Rangers FC accomplished quite a feat over the weekend, winning the Scottish Premier League for the first time since 2011. In fact, they were the first team other than archrival Celtic FC to win the Scottish top flight in that time, and their dominant performance blocked Celtic’s bid to win 10 consecutive league titles for the first time ever.
The success way over in Glasgow was celebrated in Irvine, California, too, as Rangers have an ongoing partnership with local USL Championship side Orange County SC.
“On behalf of Orange County SC and our fans, I want to congratulate the Rangers organization for this exceptional achievement,” said Orange County SC owner and CEO James Keston in a team statement. “When we began discussions with Rangers two years ago, the senior leadership from Stewart Robertson and Steven Gerrard on down made clear that Rangers were a world-class club, both on the field and commercially, headed back to the upper echelons of European football. They have been absolutely true to their word. We are proud to be their partner and look forward to being at Ibrox for the raising of many trophies in the coming years.”
The partnership between OCSC and Rangers appears to go deeper than we often see here in the United States. Often, there’s a photo op, a glossy press release, promises to build big things together, and then usually not much beyond the initial flurry.
But Orange County not only want their name attached to the new league champs, they have actually leveraged the partnership in a sporting sense, sending young players to train in Glasgow in the offseason, bringing in Rangers youngsters on loan, transferring Orange County native Aaron Cervantes to Rangers with credible reports that another OCSC teenager, Francis Jacobs, will be transferred there in the near future.
“When we looked for the perfect European partner to be on top of our player pathway, we looked at many, many clubs and some of them are Champions League clubs and very well known clubs,” Orange County SC president of soccer operations Oliver Wyss told Angels on Parade last month. “When we actually had the opportunity to start discussions with Glasgow Rangers, it was very clear that they were the ideal club. They’ve won many trophies, but it was also at the time where they were just bouncing back after being relegated a few years before.”
Wyss credited Rangers for putting in the work to become a legit title contender once again after making it back into the Premier League.
“They completely revamped their academy, built one of the best academies in Europe, and then call on Steven Gerrard with the first team and built an incredibly respected soccer organization,” he said.
As a result, the two organizations have been dedicated to actually building out and improving their soccer infrastructure, and since joining up together in Dec. 2019, have seemed to genuinely work together, too.
“What we have built with them is in full swing because it was first and foremost built on soccer and on player development and not like many of these other relationships that have been built on commercial activities,” Wyss explained. “So this was never about slapping a Rangers logo on our uniforms and calling it there, because that’s not how it works. This was truly about the essence of player development. Rangers very clearly realized that there’s incredibly talented players here. They believe in us as a professional organization, and also felt that even some of their best young players benefit from playing for us.”
Wyss says Orange County, who are looking to get involved in girls’ and women’s soccer in the future, can foresee a scenario where they help young women ready to turn professional opportunities in Europe, including with Rangers’ women’s first team.
All in all, Wyss is thrilled Orange County SC are working with the newly-minted Scottish Premier League champs, but expects this is just the beginning of the partnership.
“They have been a fantastic partner, the people we’re working with are first class and with some world-class talent. And it’s something that will only grow and get stronger as we move on forward. Of course, there will also be some commercial activities like bringing the first team out here playing games, potentially some tournaments, camps, and clinics, but always with a purpose. And I think that’s what makes this partnership so much more than just a partnership on paper,” he said.
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