in existence despite its transfer to another owner and operator". They said the Commission had clearly stated that the same Club continued, regardless of the legal entity that owned and operated it and, therefore, that RFC had continued in existence since 1872. They also provided a letter from the European Club Association (ECA), concerning the RFC's continuing membership after the liquidation, in which it stated that, although run by a different legal entity, it considered RFC was still the same football club, having the same registration number with the Football Association, the same fans, the same stadium, the same club coefficient ranking and the same trophies, and it therefore recognised RFC as a founding member of the ECA, despite the change of ownership. Newco advised us that RFC was a full member of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and that when Oldco, the legal entity who previously held the membership, went into administration and agreement was put in place to transfer exactly the same membership from Oldco to Newco, which had resulted in membership of the SFA being maintained. They further pointed out that the websites of the Scottish Premier League, the SFA and UEFA all confirmed that RFC had been in existence for 140 years by detailing all honours that the Club had won since its formation in 1872.
The RACC said they felt that, given RFC's history, the claim "Scotland's most successful club" was valid and would not mislead.
THIS ADJUDICATION REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED ON 12 JUNE 2013. THE WORDING HAS CHANGED BUT THE DECISION TO NOT UPHOLD THE COMPLAINT REMAINS.
Whilst the ASA acknowledged that Newco had not taken on all of the debts and liabilities of Oldco when it purchased its assets and that that would normally preclude a business from trading on the reputation of a liquidated predecessor company, we noted, having read its report in full, that both an Independent Commission appointed by the SPL and the ECA had reached the conclusion that the football club RFC was a recognisable entity in its own right, and that it had continued in existence despite being transferred to another owner and operator. We consulted with UEFA, which explained that its rules allowed for the recognition of the “sporting continuity” of a club’s match record, even if that club’s corporate structure had changed. We also consulted with the SFA, which confirmed that its definition of a football “club” varied depending on context, and could sometimes refer to an entity separate from the club’s corporate owner. The SFA further pointed out that, following RFC’s transfer to a new corporate owner, Newco did not take a new membership of the Scottish FA but rather that the previous membership was transferred across to them so they could continue as the same member of the Scottish FA. We considered that consumers would understand that the claim in question related to the football club rather than to its owner and operator and we therefore concluded that it was not misleading for the ad to make reference to RFC's history, which was separate to that of Newco.
We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.