The Battle for Rangers – The 120 Day War
- 27 February 2014
I think it’s fair to say that yesterday afternoon’s in-depth statement from Dave King has broken what appeared to be a tentative ceasefire in the battle for Rangers. Despite Graham Wallace’s post-AGM pleas for 120 days of calm to enable him and his fellow board members to establish a way forward for the club, a lack of ongoing information from the CEO and valid concerns over the suitability of recent loans means any moratorium on boardroom issues is well and truly gone. However, are we really any further forward in this debate?
Let’s take the club first. Wallace may have asked for 120 days to implement change and as one writer who suggested such a break from hostilities no matter the outcome of the AGM, I can certainly sympathise with his view. As such, I can understand why he and others may feel aggrieved at King once again wading into the argument. After all, it can’t be easy to try and achieve root and branch revolution without the backing of the fans and key/potential institutional investors?
On the other hand, there’s not been much evidence of this revolution. No staff members have left – either from the bloated playing squad, the less than convincing coaching team, or from anywhere else in the club. In that sense, we again have to ask why costs are not being cut if money is so tight. Add in the recent working capital loans going against earlier assurance we didn’t need short-term funding then Graham Wallace has been less than convincing so far. For example, if we need £1.5m this year what about 2014/15 when season ticket monies have to pay off these loans before we even invest for the SPFL Championship. Let’s remember we could easily have the likes of Hearts, Dunfermline, Dundee, Falkirk and Ross County in our league next year. Thus, promotion to the Scottish Premiership isn’t a given – more so if, as expected, we have to make cuts in the budget rather than find and apply new investment. And we’re not even in the bloody top league yet where fans will demand a challenge to Celtic.
Indeed, it’s that kind of fiscal uncertainty which frustrates Rangers fans most. I was more than willing to give Wallace (and his board) 120 days to demonstrate how they can lead us back to the top of Scottish football. However, I think it’s fair to say that some crumbs of comfort could have been thrown along the way. Welcome fan surveys aside, there’s not been much sign of improvement at the club. Edmiston House stands empty and decrepit. Wallace has failed to engage with supporters via open meetings. The performances on the field remain disjointed and inconsistent. Costs are high and our ‘investment committee’ can only apparently achieve high interest loans instead of exploring new share issues. Our PR function remains a source of great controversy. All in all, to say the club hardly convinces doubting fans is being rather kind. In the face of such scepticism I also don’t think it’s fair for Wallace (or anyone else) to hide behind the 120 day truce he requested. In fact, the club’s rather weak response to Dave King’s statement of Wednesday only adds to the diffidence over their capabilities. They can either answer King’s questions or they can’t. So far they can’t so that says a lot more than their two line response.
Moving onto King (and the club’s other critics) it’s perhaps just as – if not more – frustrating that he seems equally unconvincing in his efforts to offer an alternative. I think it's fair to say that many, many fans will share King's worries and will certainly be interested in the ring-fencing plan he recommends. Unfortunately, any challenger to the board has so far failed to capture the imagination of not only enough fans but enough institutional investors to really apply serious pressure to those supposedly running the club to ruin. Therefore, the biggest question I have right now is what has changed since the failed days of the Blue Knights and McCollco? After all, it’s certainly the case that for every question we have of the board, we have just as many for those that want to replace them.
To begin with I’m glad that King has suggested he’ll be coming to Scotland to answer such questions in person. Good news; so here are a few for him to mull over on the flight. Why did you not invest in the IPO? How do your SARS difficulties affect the club’s business credibility? What lessons have you learned from your previous involvement in the club? How can you turn Rangers into a profitable business where others have failed? What figureheads do you have in mind for this season ticket Trust? How do you intend consulting with fans and institutional investors ahead of this? What happens should the club board/owners dig themselves in further? I’ll stop there as we could go on all day. Suffice to say, King has his work cut out to persuade thousands of weary, disheartened and angry people.
Now, I won’t pretend to have the answers to any of the questions above – either those asked of the club or Dave King. However, until such answers are given – and offered without the spin and strings attached some often demand – I’d argue the vast majority of supporters will be unable to form a genuine educated opinion on the future of our football club. That’s the only truth of a battle that has had many victims already. Moreover, until we’re ALL made aware of the real intentions of either side, the main casualty will continue to be Rangers FC as doubt and apathy become the biggest enemies of all.