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King: 'I believe whatever I invest I will never get back'

The King over the water is still ready to make his power play.

Dave King
Dave King

Dave King, who has made his millions in South Africa, has signalled his intentions to keep up the fight for control of Rangers, though he concedes there is something of a truce as the Rangers board prepare to publish its business plan next month.

King, though, has a fundamental issue in that he sees major, immediate investment as crucial to the success of Rangers.

The Castlemilk-born businessman, who served on the board under Sir David Murray, said that Rangers must immediately be able to compete with Celtic when the Ibrox club returns to the SPFL Premiership. He awaits the results of the business review conducted by Graham Wallace, the Rangers chief executive, with some interest . . .

There is a feeling there is a lull in the Rangers story?

I guess so in the sense that we are all awaiting the business review. So I guess that's a lull.

But you will be busy working behind the scenes?

Yeah, but it still all depends on the business review.

There was a strand of opinion that said that you were in danger of stepping away after the last interaction with the board. Is that accurate or was it more of a regrouping?

I do not understand the view that I would be stepping away. I think it is the view of some of the supporters that they are looking for a fight.

My preference is not to fight. If the board are saying we are considering what you are saying and it is our ambition to follow the lines you are suggesting - competing with Celtic etc and we will fund it - then that will be great. But they must show that in the business review. Unfortunately, it was reinforced to me in my visit to Scotland that there are a lot of people who are so emotional about this that they almost don't want the board to say everything is okay.

They are just ready for the fight. It is a pity if there are people who want to fight no matter what, but we must give the board time to come out with the review.

How advanced are the plans over a trust for season ticket money?

I have not been involved in those plans. All I have said to them [the fans' groups] is that, while I think it is a very, very big ask to say to Rangers fans 'please withhold your season ticket money', it may become necessary. But other than that I have not been involved whatsoever.

Can you put a figure on what it would take in cash terms to get Rangers back to the top of Scottish football?

I have had probably enough discussions to have a good sense of that. I think the minimum - if we get lucky - is £30m and we will probably need £50m. That would be to compete with Celtic.

The Rangers strategy should be a simple thing and I have discussed this with institutions. It is this: every year we have to compete with Celtic. That is the business plan. And that is Celtic's business plan as well. We have to beat them and they have to beat us.

Every single year at the beginning of the season, every single Rangers fan and every single Celtic fan should believe they have a chance of winning and they have a chance of losing. That is our best scenario. Nine-in-a-row is terrible for Celtic and nine-in-a-row is terrible for Rangers. It is good for the fans, but bad for business.

I think if I was to speak with Dermot Desmond [largest single shareholder in Celtic] and asked him if he was happy with what is going on, he would say: 'No'. It is bad business for Celtic, it is bad business for the Scottish co-efficient in terms of Europe. Scottish football needs a strong Rangers and a strong Celtic. What we need is an environment where the Rangers fan believes his team can win the league 50% of the time and the Celtic fan believes his team should win the league 50% of the time.

Neither team should be winning it year in, year out. It is good for the fan emotionally but it is bad for business.

You cannot just buy the shares?

I could go in and buy up the shares but the problem is that the amount of money I spend on buying up the shares does not go into the club, it goes into the pockets of those selling the shares.

I do not want to buy the shares and own a club that has no money. I'd rather the money went into the club and I think a rights issue is the right way to go about it.

I will fund - along with the fans - a very, very substantial amount of the money that allows Rangers to be successful in terms of new money that will all go into the club, into the football side. And on the stadium. If one looks right now at the stadium then it has a level of dilapidation. Ibrox right now is not the Ibrox I knew.

Have you investors you can take to the bank, as it were?

No. I have spoken to investors and there are certain people who will be willing to be there but I think the amount of investment of senior heavyweights will be okay but not as much as the fans may think.

How much are you personally willing to put it?

