Against a Rangers Boycott
- 23 December 2013
After the recent AGM a large part of the Rangers support, if not the majority, are unhappy the current Board have been re-elected while the four requisitioners lost. With two years of season ticket money and £22m of IPO reserves gone - along with a budget which the new CEO Graham Wallace admits is unsustainable in the Premiership never mind League One - there is a frustration the wishes of supporters are being trampled on for the benefit of the shareholders.
Whether this is true or not is up for grabs, but it is something many believe. The question being asked is if protests at Ibrox and AGM challenges don't work, then how do those unhappy supporters get the attention of the Board? One idea being postulated is a boycott. Now, it has to be clearly said that no fan group has yet asked for one, but the rumours on the internet and in some articles have created enough discussion to take it seriously.
In my opinion an organised boycott, even if the intentions were noble, would be a disastrous strategy. It has to be pointed out I'm specifically discussing an organised boycott. If individual fans don't want to buy merchandise or a future season ticket then no-one should have any issue with their personal choice.
Although it wasn't organised and took years to work, many fans of the early 1980's voted with their feet and stayed away to show their displeasure. It resulted in the great David Holmes bringing Souness, Butcher, Woods and the rest to Ibrox. Some have suggested we could repeat this in a shorter timescale today with the same results - but they are wrong. If it was to happen today it would be the worst action imaginable. Let us look at why that would be the case.
The Rangers supporters who are against the Board do so for a number of reasons, but mostly because they:
1. Are unhappy with the money they believe has unfairly (if legally) gone to individuals or groups rather than the club.
2. Believe the current Board are not working in the club's best interests.
3. Are worried the current Board cannot stop Rangers heading into administration or a possible 'sale and leaseback' of Ibrox to stave off administration.
This does not mean any of the above three points are true; they may all be completely false. The idea is only that they are the general reasons why some fans are against the Board and wish them to leave. Yet, paradoxically, it is also for these reasons why an organised boycott would be the worst strategy possible since it would only increase the likelihood of points 2 & 3 coming to fruition. It would be like killing yourself because you are afraid of dying. Let's take it step-by-step in a hypothetical scenario:
If Rangers have a poor cash-flow, the only acceptable option is to keep costs low so we can survive until the next round of season tickets. It might be true that it's the Board's fault we are here in the first place. They may also be laughing at the fans keeping them in business while tens of millions have gone, but we cannot go back in time to change that, and there is no knight in shining armour to save the day.
In that scenario, the only option we have is to buy season tickets and merchandise to keep afloat. Would it not be preferable to have a Board you dislike in charge for the time being, as long as we keep Rangers out of administration and Ibrox safely in our control? Don't forget nothing lasts forever – good or bad. One day the Board will change and we have to play the long game.
So far this is the 'best case' scenario which says if there is a way out we should take it. But what if there is no way out? What if finances are so bad that administration or a 'sale and leaseback' of Ibrox is inevitable? How would an organised boycott help?
It still wouldn't.
Instead of everyone accepting the disastrous nature of the current Board, it would give them and their spin doctor an excuse to blame the wider support for ventures or mistakes they had already made. The tens of millions of season ticket and IPO money which disappeared would be forgotten. They and the Board would instead say the boycott was the cause of all Rangers' problems. And unfortunately, as long as some media group was banned or supporters group demonised, there would be enough fans to help them spread that message. It wouldn't stop administration or a sale and leaseback of assets, it would only legitimise them.
In either case, an organised boycott would also increase the likelihood of job losses for the hard-working staff and the selling of big-name players. There would an even weaker Rangers for more years than was necessary. No, it's a bad idea. We are on our own and we should make decisions based on that, not on the hope the Board will walk away without a fight or a King will take his throne on a reduced share-price which any boycott would help. Those who can buy and help Rangers have (so far) been all talk. We cannot rely on what might happen.
If the current Board can be helped out of catastrophe, then let's help them so we can fight another day. If disaster cannot be stopped then let the Board take the fall without making excuses, and then rid the club of their like once and for all. Either way, we have to think in the long-term and not hurt Rangers to get at a few individuals. Graham Wallace says the next 120 days are crucial and he should be backed 100%. I agree, but that doesn't mean he and his Board should not be continually questioned and scrutinised.
So many fans are now against the Board that only real and positive change will help the image of the directors anyway. In a strange way the requisitioners have forced change at the top while the Sons of Struth have galvanised the fans and made their disgust known – just as they both intended. If there was only one opportunity for change they would have failed, but life gives infinite opportunities. Only next time the supporters will be more aware and the Board will have less excuses for the financial black hole.
If Graham Wallace and his Board are true to their word and Rangers' organisation, football structure and finances improve then we all win. But if they don't and Rangers are hanging over a cliff, then we need to ensure that when the chance comes to push the directors out, we don't push the club over the edge too.