• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Fans feel it would be good to talk despite getting silent treatment

HE told them he was Ready To Listen.

Chris Graham has grown frustrated at the unwillingness of Rangers chief executive Graham Wallace to meet with supporters' representatives. Picture: SNS
Chris Graham has grown frustrated at the unwillingness of Rangers chief executive Graham Wallace to meet with supporters' representatives. Picture: SNS

For Rangers supporters, however, it seems the act of getting Graham Wallace to actually sit down and address their growing concerns is a little more complicated than it first appeared.

It is now over two months since Wallace, Rangers' chief executive, fronted the club's "fan engagement" programme, which effectively started with a survey being sent out to supporters to ask exactly what they wanted from all departments of the business as it realigned itself for the long-term future.

Such is the current climate around the club that most would now just settle for a cast-iron guarantee that it will make it beyond the end of the year.

Ticking boxes on a multiple choice form is now no longer enough for many fans after a tumultuous spell in which Wallace revealed in his much-maligned 120-day business review that almost £70m has been squandered in the last two years. He also faces a police investigation over allegations he misled shareholders at the agm and has come under fire over his refusal to confirm that he is line to be paid a 100% bonus on top of his £315,000-a-year salary as employees are made redundant.

The thorny issue of ticket revenue refuses to leave centre stage too. Wallace is in hot water already over his assertion that the scheme launched yesterday by the former director Dave King and the Union of Fans supporters' coalition to withhold season-ticket money until security is given over Ibrox Stadium was partly responsible for the club no longer being able to accept payments by credit or debit card.

Supporters' groups and other influential corporate elements of the support, such as the Members' Club, want Wallace to grant them an audience and hear their worries face-to-face. As of this moment, though, it seems he prefers to do all his listening from a safe distance.

"We've seen the survey go out from the club, but that's an easy way of making it look as though you are engaging with people without doing anything difficult," said Chris Graham, a spokesperson for the Union of Fans. "He's not sat down in a room and been asked any difficult questions. Various groups have tried to get him to do that, but there's a complete unwillingness to engage with anyone.

"The three main fans' groups - the Assembly, the Association and the Supporters' Trust - tried before the Union of Fans was brought together. They wanted representatives of all three groups to meet him at the same time and were told he wouldn't do it. He didn't want six people in a room asking him questions. He wanted two at a time. We felt then that was an attempt to pick people off.

"We approached Wallace through a third party that had been in regular contact with him. It was specifically put to him what the meeting was to be about and that we wanted to avoid a situation in which we were collecting fans' money. We wanted security to be granted in a non-confrontational way and would then have backed off.

"We were told he'd discuss that with the board and, from memory, that was two or three weeks ago. We have heard nothing since."

Graham finds it incredible that Wallace does not appear willing or able to arrange a meeting with supporters' representatives without running it past the board given the fact that he holds the title of chief executive and a remuneration package of £315,000-a-year, with a potential 100% bonus on top.

"I find it extraordinary," said Graham. "The ticket sales are terrible. We are trying to create circumstances in which people with a huge amount of distrust in the board can put money into the club, but in return for something. It is inconceivable that he wouldn't discuss that."

The Members Club and Bar 72, a section in the Govan Stand in which supporters can enjoy the use of licensed premises before and after kick-off, is estimated to bring upwards of £1.5m-a-season into the Ibrox club. Graham believes, however, that many of those involved in both will place their money into the trust fund for season-ticket revenue until the board grant security over the stadium.

"There is no impediment to these guys putting their money into the trust and we are very confident we will get a large number of them to do so," he said. "They knew there was this level of dissatisfaction. It is like they are putting their fingers in the ears and saying 'just ignore it'."

Graham accepts there is a faction which would prefer to see South Africa-based businessman King put his own money where his mouth is and buy a controlling share of the club. Graham considers that to be an ideal solution, albeit an unlikely one at the current time.

The central point of the King-backed trust fund is to ensure Ibrox remains safeguarded should the very worst happen. Graham is clear when asked if there are concerns within the fanbase about a situation unfolding in which the stadium is leased back to the club.

"We have heard publicly that the board are not looking at it but that doesn't mean anything," he said. "A few pronouncements the board have made have not been true. If you can stand up and say one thing that proves not to be true, you can stand up and say another thing."

Contextual targeting label: 
Finance

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

231527