Is the grass getting Greener?

Mid-November isn’t usually a time for football related reflection but considering six months have now passed since Charles Green announced he was taking over our club - and coincidentally (honestly!) six months since The Rangers Standard began life as a fledgling new site in the online Rangers community – now is as good a time as any to reflect on what progress the straight-talking Yorkshireman is making as part of the consortium which bought Rangers.

Clearly, when Green first faced the media before our final league match of last season, we were all cynics in terms of what he (and at that time Duff & Phelps) were offering.  Recent years of moonbeams from Sir David Murray and a season of embarrassment under the stewardship of Craig Whyte meant it wasn’t a surprise that our fan-base were less than enthused at the lack of clarity surrounding the consortium Green represented.

Indeed, despite his group going onto buy the club soon after, if anything the criticism and uncertainty increased despite the new Chief Executive quickly meeting with supporters before the club even had a licence to operate again in the Scottish leagues.  Add in the initially well received concern from 9IAR legends like John Brown and Andy Goram, as well as late challenges to buy the club from supposed ‘real’ Rangers men, Green didn’t have his problems to seek in trying to persuade the support to back his interests.

However, day by day, week by week, the former Sheffield United director was turning doubt into backing.  Regular meetings with the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (the then main body working with the new company from a fans point of view) and a siege mentality developed via ongoing battles with the football authorities soon fostered common ground and threats of fan boycotts were turned into impressive season ticket sales of 37,000. Were these sales and world record crowds in defiance of our many critics, backing for the Green regime or just easily demonstrable consistent support for our club? No-one may be able to answer that accurately but in Division Three or not, the money was coming in again and a few quality SPL level signings ahead of a year’s SFA registration embargo meant the new owners were showing they intended returning the club back to the upper levels of our game while also defending our reputation (and history) from those who wish us harm.

The next step for Green is now the IPO (Initial Public Offering) which proposes to bring in up to £20million of funds for the club.  The new owners have been clear throughout that they intended such a share flotation and Green himself has been honest in saying that’s how he was going to be paid before leaving the club shortly after.  Unfortunately for him, the success of this offering is still uncertain and criticism has again resurfaced in that some fans are rightly asking where the money raised from the share issue will go.  For example, the club has said money will go to new players – yet we can’t sign anyone due to the embargo; they’ve also mentioned we need working capital – yet say costs have been reduced by as much as £15million compared to previous years.  The message is an inconsistent one.

Of course, the imminent IPO prospectus should provide some clarity on that front.  After all, I’d fancy many bears will be interested in putting money towards projects like the purchase and development of Edmiston House or a museum (see our recent petition) but they won’t be so keen if our money was used to pay off any initial investors.  Clearly, to maximise the uptake the club will have to be clear on where the raised money goes – especially when we consider how Craig Whyte sold us down the river.  Buying shares in Rangers may be an emotional purchase as opposed to a financial investment but that doesn’t mean we’ll throw money away regardless.  Thus, is the scheme being underwritten and, if so, by whom and to what extent?

The announcement of Walter Smith (and to a lesser extent Ian Hart) being appointed as a non-executive director provides much needed credibility in that regard.  With Ally McCoist already listed as a shareholder, having another fan legend involved at board level can only be good news.  Smith provides familiarity for the support and hopefully the kind of presence in the boardroom which can hold the executive directors to account as we move forward.  Further backing from trusted Rangers supporting business men such as Jim McColl and Sir Tom Hunter  (or indeed even those who tried to buy the club earlier in the year)  would also go a long way to giving small investors comfort ahead of the formal IPO launch.  

Generally speaking Green is making decent progress then.  But, there does remain uncertainty as to his personal intentions and his relationship to the beneficial owners of the club.  Some of his words and actions have also been premature and ill-advised at times while it’s still unclear as to what future his group envisages for the club.  Despite his words do we return to the SPL? Or do we drive league reconstruction from SFL level on our terms? Can we contribute to a new European league?  What exactly is the medium-long term ambition of the club?

It’s fair to say there are still many questions but nevertheless we, as fans, have to move on as well.  Cynicism and doubt are understandable given the events of the last 18 months but, so far at least, Green’s performance has been a satisfactory one and he’s done largely what he said he would.  

Obviously there’s a long way to go in our journey back to the top of the Scottish game but at some point we all need to get off the fence and contribute to the club’s future.  To that end, November may be a bit early for New Year’s resolutions but by investing into our club and improving our representative status (either directly through the club or via we can help ensure 2013 offers more than recent years.

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