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A King-sized Ibrox impasse

In Dave King, the Rangers fans have a figurehead.

Dave King has emerged from the shadows to call for Rangers fans to exercise their fiscal powerPhotograph: SNS
Dave King has emerged from the shadows to call for Rangers fans to exercise their fiscal powerPhotograph: SNS

That alone will not alter the shareholder or boardroom dynamic at a club that has been unable to find peace, in either its financial affairs or its spirit, for most of the last five years. It does, though, create another stand-off for control of the club.

In short, Rangers are dependent on season ticket sales, since other revenue streams are diminished while they are in the lower leagues. King has advised the fans to use their influence by pooling their season ticket money and seeking certain assurances from the board about the security of assets and having a say on how the club is run. Control of the season ticket money is, in effect, control of Rangers.

Old issues have resurfaced. King is not a shareholder, although he does want to lead the fundraising drive of a new share issue. Should that happen, the current shareholders would need to re-invest to maintain the size of their stake, or relinquish control. So far, the board have decided not to go down that route, while reserving judgment for considering it a later date.

That means the club must cut costs accordingly. King's argument is that Rangers are possibly one season away from needing funding of the kind that comes from supporters who want to see a return on the field, not financially. That investment - from high net worth figures such as King and from ordinary fans - ought to bring with it influence in the boardroom.

Rangers supporters will instinct-ively feel uncomfortable about putting their season ticket money aside, but if they have faith and trust in the board then they do not need to. King has to commit, financially and personally, but his planned visit to Glasgow will go some way to addressing that. He did not need to speak out this week, but he believed it was necessary.

There are questions for King, such as who will join him in investing in Rangers; why he has not bought any shares; and what happens if the stand-off between the fans and the board continues indefinitely.

It also ought to be acknowledged, however, that a controlling stake in Rangers is not available to buy on the open market. The consortium of shareholders who proxied their votes to Sandy Easdale ahead of last December's annual meeting, and who effectively control the club, will not sell at market value. The current shareholder dynamic seems unsustainable in the long-term, though, and Rangers have scorned an opportunity to rebuild and re-prioritise during the club's journey back towards the top flight.

For Ally McCoist, it is also a sensitive time, since he is acutely aware of his status among the fans but also his role as an employee.

"That's why I'm trying to distance myself completely from it and do what football managers get paid for, and that's talking about football and trying to get the team organised," he said. "I know my responsibilities and I know the fans look for leadership, but there are now members of the board who will also have to lead. The fans will appreciate that."

With the team close to securing the League One title, and with a Ramsdens Cup final and Scottish Cup quarter-final to prepare for, the return of dissension is unwelcome. There is a bigger picture, too, though: the long-term status of Rangers.

King mentioned the prospect of the club being reduced to also-rans while Celtic win 10 titles or more if the current business model prevails. For a central figure in the team that won nine in a row, that ought to be evocative to McCoist, but there are other priorities.

"I don't think of it because we're miles away if you're talking about winning the top flight," the manager said. "It would be wrong to look too far ahead. Of course I don't want Celtic to go 10 in a row, but our club have far more important issues coming up."

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