Fences, pitchforks and torches

Just in case Channel 4’s Dispatches team is reading this, no, the title doesn’t indicate TRS is about to do some sort of advert for B&Q in exchange for some free goodies but instead something perhaps less interesting in again discussing the ongoing boardroom debate at Rangers.

Last night, my esteemed editing colleague (and occasional wearer of neon gloves) Chris Graham wrote a fine article on recent events and the reaction across the community has been fascinating. Some bears feel his summation was fair, objective and accurate while others believe he’s too lenient on those who want to buy/control the club and, thus, too harsh on those who currently control it. Apparently Chris has an agenda or/or is someone else’s puppet. It’s certainly not a coincidence that by and large the criticism is personal instead of discussing the article but I guess that comes with the territory. However, I do think it’s fair to say there has been some more pertinent observations offered of the article and this is worth recognising – especially when we consider there are now calls from some websites for people to pick sides.

Firstly, Chris and certainly TRS, have thankfully stopped short of that. Personally I don’t think it is worthwhile attempting to divide the support when we’re still lacking in much needed verifiable information. For example, I don’t doubt Jim McColl and Dave King are seriously concerned at the direction of the club but, without audited and published financials, I’m not sure how the rank and file Rangers support are supposed to analyse the situation all that accurately. Therefore, while fence-sitting may not be overly comfortable, I’d say it’s somewhat premature to start lighting our torches and sharpening our pitchforks ahead of our opening league game of the season. Not until after tonight’s fan meeting with the club at least…

Nevertheless, as Chris concluded, neither should we be covering our eyes to what is happening in front of us. The club may not be penniless as it stands but just how does Greenco intend capitalising Rangers once the IPO funds run out? Moreover, if Green is indeed upset at having an under-performing board; has he learned from his own mistakes in selecting the recent incumbents over the last year? For example, in light of Walter Smith’s resignation as chairman, who will replace him? That vital question is even before the EGM requisition is discussed, approved or challenged.

Similarly, Green has complained that some financial decisions – such as our transfer policy - have been questionable while suggesting, despite his previous sound-bites of £10m transfer budgets, he would not have sanctioned such spending. In that respect, I doubt many fans would disagree that costs have to be cut but how will this be done without gambling our safe passage back to the Scottish, erm, Premiership? In fact, for all his bluster on STV, we’ve yet to see the Greenco roadmap back to a sustainable future. That should be a real concern for us all.

Even so, this does not and should not mean an automatic backing of the McColl-led attempt to obtain influence at board level. Not because they’re not entitled to their opinion or, like Blue Pitch did, lobby for boardroom changes but simply because they’ve been unable to satisfy us of their intentions either. Obviously, Jim McColl has been pretty clear he doesn’t want to take-over the club per se but merely instil some much-needed expertise onto the board and offer a guiding hand for other concerned investors. That’s fair enough and it genuinely surprises me that some people are so determined to lynch him for finally entering the public debate. Surely we want successful people like McColl involved – no matter his personal opinion on the independence referendum? Despite this, it can be argued that he’s also been less than clear with his strategy. What are his plans and does he really consider Paul Murray as a credible focal point the fractured Rangers support can rally round?

All in all, as much as I can share people’s frustrations, I think it’s unhelpful for anyone to try and apply daft tribal labels in this debate. It’s really counter-productive when people are described as pro-McColl, anti-Ahmad or the like simply for having an opinion. It just isn’t as simple as that. In actual fact, I’d suggest that most bears are somewhat undecided when it comes to examining this supposed battle. Most will recognise that Charles Green deserves praise for many aspects of his spell at the club but the same people will also be able to acknowledge his involvement now is problematic. Similarly, the majority may well have an affinity with wanting the expertise of Frank Blin on the board but will also want to hold him as much to account as anyone else.

That’s why tonight’s fan meeting at Ibrox is such a good thing and long overdue. Online the support is all too often distracted by petty politics and vocal minorities. It’s not difficult for forum debates to be taken on silly tangents which only serve to stop us finding solutions. However, offline, people are less likely to be antagonistic and the presence of Ally McCoist should soothe a few tempers (even if his managerial abilities and financial package are subject of a valid intra-debate). This means the discussion should flow more smoothly and a strategy formed for us to explore – preferably jointly between the club and fans.

In saying that, further division can only be avoided if the club officials present are prepared to offer genuine transparency tonight and on a regular basis. Without that, we’ll only stumble further into the same murky darkness we all thought we’d just stumbled out of last year. In that regard it’s up for all the main protagonists to provide the light to guide us. No-one should be immune from criticism and we’d all do well to consider that before becoming entrenched in poorly conceived battles that could last a long, long time.

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