- 08 November 2012
Earlier today, the Rangers Supporters Trust, working in conjunction with Supporters Direct Scotland, launched the ‘Buy Rangers’ campaign. The objective of this campaign is simple: to allow fans to collectively purchase a stake in Rangers Football Club.
We spoke to Gordon Stewart, Secretary of the Rangers Supporters Trust, to find out more about the campaign.
1. What is 'Buy Rangers' and what exactly is the RST's relationship with it?
GS: Buy Rangers is a campaign formed with the sole aim of allowing as many Rangers fans as possible to invest in the upcoming share issue. Our minimum entry price is £125, which is a quarter of the minimum required to invest individually, which we think will attract many people. £125 is the difference in price between a season ticket this year and last year and we are hoping that even in these difficult economic times people will be willing to invest that money into Rangers. The RST are the legal entity behind the campaign but all money will be held securely by our lawyers Cobbetts for the sole use of investing in the club.
2. Who put the campaign together?
GS: The Rangers Supporters' Trust have put this campaign together. We are fortunate that in the past year many people have offered us assistance and we have attracted good professional people to our board and to advise and assist. We have formed a finance and campaign committee who will oversee all aspects of Buy Rangers. The Rangers Supporters' Trust is a 100% democratic fan group and every member involved will have the opportunity to elect the board and shape the future of the RST.
3. What will the campaign involve?
GS: The campaign aim is to maximise any funds raised so we can purchase as large a stake in the club as possible. We will invest all the money in Rangers and advise the club we wish to purchase the shareholding before the listing on the AIM market. We would receive a proportional stake in the club for that amount. For example if we raised £2.5m and the club is valued at £25m the Buy Rangers campaign would then own 10% of Rangers Football Club.
4. Why is the campaign being launched now and not earlier in the year?
GS: We didn’t want to take in any money until we had a clear aim for investing. If we had called in £12m of pledges from SaveRangers.com and handed it over to Duff & Phelps when the club was in administration the CVA was still likely to be rejected and all the fans investment would be lost. This way the money is all going straight to Rangers Football Club and Charles Green has assured fans the money will stay within Rangers Football Club and only be used for the benefit of our club.
5. What role has Supporters Direct played?
GS: Supporters Direct (SD) are a government backed organisation looking to increase supporter involvement in the running of the game. SD have been a great help as they have done this kind of share scheme at many clubs around the country. We are also using the SD affiliated lawyers (Cobbetts) who are experts in the field and have the experience required to maximise the opportunity for success.
6. Why do people need to join the RST to buy shares in 'Buy Rangers'?
GS: It is a legal requirement. By law nobody can invest through an Industrial & Provident Society unless a member of that society. The RST is a 100% democratic group with FSA approved rules available on our website. Anyone can join the RST for £10 a year and we produce audited accounts annually. However the £125 will be held with Cobbetts in London and used only to invest in Rangers. The £10 joining fee goes towards the running of the scheme, promotion, auditors fees etc we need to keep the society functioning.
7. Have you had assistance from fans of other club's who have operated this sort of scheme?
GS: Most of the advice comes through Supporters Direct who advise all clubs using similar schemes. However we are in contact with Trusts, mostly down south, and there have been no issues with the structure of any community share schemes.
8. Do the club and Charles Green support the scheme? What sort of discussions have you had about this?
GS: Simple answer is yes. Our chairman and other RST board members are in regular contact with Charles Green and Imran Ahmed. On the 25th October Imran agreed the RST could buy shares as a group in the IPO. I think they are happy we are offering a service which will allow more people to invest and they see it as an opportunity to maximise the level of investment.
9. What do you say to those fans who think fan ownership of Rangers is impossible because of our apparent tendency to fall out?
GS: Democracy is the worst form of government...except all the others which have been tried. The one man ownership model has failed Rangers and we would like all supporters to back this campaign. There will never be unanimous agreement in the fanbase but all our decisions are based on a majority vote by a board democratically elected by our members. We will always do what we think is best for Rangers and if people think the path we are taking is not the way to go they can suggest changes or stand for election at the next AGM. We also have spaces available on the RST board so any of our members could contact us to join our board and shape the direction of the RST and this campaign.
10. What benefits can the fans derive from having more of a say in running the club?
GS: As I mention above the main reasons are accountability and transparency. However there are also other reasons. The Murray era saw the club and the fans drift apart. If all senior positions in the club are ultimately accountable to the supporters they will obviously want to keep the fans happy. We could demand a stronger voice when fighting media slurs against our club, we could demand a museum is built with the capital raised from the IPO, we could demand the club never enters the SPL again. A fan owned club can be a far more inclusive and enjoyable experience for us all.
11. Are you looking to raise a certain amount of money?
GS: It is unlimited and whatever we raise we will invest. We would obviously prefer to raise enough money to own say 10% which then would give us a large minority shareholding. However there is no target.
12. How long will the campaign last?
GS: Initially it will last until the IPO date when we will then invest the cash we have in the club. There will then be the opportunity to continue the fund and we could use it to continue to buy shares to increase the society’s stake in the club.
13. Why should fans invest more than the £125 minimum?
GS: We are encouraging fans to invest what they can afford. There is no obligation to invest above the minimum £125 but we have already had members pledge 4 figure sums. They feel they can afford it and back the idea of democratic supporter representation which can only be provided through a group like our own.
14. Can fans living abroad invest in 'Buy Rangers'?
GS: Yes. We will be contacting NARSA, ORSA and all other RSCs abroad encouraging them to invest. The scheme is open to all Rangers fans worldwide.
15. Anything else you would like to add?
GS: Thanks for the opportunity to talk openly about our scheme. The Rangers Standard has been an excellent addition to the Rangers supporters community online. Let’s use this as a new start and the opportunity to bring our club into our fans hands. We would encourage all Rangers supporters to back the idea and please feel free to contact us with any questions/suggestions on the campaign.