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Fan protests muted following Jardine plea as Miller seeks 'negative reaction' assurance

Rangers' administrators were still in negotiations to appoint a preferred bidder last night after Bill Miller failed to wire a £500,000 exclusivity fee.

Herald Sport understands that the American wants a refund in the event of a negative reaction among fans to his takeover.

Protests had been expected before and during last night's Clydesdale Bank Premier League game against Dundee United at Ibrox, which Rangers won 5-0, but none were held.

A source close to the negotiations told Herald Sport that Ticketus, who are among Rangers' creditors, spent the day in discussions with Craig Whyte in a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to relinquish his majority shareholding, which is the only sticking point to the Blue Knights' bid to buy the club. It is also thought Brian Kennedy, the Sale Sharks owner who has been working with the Knights, spoke to Whyte.

Paul Murray, the former Ibrox director who leads the Blue Knights consortium, was at Ibrox last night with Douglas Park, the businessman and Rangers fan, and Kennedy. Duff & Phelps had told Kennedy in a call late on Monday that Miller would be named preferred bidder. The Knights want to exit administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement, but Duff & Phelps told Kennedy that will not be possible because they cannot deliver Whyte's shareholding.

Confirmation had been expected of Miller's preferred bidder status yesterday. That did not arrive and the US trucking tycoon is known to be aware of the anger among supporters at his plan to move the club's assets to a newco, because they see that as a form of liquidation. Protests had been planned outside Ibrox and throughout the game, but instead Sandy Jardine, the club's former defender, addressed fans before kick-off pleading for unity.

"There are two bids on the table and both parties are making serious attempts to secure the future of Rangers," Jardine said. "Now is not the time for division, protests or disruption. Both bidders are trying their best to save our club and we must all stick together."

Not all of the protests would have been stopped by that late intervention, which suggests that diplomatic moves were made late in the afternoon. Only two printed banners were displayed, briefly, as the game started. One declared: "Truck off Miller"; the other read: "No Thanks To Asset- Stripping Yanks".

Fans are wary of Miller's record in sports-related investments, in particular the failed bids by Club 9 Sports, a Chicago-based investment firm, to buy Sheffield Wednesday and Tranmere Rovers. Miller backed both offers, and Club 9 still appear to be advising him, despite claiming to not be an official part of his bid.

The Knights remain the preferred option for the majority of fans, since their plans include launching a share issue that would see ownership spread across the fan base, allowing individual supporters a say in the running of the club. They also have the support of all three of the club's main fan groups.

"Obviously, we've been backing the Blue Knights, so we're not exactly impartial," admitted Mark Dingwall of the Rangers Supporters Trust. "But people are extremely wary of [Miller's] newco, because they see that as essentially the same as a liquidation. There's a complete lack of transparency as to his funding of the club or his plans that is making people highly sceptical.

"There is still an offer from the Blue Knights and it is more than workable. We don't think that anybody should seek out, as he has done, a newco route at this time, because we just don't believe it's necessary."

Rangers are also expected to lodge an appeal today against the £160,000 fine and registration embargo imposed by the Scottish Football Association's independent judicial panel last month.

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