RANGERS are behaving as though their 120-day business review will have to be crowbarred out of their directors' hands.
The more cynical of this club's supporters would not be surprised if the update was delivered in encrypted text this Friday, such has been the apparent reluctance to let the findings out into the public domain. Friday will be day 128, incidentally, and all that has been promised is "update" rather than any extensive illumination of the Ibrox strategy.
This is what football has come to: thousands of fans desperately waiting for breaking news on what they would once have dismissed as bone-dry financial strategies. Maybe Graham Wallace, the chief executive, didn't realise he was creating such a hostage to fortune when he announced this business review at the annual general meeting in December, but its significance has mushroomed
Directors and fans are in a Mexican stand-off over season tickets. If Wallace placates the masses, damage will be done to the Union of Fans/Dave King attempt to persuade thousands to break the traditional supply chain and instead put their money into a trust fund. But on all available evidence so far it's hard to see what Wallace can deliver which will remotely placate them.
Wallace is probably shrewd enough to know what's coming his way when the information is released. In the four months since he bought himself time by announcing this review, Rangers have divested themselves of two figures most of the support considered to be toxic: finance director Brian Stockbridge and public relations adviser Jack Irvine. The club also secured a shirt sponsorship deal with 32Red.
Hip, hip hurrays all round? Well, yes, for a moment. Each of those moves was significant, yet they have had no lasting effect on the swirl of negativity around Rangers or the hostility and suspicion shown towards the board. Wallace's own popularity and standing has steadily eroded. At the time of the annual meeting supporters were able to distinguish between him and the rest of the unpopular board. Now, much less so. What can he say in this review that will make the critics pause and say, "actually, yeah, that's not bad, this could win us round"?
Three days ago it became personal towards Wallace when his salary and bonus was openly questioned by supporters group The Union of Fans. Maybe £315,000-per-annum really is the going rate for high end football club chief executives these days, although Rangers continue to seem like pushovers when it comes to doing deals with just about anyone. But if Wallace is on another of those 100% Ibrox bonus deals, as his critics clearly believe, fans will see him as being a continuation of the chain of spivs and opportunists when they had hoped he would come in and cleanse the club of them all.
What seems likely now is that Wallace's update will exasperate and irritate those fans further, hardening their opposition to the board and deepening their resolve to starve out the incumbent regime by withholding season ticket money. The collapse of King's cordial working relationship with the directors is significant, given that he surely had some sort of insight into Wallace's intended strategy.
Positions are entrenched. No fair-minded supporter will reject Wallace's findings on a stubborn point-of-principle. Perhaps he will surprise them and come up with a plan which seems imaginative, ambitious and realistic. But it's only two months since this Rangers board had to go cap in hand for £1.5m in emergency loans just to see the club over the line until the next season-ticket money. At the end of last year the board suggested the players take a 15% wage cut: that was rejected and, since then, nothing more has been heard of it and no other cuts have been publicly proposed. Wallace is on record as saying costs are too high. Money continues to haemorrhage from Rangers.
If Wallace's update acknowledges that the club needs either severe cuts or substantial external investment then the latter will be embraced by those who champion King and find it unfathomable, and deeply suspicious, that his apparent willingness to invest has not been encouraged by the Rangers board. What freedom does Wallace have here? This review has been sanctioned by Sandy and James Easdale and the rest of the Rangers board. Would it ever see the light of day if it delivered findings they didn't like?
When Rangers said the update would be announced on Friday April 25 (which will be day 127, incidentally), fans immediately clocked that they would have only the weekend to consider it before deciding whether or not to cancel the auto-renewal of their season-tickets (which may not be enough time if it that has to be done in writing). That was either a calculating move by the club or an unthinking one, but either way it looked sleekit and did nothing to build bridges with the support. Wallace and chairman David Somers have both spoken of the need to be more open and transparent with )supporters but done next to nothing to back it up.
Wallace will be heard before the week is out, though. His job may pay well, but it's an unenviable one: this week he must calm and win over supporters implacably opposed to the regime he represents.