Rangers and Liverpool are keen to fill the coffers after both missed out on potential money-spinning midweek ties in the Uefa competitions. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The last time Rangers
to Ibrox for a friendly the home side were left with such a bloody nose that a re-run of the fixture would hardly have been high on their agenda. Economic circumstances may now matter more than potential on-field embarrassment.
The game of 2008 saw Liverpool swagger to a 4-0 win in August sunshine. It provided a stark reminder of the gulf in class between the higher reaches of English football and those north of the border. An 8,000-strong away support packed the Broomloan Road stand, with the Rangers contingent roundly applauding Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres as they performed a half-time warm-down.
On Tuesday evening, in distinctly wintery Glasgow conditions and with the domestic season well under way, Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool will make a return. Early suggestions are that the attendance will be about 25,000 – not something to be sniffed at in the current climate and up against live, televised Champions League matches. Tickets start at £25 for adults, dropping to £15 and £5 for juveniles and concessions. One further Rangers attraction is the visitors' level of support in Scotland.
Whatever flaws Rangers – and Celtic - retain, they have a continued ability to attract a level of paying punters which bears little relation to the level of football on offer. On Tuesday, at least, thousands will roll up for a meaningless match. The routine removal of friendly games from season-ticket packages is one particularly poor move of recent times; the matches are generally mind-numbingly dull, let alone worth spending hard cash on.
The football value of the friendly is the one which Rangers will understandably promote. With no European ties to play, filling a midweek void by facing one of the marquee clubs in world football has merit. The notion that the Rangers squad is thin can be offset by the number of players who will benefit from game-time against Liverpool.
Charlie Adam will also make a playing return to the club he left as something of a whipping boy. Adam has never publicly bitten back at the Rangers fans who were never slow in pointing out his failings, so no animosity is expected, yet a frustration towards managers who never handed him the opportunity he thought he was due means Adam will relish this friendly.
As his career has spectacularly taken off at Blackpool, Rangers have endured off-field uncertainty. That wider picture, which continued on Monday with the resignations of two board members, seems directly linked to Liverpool's visit. It is no surprise that Rangers are unwilling to admit this is a corporate exercise, even if Liverpool will benefit by way of an appearance fee.
European exits at the hands of Malmo and Maribor have left an income void which the new Rangers owner, Craig Whyte, must fill. He either does that himself or discovers other ways to raise money until the make-or-break case between Rangers and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs comes up.
With the knowledge that supporters will turn out – those same fans have no further expenditure on overseas trips to worry about – cynics will argue Whyte is using this evening simply to raise a few hundred thousand in the most basic way possible. At the very least, this is a match which unquestionably benefits the Rangers manager Ally McCoist and those counting pennies in the boardroom.
Whyte is known to be uneasy about a BBC
Scotland documentary on Thursday evening which will focus on his Rangers takeover. This afternoon Rangers announced they are withdrawing all co-operation with the broadcaster. Whyte has not been able to douse suspicion and rumour, albeit with much of it based on little foundation, about his motivations and plans for the club. Rangers' fans are not widely critical of Whyte, but they are rightly vigilant.
He is already on record as stating Rangers' costs must be brought down; the balance sheets of both halves of the Old Firm routinely demonstrate the key difference between Champions League involvement and a huge drop in turnover. With qualifying stages now tougher than ever for Scottish clubs, innovation is required.
Rangers faced Milan, with David Beckham part of their side, in a mid-season friendly in 2009. This will be a similar exercise – the Ibrox club's much-publicised financial position just means scepticism is even more rife now than back then.