Listening To Your Customers

The decision by Rangers to refuse tickets for the Scottish Cup game with Dundee Utd, as with almost any decision connected to the club these days, has been greeted with much wailing and gnashing of teeth by rival fans and amongst the usual suspects in the media.  It has been a decision warmly greeted by the fans of the club however and is one which shows a growing bond between those running the club and those who support it. Also it highlights once again that certain rules, morals and mores exist for Rangers but then seem to be discarded when we examine the behaviour of other clubs.

There are several reasons for the current animosity between the two clubs. These are mainly rooted in the behaviour of Stephen Thompson during the summer but also involve some spats with the rather excitable Arab Trust (The Dundee Utd Supporter Trust). There is also the small matter of Dundee Utd being one of the prime movers behind the continuing attempt to steal titles from the club. This is rounded off by the scandalous decision by Dundee Utd to deny a refund to Rangers fans for a game in 2009 which was abandoned due to torrential rain and to then charge for the replay. Dundee Utd were successful when a Rangers Supporters Club took them to court over the matter, but surely we need to look beyond mere legal decisions at the “morality” and “sporting integrity” of such a decision? No?

In my humble opinion, the decision to refuse tickets for the game was the only one that Charles Green could reasonably take. After all, all the major fan groups had stated their support for a boycott and made statements outlining their reasons. These reasons are more than valid and do not even take into account the hostile attitude of Dundee Utd chairman Stephen Thompson behind closed doors over the past few months. However, it isn’t just my opinion that Green made the correct decision; I’m backed up by no less an authority on sporting integrity than Stephen Thompson himself!

During the height of the “No to Newco” campaign, Dundee Utd were one of the first clubs to publicly state they would vote against Rangers inclusion in the SPL. That is of course their right but it is somewhat illuminating to look back on Thompson’s words around this time.  Now listen closely because these are clearly the words of a wise man.

“If a club fails to listen to its customers then it dies, it’s as simple as that. Without our fans’ full backing Dundee United dies in five or six years”

Now forgive me, but can someone explain to me the difference between Rangers refusing tickets on the basis that every single one of their fan groups have made public statements asking that they do so, and Dundee Utd voting against Rangers continuation in the SPL because their fans ran a campaign to insist on a no vote? Charles Green is surely just listening to his “customers”?

It is also quite illuminating to consider the words of Thompson when examining the statement made by the Arab Trust on the matter of the boycott.

As supporters’ bodies, we do not agree with any boycott – fans are the lifeblood of the game.”

Noble words I am sure we can agree. However during the summer, when speaking of meetings with his own fans, Thompson said this.

“On my way out of the ground to go for a quiet coffee I also met a fan who said he wasn’t going to buy a season ticket if we had approved a newco but was now getting four.”

So we had a situation in the summer where Dundee Utd fans were telling their own chairman they would boycott their own club if they did not vote against Rangers but are now appalled at the thought that Rangers fans would boycott a single cup game due to what they see as the underhand and antagonistic behaviour of Dundee Utd towards our club and fans.

It was also a matter of great fanfare from journalists like Mr Dundee Utd, Jim Spence, that during the summer, after announcing that they would vote against Rangers continuation in the SPL, Dundee Utd season ticket sales showed a marked upturn. We were told that thousands of tickets were sold on the back of this decision. Again this paints a picture of a support that was boycotting their own club’s ticket sales until they got their own way.

I am not saying that Dundee Utd fans should not take a view on Rangers. If they are so consumed by hatred for my club that they would boycott their own unless they voted us out the SPL, then that is their decision. I can laugh at that decision; I can find it sad, I could even, if I cared enough, allow it to make me angry. However, there is an extraordinary level of hypocrisy involved in the statements now being made about this issue.

Elements of the press, as always, have not disappointed. Within an hour of Charles Green’s initial statement on the refusal to take tickets, people like Jim Delahunt were tweeting and writing about the possibility of the SFA withholding the gate receipts due to Rangers from the game. It would have taken a novel interpretation of the rules they were quoting for this to become a reality, but they didn’t let that stop them.

We also had a lot of comments questioning why Rangers should benefit from a match they were taking no fans to? Well I’m fine with that. If we want to go down the road of dividing all Scottish Cup gate receipts on the basis of the percentage of fans in attendance from each club then Rangers will not be the ones losing out. Dundee Utd have regularly brought less than 500 fans to Ibrox and expected the rules to be adhered to but now they want Rangers to forfeit the right to gate receipts because our fans have no wish to line the pockets of a club that actively campaigned against us? They deserve to be put over someone’s knee and spanked and that is precisely what Charles Green has done.  

The SFA have no grounds to deny the gate receipts to Rangers and anyone who says otherwise is engaging in wishful thinking. Yesterday’s decision by the club to donate those proceeds to charity was a PR masterstroke. The club have long needed to improve this area of their operations and there will hopefully be good news on that front in the very near future. We need people engaged full time in these endeavours - not just working on retainer. We need to not only respond to negativity about the club but also start to promote a more positive view of the club and the fans. We also need to build bridges and start to rebuild the reputation of the club, which has certainly been damaged by the events of the past two years.

This however should not be confused with allowing people to walk all over us. We’ve taken our hits and there will be a period of settling scores before the necessary reconciliation, in Scotland at least, commences. There are plenty of clubs in Scottish football, including several in the SPL, who are very keen to establish better relations with our club. We don’t need to start with Dundee Utd and nor should we. Clubs need to realise that they got to poke the bear while it was asleep but we’ve woken up now and we’re understandably a bit grumpy.

The Arab Trust has a view on moving our game forward which is worth finishing on.

In a time when Scottish football needs to look to the future and how we can rebuild our game, it's sad that some parties choose to refer to past alleged indiscretions”

I wholeheartedly agree so let’s start with this. Drop the title stripping tribunal and ask anyone who has made a public statement about Rangers cheating, financially doping or otherwise winning titles through dishonesty, to make a public apology. Then we can all move on and “look to the future”. No? You don’t want to? Well in that case take your medicine.

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