Making your mind up
- 04 March 2014
I must admit that when the rest of the lads and I put together The Rangers Standard almost two years ago, I don’t think any of us thought we’d be using Bucks Fizz songs to make our point. After all, even although the song in the article title did help the British super-group win the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest while also reaching Number One in the UK Top 40, I’m not sure that when we wanted to talk about culture, 1980s pop music was ever going to be high on the list. No matter, if the lyrics fit…
Seriously though it’s been an interesting couple of weeks on our TRS email chain since news of the Laxey /Easdale advance broke at the end of last month. While everyone felt some sort of bridging loan was inevitable, it’s safe to say the Laxey terms were somewhat surprising; which quickly became unacceptable when other club investors revealed they would have provided funding on much better terms. Suffice to say when Dave King made his initial statement last week, much debate was had on whether to back his season ticket trust proposal or not. Indeed, what seemed an easy choice on the face of it quickly became more complicated as we examined the whole picture. As a group, although most of us support Dave King joining the board at Ibrox, TRS eventually decided to abstain from fully backing King's strategy until we see more explanation of his plans, including the possible ramifications of withholding ticket monies. After all, as much as the club are usually the focus of our questions, it’s only fair those driving the debate are subject to the same scrutiny. I certainly hope Dave King, when he arrives in Scotland over the next week or two, will be open in that regard. I say this as, since last week’s King recommendations, the club has certainly failed to defend itself adequately. That, in my mind, is unacceptable and worthy of revisiting – especially since yesterday’s exclusive TRS revelations of ignored alternative loan offers.
First things first, the club assured us short term funding was not an issue as recently as January, despite Graham Wallace admitting that ‘conceptual discussions’ had taken place regarding player wage cuts. It seems nothing has come of these discussions with only Ally McCoist offering to cut his (overly) substantial wage. Meanwhile, since the club entered administration just over two years ago, it appears there has been minimal stream-lining of our other operations. Staff cuts have been minimal and these costs remain excessive on and off the park. Generally, over half-way through Wallace’s infamous 120 day review, there has been little indication of where savings will be made. For example, only one player (fringe midfielder Andrew Mitchell) left in January by mutual consent while one less than satisfactory offer for international full back Lee Wallace was turned down. Many high wage earners remain and it will be very difficult for the CEO to move them on unless their contracts are expensively terminated.
As such, when Ally McCoist talks about supplementing his squad for a tough SPFL Championship campaign next season, it’s a challenge to see where the funds will come from for this. After all, a portion of this summer’s season ticket renewal money is already allocated to paying off this February’s £1.5million loans. Certainly Northern Ireland international forward Andy Little’s expiring contract has yet to be renewed despite him continuing to be a first team regular when available. Discussing new player arrivals is also interesting when we remember the club has no scouting department of note. All in all, not only can we arguably not afford new players, we don’t appear to have the means to identify suitable candidates. Let’s hope we’re not restricted to aging Brazilian centre-halves and Honduran midfielders who want to leave the club after twelve months despite contributing next to nothing in their time here.
Now, some of the issues above are not necessarily the fault of the current board. For example, Rangers have made bad signings in the past and will do so again many times. However, the issue of departmental failures and associated funding must under-pin Graham Wallace’s review. Yet, despite him insisting he’s not hiding behind his 120 day timeline, he again fails to demonstrate any progress whatsoever in his most recent statement challenging those he believes are ‘damaging ‘the club. To that end, while he is right to say he has inherited mismanagement and needs time to address this, he can’t expect fans to offer their faith no questions asked which he seems to be doing. After all, offering faith is one thing but ponying up another £10-15million of season ticket money is another - especially when his administration continually fails to show where around £50million of IPO money and two previous season ticket tranches have gone since 2012. ‘Ready to Listen’ may be your latest motto but I think fans would much rather you were ‘Prepared to Answer’ sooner rather than later. 120 days is a long time, so perhaps an interim report may have allayed fan/investor concerns?
Next on Wallace’s statement was the promise that a proper business structure is being put in place ‘that will protect and develop Rangers Football Club for future generations’. Admirable comments but when the very next line again references the requirement for additional investment, we’re back to square one. Where is this investment coming from? Will it be raised by a new share issue or can we expect further loans? If so, what will these loans be secured on this time – season ticket money, Auchenhowie or perhaps Ibrox Stadium? Surely after the embarrassments of the Whyte era, the aim is for the club to be self-sufficient. How can this be possible when we need high interest rate loans little over a year after raising £22million of investment? Let’s also be completely clear: such valid questions are not ‘damaging’ nor asked with a ‘degree of scepticism’; such questions stop Rangers fans sleeping at night and the board’s constant refusal to engage properly hardly encourages confidence in your ability to answer them.
This takes us back nicely to making your mind up. For what it’s worth I completely understand why any Rangers fan would find it tough to withhold their money from the club. I also sympathise with Graham Wallace in that he’s trying to do what must, at times, appear to be an impossible task. Moreover, as much as we can criticise Laxey for their apparent greed, Sandy Easdale deserves some credit for offering his money without the same interest charges. Generally speaking, I also won’t blame any fan for wanting to give Wallace his 120 days. I want to myself as I still believe the guy does have the ability to be a positive influence at Rangers. However, neither can I blame any fan for considering doing the opposite when there continues to be an obvious information vacuum at the club.
To conclude, making up your mind on such matters is possibly a fool’s errand. At the end of the day, despite the bizarre media criticism of our fans for ‘allowing’ the Whyte debacle to unfold, we remain essentially powerless when it comes to affecting boardroom power plays. Sure, those involved may occasionally patronise us by pretending to listen but it’s difficult to believe our contribution really matters. Until, that is, we do consider our season ticket money. Suddenly, impotence can turn into real influence but only if used sensibly and with proper responsibility.
With that in mind, at some point – and perhaps unfairly – we will have to make up our mind on how we approach our individual investment. Do we continue to allow those in the Rangers boardroom to make an unaccountable mess of everything they touch? Can we trust the alternative people to do a better job? At what point, do we stop looking for help and examine fan ownership vehicles properly and without petty online quarrels? Furthermore, can we really insist constant and immediate success is the God given right of our football club?
As always, these aren’t easy questions to answer and I won’t pretend that I can answer them for you – not when I’m unsure of my own position. Ultimately though we have to learn from the past and, in my opinion, recent events have been all too similar to that of those dreadful times under Craig Whyte. Inconsistency of performance and actions in the Rangers boardroom, alongside genuine funding problems cannot and should not be ignored. Indeed I find David Somers’ lack of leadership more ‘astonishing’ than any statement of Dave King (flawed or otherwise).
In that respect, at some point very soon, our fans will have to say enough is enough and take control of our own destiny. Bizarrely, Bucks Fizz sum up this conundrum perfectly:
“Don't let your indecision take you from behind
Trust your inner vision don't let others change your mind”.