Rangers will soon commission an independent examination into "recent allegations concerning the chief executive, Charles Green, the commercial director, Imran Ahmad, and their management of the club".
It will report directly to the four non-executive directors, Walter Smith, Ian Hart, Bryan Smart and Philip Cartmell, and the hope within the club is that a judgement will be delivered sooner rather than later. Here, Herald Sport looks into the background of the decision made on Saturday, and what the consequences might be.
Why have the board taken this decision?
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Green and Ahmad have been forced on to the defensive after he revealed in a newspaper interview that he occasionally addresses Ahmad as his "little P*** friend" but also by the drip-feeding of information to the media by Craig Whyte. The former owner released audio of conversations held with Green and Ahmad last year, and it has emerged Whyte paid £137,500 into Ahmad's mother's account and a £25,000 cheque was deposited in Green's bank account by Aiden Earley, Whyte's long-time business partner. In one recording – a short edit of a much longer conversation – Green is heard to say "You are Sevco".
Last Friday, STV revealed a document signed by Green authorising the appointment of Whyte and Earley as directors of Sevco 5088, the company that was granted exclusive bidder status last summer. Some of the board are uncomfortable with the revelations. Malcolm Murray, the chairman, was already at odds with Green, and wanted the removal of the chief executive and Ahmad.
What do Green and Ahmad say?
They are adamant that, like all of the other groups bidding for Rangers last summer, they had to negotiate with Whyte. For example, Brian Kennedy met the former owner and believed he had reached an agreement on the transfer of Whyte's majority shareholding. This was required in the event of Rangers Football Club plc achieving a Company Voluntary Arrangement to come out of administration. Green and Ahmad say they were stringing Whyte along and intended to "shaft him". When the CVA proposal failed, the business and assets were sold to Sevco Scotland. Lawyers for Green and Ahmad in Scotland and England are compiling a dossier of evidence alleging blackmail by Whyte, which will be passed onto the police.
So what is the problem?
The board appear to not be taking Green and Ahmad's explanations at face value. This appears to leave their positions untenable. However, the independent examination will either exonerate one or both of Green and Ahmad, or force the board to act decisively.
Whyte is an unreliable witness, and it is no coincidence he released information at the same time as he lost his £17.7m civil case with Ticketus, and when properties in Scotland and England were being raided by police as part of an investigation into his purchase of the club from Sir David Murray in May 2011. The documents in STV's possession are not forgeries, but also do not prove that the two men were ratified as directors. They were filed to Companies House last Friday, despite Sevco 5088 currently being wound up.
Nonetheless, it is the amount of collusion that the independent examination will be probing. Given that Green denied any links with Whyte, then admitted to one meeting, and now several, there is a feeling among the board that the issue has to be cleared up once and for all. Crucially, if there were no more payments made, no more deals struck and no business involvement between Whyte and Sevco Scotland, then Green and Ahmad could be fine. Yet because Whyte has been drip-feeding information, there is a perception of continuous revelations.
Is this the end of Green and Ahmad at Ibrox?
Not necessarily. There is a split on the board, but not enough support to oust or retain them. The independent examination will provide a conclusion either way. Many fans support the notion of Whyte being outflanked, but Green's bluster and tendency to talk without restraint was only benign when it didn't involve the former owner, who is a toxic figure for fans. Some now distrust Green. Even so, he overcame significant obstacles last summer in winning over the fans, and could do so again.
What is the difference between Sevco 5088 and Sevco Scotland?
The 5088 company was the one granted exclusivity by Duff & Phelps last summer. Whyte alleges that he was behind it, which is denied. The administrators pledged not to sell Rangers to any group involving Whyte, so how much did they know about the talks with the former owner? When the CVA failed, the assets were transferred to Sevco Scotland, but without Duff & Phelps announcing or explaining this change in circumstances. The explanation from the club at the time was that Rangers needed to be owned by a company registered in Scotland. It also now appears that this was the means to cut Whyte out of the equation, completely.
What if a CVA had been granted?
After the vote against it, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs said that they could never have voted in favour, and they held the decisive vote, so it is a moot point. Green has not explained how Whyte would have been "shafted" in those circumstances. There is no suggestion, however, that Whyte is involved now, hence his leaks to the press.
Is Rangers' licence under threat?
The Scottish Football Association has written to the club seeking an explanation of Whyte's claims. Last summer, as part of the undertakings to grant the transfer of the licence from Rangers Football Cub plc to Sevco Scotland, assurances were provided that Whyte was not involved. The former owner has made no claim about being part of Sevco Scotland, only that the sale of the assets ought to have been to Sevco 5088, which he does allege to be involved in. On that basis, if the assets were never part of Sevco 5088, it does not seem that Rangers breached any of the undertakings. If it transpires that they have, the only way to head off potentially serious sanctions might be to sack those involved and distance the club from their actions. Again, though, there is no evidence of this.
Are there not enquiries already ongoing?
Yes, the police and the liquidators of RFC plc, BDO, are both investigating Whyte's takeover and ownership of the club. Those enquiries also now extend to last summer's sale of the business and assets by Duff & Phelps.
What if Green and Ahmad are exonerated?
It is impossible to see the status quo being maintained, so in that scenario it is likely that non-executive directors would stand down. The departure of Smith would have a profound effect on the mood of the fans.
What about in the meantime?
This has come at a very damaging time for Rangers. Ally McCoist is trying to plan for next season, but has lost his physio and chief scout. They need replaced and the football operation needs investment if it is to be run sustainably. Scouting and youth development need additional resources. McCoist's own position is strengthened, since Green wanted to remove his assistants, Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant, but the manager now needs to be fully backed to take the club forward.
There is also the issue of season tickets. Rangers need to sell as many, if not more, than the 38,000 sold last year to fund the ongoing rebuilding of the club. Although £22m was raised by floating Rangers International Football Club on the Alternative Investment Market last December, that money is capital and if it is used for cash flow purposes, investors will become wary and start to sell, driving down the share price, which is already falling due to recent events.
Will this lead to a change in ownership?
For that to happen, somebody would need to start buying shares. For now, that is not happening in significant amounts. The original members of the consortium fronted by Green have already seen their investment rise significantly, since they bought in when the club was purchased for £5.5m. Their plan, and those of more recent investors, will be to realise their profit when Rangers return to the top-flight and into Europe. At that stage, external investment may be required.
Could the events of yesterday have a bearing?
If Rangers are invited to any top-flight set-up, they will have to balance the commercial benefits against the sporting implications. The team would need to be significantly strengthened, but is still operating under a registration embargo. Some investors might want that to happen, though, so that they can sell up immediately.