Talks continued over the club's membership of the Scottish Football Association yesterday, and several players are waiting on a conclusion because they are keen to join the Ibrox side, even as it contemplates life in the Irn-Bru Third Division. Nothing, though, has yet been resolved, with the opening game of the season due to be on Sunday, away to Brechin City in the Ramsdens Cup, and now Brian Kennedy has returned to the frontline.
Three weeks ago, Kennedy bid £5.6m for a 51% controlling stake in the club, which he confirmed in a statement yesterday. Hours later, Charles Green, the Rangers newco chief executive, claimed that this wasn't the case, since neither he nor any of the "official representatives of shareholders" received a "written offer". The offer was made, though, and senior figures at Ibrox were aware of it, with the bid valuing the club at £11.1m, more than the £10m it was valued at when Craig Mather reportedly bought a 10% stake last week for £1m. Kennedy then confirmed last night that his lawyers would submit a copy of the written offer, with proof of funding, to the offices of Zeus Capital, who have two directors on the Ibrox board.
Green also said that his consortium does not wish to sell to one single major shareholder, yet they had offered to sell 50% of the club to Jim McColl for £8m last month, which would have allowed the Scottish businessman's consortium two directors on the board, compared to the three retained by Sevco, the group that the Yorkshireman fronts. Five weeks after Green formally took charge, there remains a lack of understanding about his intentions and how he plans to finance the club, with each public statement merely adding to the confusion.
Last May, he claimed to have 20 investors lined up, but then had to admit it was only five or six. He promised Rangers fans that he would reveal the identities of the investors who now own the club, but has so far refused. He also claimed that he had £30m in funding ready to be invested in the club by the end of July, so far he has delivered only Mather's £1m. New investors are clearly not buying into his plans, and even current backers will be wondering where their return is coming from.
Green's plan was based on Rangers newco being in the Scottish Premier League and selling the normal amount of season tickets. The club is now in the third division and only 450 season tickets have been sold, although sales are on hold until SFA membership is granted. Ally McCoist has yet to be told what wage budget he will have, staff were told there would be an employee review, with the potential of redundancies, and another pay day is looming, with several high-earners still at the club, including Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian.
Yet Kennedy received no response to his offer, with Rangers' future at that stage still unresolved and the first division compromise being discussed. That refusal to engage seems inexplicable now when the involvement of the Sale Sharks owner, who has become a popular figure among the Rangers support, would have season tickets sold quickly, and other commercial backers and sponsors return to the club. Green lacks credibility with the majority of fans, with many only prepared to buy tickets on a match-by-match basis, but Sevco's investors would see the business immediately strengthened by Kennedy's involvement.
His offer also allowed them to retain 49%, and they would receive their investment back within two years, with 10% interest. The £5.6m would then be used as working capital, to allow the club to begin the rebuilding process straight away. The Ibrox fans want to get behind the team, but are held back by their distrust of Sevco. McCoist, too, has yet to make any public statement urging fans to buy season tickets. There now seems an opportunity for the current owners to rescue the situation, by returning to Kennedy's offer, or even seeking others, and the reluctance to engage is inexplicable.
Only questions remain, and there has been no clarification of the role of Paul Stretford, the controversial football agent, other than the club acknowledging that he is "assisting". Is this on player sales? Player arrivals? Does McCoist even know his exact role? Stretford is also a business associate of Mike McDonald, yet Green has always denied that his close friend and the former Sheffield United chairman is involved at Ibrox.
There is too much doubt around the club for fans to respond when their support is critical. Green has talked about a share issue and of selling 50% of the club to fans, but it is difficult to see how that would generate a significant profit for his investors, at least until the club is back in the top-flight. Rangers need investment in the meantime, though, or at least strong season ticket sales to fund the club's rebuilding, neither of which Green has been able to deliver.
The following days are likely to bring a resolution to the SFA membership negotiations, and several player signings. What happens in the boardroom is also critical, though, in both the short-term and the long-term.