Since 2012, Rangers football club have focused less on the football aspects of the club, and more on the day to day financial predicaments. Since entering Administration, selling assets to a new company and starting life in the bottom tier of Scottish football – financially nothing has settled. It has been over two years since Rangers entered administration and still money woes surround the club; with stories breaking in the news and rumours circulating on social media – fans have had enough. The club has seen boardroom members, such as Charles Green, come and go throughout these two years with no stability at the helm. Fans have waited patiently to see whether solidity upstairs would come to fruition and this has not materialised. As things stand, there is a massive divide in the clubs support, as they search for a party that will run the club steadily, and slowly but surely focus on the most important element of this establishment; the football. The question that will surround the current Ibrox power struggle is – who should the fans trust?
The current board in place are made up of David Somers, Graham Wallace, James Easdale and Norman Crighton, who were all elected as board members in 2013. Shortly after being elected, this current board under the leadership of Graham Wallace, announced a ‘120-day business review’ that would radically see the board cut costs, revamp the clubs scouting and youth development and reach out to supporters with fan survey. Although this all sounded promising, Mr Wallace admitted fresh investment was needed to help Rangers through financially difficult times. Now months after the business review has been published – the board recently announced that it has launched a share issue in the hope of raising £4 million to pay off debts and ultimately keep the club afloat. Although the board has denied the club is close to a second administration in roughly two and a half years, fans have reacted to the share issue negatively and believe Rangers are closer to administration than the board are leading on. The board have suggested that the current financial problems have occurred due to numerous fans and supporters groups participating in a boycott. The decline in season ticket sales has ultimately had a costly effect on the board’s budget, although some fans believe this share issue would have taken place regardless of season ticket sales. News also broke earlier this week, that former board member Charles Green had struck a deal to sell the naming rights to Ibrox Stadium to shareholder Mike Ashley for only £1. This led to a surge of supporters lashing out at Mike Ashley and his involvement at Ibrox. Ashley, who is the current owner of Newcastle United, is a controversial figure to many and fans are questioning his motives. Out of all three parties vying to take Rangers back to where they belong, Mr Wallace and his board is adamant the people implemented are the right men to guide the club back into financial constancy and that the fans should support the board patiently as they try to resurrect the economic damage that has been caused by previous boards. However, Rangers fans are growing weary of Mr Wallace and his constant reassurances. Supporters feel anxious that very little information regarding the clubs financial future is being released; yet constant negative press and financial reports surround the club on a day to day basis. Rangers are constantly in the headlines for all the wrong reasons which is agitating the clubs followers. Despite the fact the review lead by Mr Wallace and the rest of the board is now completed, fans are concerned that damaging news regarding finances at Ibrox still pour out of media outlets daily, and the recent news of the share issue may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
South African based businessman and life-long Rangers supporter Dave King has previously stated he disagrees with the way the current Rangers board are running the club. After many fans disagreed with the loan deal in place by Mr Wallace and Laxey Partners earlier in the year, fans plotted to boycott the club by withholding season ticket money until financial cohesion was guaranteed, a move that has subsequently taken place, with only 23 thousand season tickets sold. Throughout the year, Mr Wallace has questioned the fans’ loyalties in regard to the boycott – a move which did not sit well with Dave King back in the spring, leading to Mr King releasing a statement, first of all questioning the board, claiming they are really asking fans to have “blind faith” instead of trust. He then travelled to Scotland and met with supporters groups to explain his plan regarding the holding back of season ticket money and insisted he is in the financial position to invest in the club if need be. He believed not paying up when it comes to season ticket renewal, or purchasing a season ticket for the first time, could send out a clear message to the board that the fans want clear and concise clarification over the future of the club. Once this explanation by the board took place, he would then part ways with his money and invest in the club. Since the statement was released, fans have questioned Mr King’s background and are sceptical over the idea of Rangers being controlled by the South African based businessman. In addition to this, Dave King – like the board – has not provided fans with up to date information on his plans for investing in Rangers. Mr King has since taken a back seat approach to the Rangers situation, and fans are tired of King not ‘putting your money where your mouth is’. This has led to numerous Rangers fans being frustrated at the planned investment by King not coming to fruition, and have given up hope of Dave King ultimately ‘saving Rangers’.
Supporters group Rangers First are also vying to take control of the club. Formed on February 14th 2014, the community interest company (CIC) is hoping to continuously buy shares on the open market and in turn increase their holding in the club.This means fans can sign up to Rangers First and the direct debit scheme which will see a specific sum of money given to the CIC each month. Rangers First are at its early stages, and plan to attract 20,000 people to the scheme, around £2 million, which would be enough shares to own part of Rangers. Since the news broke of a share issue taking place, Rangers First have sent out a message that fans can save the club themselves, and in turn launched the Be The 5th campaign to try and raise awareness and in due course shares. A conflict of interests and different opinions is one reason fans aren’t getting behind the Rangers First campaign and many people believe having one person at the helm would be a more beneficial way of running Rangers.
Despite the conflicting opinions of Rangers fans, one thing they can all agree on is that they have a lack of trust. Having dealt with so many major blows in the last couple of years, fans are beginning to grow tired of constant change and new ideas in the boardroom. Having seen many businessmen enter the club at its lowest financial point and promise the fans stability, to then leave the club months later in a worse state than it was originally in; fans don’t know who to trust. Many believe the damage that has already occurred in the past will forever leave fans sceptical or in disagreement over new owners or ideas. Whether it is Graham Wallace and the current board in place, Dave King or Rangers First – there needs to be change at Ibrox and fast. The club is continuously losing money and rumours circulate the club as to whether it will remain open for much longer.
Being a Rangers fan myself, I have an opinion just like everyone else. I truly believe some members of the current board are doing the best they can to try and get Rangers out of a financial mess they themselves didn’t create. Fans are currently divided and the fall in season ticket sales plays a massive factor on Rangers budget. I believe that if fans backed their team by purchasing season tickets in the final phase of their journey back to the top, money issues would ease in the short term, and subsequent promotion back to the top flight would in itself attract better sponsorship deals, better players and move revenue to the club. I feel the board had a plan in place to get us through this year which has taken a blow with the fact season ticket sales are down. Sandy Easdale recently said: “It’s disappointing that we’ve not got their support. I feel we deserve a bit of support because of what we inherited. Considering that baggage, we’re going forward at a good rate with a good business plan. Obviously that plan has been interrupted by the lack of people coming to the games.” This is a clear indication that fans who have boycotted have played a part in damaging the club, whether they like to admit it or not. I understand that fans are tired of the lies, the constant negative news regarding our club and the fact there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I understand the frustration, the lack of trust we have with board members who are constantly changing, or trying to jump on the ‘gravy train’ as it has been put. I get that. However, Rangers are where we are at the moment. The big billionaire saviour we all dream of is exactly that – a dream. It is time to be realistic. We cannot attract investment being in the state we are currently in. I believe in the top tier, finances will automatically improve as stated earlier. I am in no way pro-board, in fact I believe there are shareholders who are slowly but surely taking Rangers for a ride at the moment. What I am, is pro-Rangers. Rangers’ fans are the heart and blood that keep the club going. We have been for the past two years, and in the most important year in the clubs history underway, we need to support the team by buying season tickets, attending games whether we agree with the board or not. ‘Though the straits be broad or narrow, it’s follow we will’ a line from a famous Rangers song sticks with me during this difficult time. Take the good with the bad and help push us through this difficult time.