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First steps in new Ibrox fan ownership drive

It will continue to represent a culture shift in Scottish football but the concept of supporter ownership is becoming embedded.

Rangers supporters make their feelings with a banner hung at Murray Park. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS Group
Rangers supporters make their feelings with a banner hung at Murray Park. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS Group

Several lower-league clubs are already in the hands of their fans while Hearts and Motherwell are making steady progress towards a similar outcome.

At Rangers, where financial and political issues continue to vex the support, a new initiative is being launched to push for fan ownership. The prospect of owning and controlling their clubs is becoming more enticing for fans in Scotland, although the starting point is often a moment of financial crisis.

Rangers First is a new organisation being set up with the assistance of Supporters Direct Scotland, with the aim of buying shares in the club and setting it up as a community interest company, which essentially protects the assets for the use of the community, in this case the Ran­gers fans.

Several meetings have been held to inform interested supporters, and the hope is to emulate the success of Foundation of Hearts, who now have around 8000 fans providing monthly investment through direct debit. The money raised will initially provide working capital but future payments will be used to pay off the £2.5m Ann Budge has provided to buy the club and take it out of administration.

The situation is complicated at Ibrox, since the Rangers Supporters Trust already run the BuyRangers scheme, in which monthly direct debits are used to buy shares and increase the stake the organisation already has in Rangers International Football Club.

The new initiative involves people who broke away from the club - it could prove to be awkward for Supporters Direct since the RST are members of that organisation - but interest in fan ownership is growing among ordinary supporters, who feel disenfranchised by recent events at their club.

The first Supporters' Council meeting for Dunfermline fans was held at East End Park on Monday night, with more than 100 people attending. The council will meet quarterly and report back to the club board. The intention is to use it as a two-way forum for information and ideas, essentially providing fans with a voice in the running of their club.

"We have a head of goodwill already and we mustn't squander that," said Donald Adamson, who chaired the meeting. "Listening, answering questions is important; that type of engagement is built into the bricks. If you want to influence the club on any given subject that is important to you, come along and make a difference."

Among the proposals raised was a call for better facilities for the club's dis­abled supporters and for safe standing to be explored at East End Park. Dunfermline's financial health was also discussed, and there is stability so long as fans continue to buy ­tickets and engage in fundraising activ­ities, and new commercial revenue streams are established.

"We've got battle-hardened business people looking into that," Adamson said. "We can do a lot better in the next one to three years and we will. That rests with the experience and the nature of the people who are getting involved, people who have run extremely successful businesses.

"I'm cautiously optimistic. We had a direct question, 'what happens if we don't get promoted?'. We will stay full-time, the board have reserved money to ensure that, although we'd have to cut our cloth accordingly."

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