I think the club needs £30m-£50m over the next five years and I am willing to share the shortfall as to what I get from other people. I would like as much as possible from other people.

But you could end up with the thick end of £50m to find?

Sure.

That does not faze you?

It doesn't because to me Rangers is about spending money not making money. It is about investing in a club that I have a historical passion for.

I am desperately unhappy about where they are at this point in time and want to see them back to where they belong. To me, it is not an investment. Quite frankly, if I never see that money again . . . it is not my ambition to not see it again, but I am not going into this on the basis that I have to make a return on an investment. I actually believe whatever I invest in Rangers I will never get back. But I am happy to do it.

How much would £50m, say, constitute of your personal wealth?

It is not about that. I would not invest money that would cause an inconvenience to my family. For me, investing in Rangers is spending money, it is about the passion for the club. I am very, very accepting of the fact that whatever I put into the club I could never see again.

I have already put in 20 [million] and I am willing to lose more. If other people come up and put the money in - and I do not have to put the money in - then I will be very, very happy. If the club doesn't need my money, than I will keep my money. But if they need my money then it is going to be available.

What is your motivation? It is not business but personal?

I have always made it clear that there is a big difference about how I make money and how I spend it. When I make money, a pound is a precious commodity but when I spend it . . . there is no point in making money hard and spending money hard. I try to make it hard and spend it easy. And to me Rangers is about spending it.

But what personally drives you to save Rangers?

It is about a tradition of the club. Obviously, you have a John Greig who epitomises everything about Rangers, you have Colin Stein and I saw him score his first hat trick for the club, and there is Alex MacDonald, Sandy Jardine. I first watched Ritchie, Shearer, Caldow . . . to me it is not about individuals.

It is about something I grew up with. It is a community club and to me it is an absolute tragedy that the club finds itself in a situation through circumstances that are outwith the remit of the biggest shareholder, namely the fan.

What are your chances of success?

I do not look at it as a businessman. We all understand that any change at Rangers has to happen in the boardroom. It is not going to happen in the media. You guys can write what you like but it will make no difference to the shareholders.

But I will be very surprised if, through the efforts of myself and other people, Rangers do not come through this in a healthy way and ultimately get back to where we all think they should belong.

So you are an optimist?

Sure.

What is your biggest challenge?

It is not a challenge but the biggest issue going forward is the club has no money and if you have no money then it is not in a position to challenge Celtic when it gets back to the SPFL. Unless the institutions either provide new money or other shareholders waive their rights in favour of a fan-based group then I think Rangers will fail.

But I would like to think, based on my discussions, that the institutions and the key investors understand that unless we make a significant investment in Rangers Football Club we will end up being an also-ran in terms of Scottish football.

Celtic would own the market, the European market and we would be the No.2 competing with whichever club that year - Hibs or Aberdeen - for the Europa League.

How near are Rangers to hitting the buffers again?

I think not that close at all. There is a business plan among Rangers directors and shareholders - who are not Rangers fans at the moment - that they can take £20m [in revenue] and put £19m out [in costs] and they will make a profit. We would not recognise that Rangers as the way they should be. My view is that we make a step change, in that we invest ahead of the income.

You cannot compete against Celtic unless you match their cost structure. Celtic will be earning European money that first season Rangers are back in the top flight.

We will have the expense without the income. So unless we make a step change on the cost side then we won't compete with Celtic. Rangers won't fail but they could succeed financially and be a small club.

To me, that is a personal failure because I expect Rangers to be the Rangers I know.

What do the fans need now?

We need resilience. Resilience takes time. To me, going out there feeling I need to beat people up every day is not the way to succeed. The Rangers situation will only change in the boardroom.

You can have your protests - and they are important in the sense that fans are giving a demonstration of how they feel - but ultimately where we are now is a boardroom issue that requires patience.

Waking up every morning with a feeling of anger is interesting, but it is not going to change the club. We need resilience, we need patience and ultimately we will come out of it.

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