THE ticketing agency that paved the way for Craig Whyte's controversial takeover of Rangers has now joined forces with a consortium bidding to buy the club.
The move was announced last night, less than an hour after the club's joint administrator, Paul Clark of Duff and Phelps, confirmed the playing squad had agreed to pay cuts of up to 75% to prevent large numbers of redundancies.
Ticketus, in an apparent split from Whyte, confirmed it is working with the Blue Knights consortium backed by former director Paul Murray and plans to meet the club's administrators on Monday – five days before Friday's deadline for bids.
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Mr Murray, with three groups of Rangers supporters, is attempting to buy Rangers from administration with the backing of Rangers director Dave King, a South African millionaire.
Their plan would see creditors agreeing to receive a percentage of what they are owed through a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA), which would avoid Rangers being liquidated.
Whyte raised more than £20 million through selling off season-ticket income to the London-based Ticketus to facilitate his £1 takeover of Rangers in May 2011, and pay off an £18m debt to Lloyds.
In a joint statement, the consortium said: "The Blue Knights, led by Paul Murray, today confirm that they are finalising an offer for Rangers Football Club in partnership with fans' representatives – from the Rangers Supporters Assembly, the Rangers Supporters Association and the Rangers Supporters Trust – and Ticketus."
The consortium said it was essential the club's future is secured through a CVA, which would put it on a "secure financial footing".
"The club will benefit from being able to qualify for future European competition and access the significant revenues associated with this. Preserving this revenue stream, and the club's 140-year-old legacy, is paramount and in the best interests of all parties," it added.
Mr Murray said: "I believe the Blue Knights, working in collaboration with the fans and Ticketus, are able to deliver an attractive solution that will see the club emerge from administration with a clear plan for the future that will bring financial stability."
He said the priority was to avoid further damage to club revenues by ensuring the club is not liquidated, which would see it barred by Uefa from Europe for three years.
Ticketus said the Blue Knights clearly understood the situation and "represent the most attractive long-term solution to Rangers' financial situation". It added: "We believe working alongside the Blue Knights and fans' representatives offers the best chance of the club surviving and becoming a viable business."
Mr Clark told a press conference at the club's training ground the first-team's "substantial wage reductions" of 25%-75%, led by Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker, until the end of the season had directly prevented "substantial job losses". Manager Ally McCoist and his backroom team have also taken salary cuts.
He said: "The agreement on very substantial wage reductions and voluntary departures from the club represents a major sacrifice by the Rangers players. The discussions have been lengthy and by no means easy for anyone involved but the most important objective in all of this process has been to achieve an outcome that will help save the club.
"The players deserve great credit and we are in no doubt that this agreement is the best way to achieve the necessary cost savings to ensure the continuing operations of the club while preserving the fabric of the playing squad."
He praised Mr McCoist for putting "the interest of the club, his players and the staff first and foremost at all times.
He added: "We still hold to our view that the future of Rangers can be secured."
Whyte says his preferred creditor status with first claim on assets was established because he is underwriting the Ticketus deal. However, the administrators insist he has no rights to such status.