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King still searching for the key to unlock the Ibrox boardroom

THE smell of cordite still lingers over the Rangers story with yet another fusillade from Dave King, the man who would be power broker, keeping the battle between incumbents and usurpers at Ibrox at fever pitch.

There are signs that the endgame is in sight in the battle for Ibrox, though whether Dave King will win out as yet remains unclear. Picture: SNS
There are signs that the endgame is in sight in the battle for Ibrox, though whether Dave King will win out as yet remains unclear. Picture: SNS

The loud cries about the unrelenting battle centre on the holding of what is perceived to be the most important ground, The Hill Of Cash That Is Season Ticket Dosh.

A quieter, more significant struggle is being conducted elsewhere, however. Its outcome will be decisive in the battle of Ibrox.

This is the matter of shares: their proxy power and their proliferation through a further issue.

There are signs - however slight - that the stooshies over the season-ticket monies may end in stalemate. There is evidence that the number of renewals will fall short of the board's desires and the holding scheme, advocated by some fans' groups, may be too unwieldy and not attractive to a mass of fans.

A breakthrough in the Rangers story may come from King's expeditions into the City. The South African-based businessman needs something to unlock the door to the Ibrox boardroom.

His entry was thought to be effected by the power of disaffected fans. King, analysts reasoned, would be brought into the fold because he had garnered the backing of a significant chunk of the customer base. The argument was that the businessman could not be ignored if he carried the vote of the support.

Yet there is evidence that King has been pursuing another strategy. A City source, speaking on condition of anonymity, has told Herald Sport that King has been lobbying institutional investors for support.

"There is a strong feeling of dissatisfaction among a core of the investors and he is tapping into that," says the City source.

Investors in Rangers have watched the share price plummet to 22p and have listened as figures in power at Ibrox have described the club's finances as "fragile" and "precarious". They have also noted the lack of trust afforded by credit card companies over season-ticket renewals.

King's apprehensions over the "going concern" status of Rangers is widely shared. The present board's plans for survival rest heavily on season-ticket money and, in the longer term, a rights issue. King, however, maintains in his statement that the board "offers no plan on how this will be dealt with in the short term".

It adds: "Fans could once again lose their season ticket advances if given to the club at this time. It is unconscionable that this board has done nothing to bolster the finances since the last agm."

This - and the haemorrhaging of £70m in 18 months since the stock market flotation - has made the institutional investors persuadable to other courses of action.

The broadside by King yesterday was aimed at the media and the Rangers support. His message to investors is spoken more quietly, more subtly.

Its essence is this: the money has gone down a black hole labelled mismanagement. Supporters are wary, perhaps even disillusioned. The season-ticket money - whether handed in as cash at Ibrox or held in trust - is no longer the sure bet it once was. The club - and by extension the support - needs a revitalising injection. Some fans will be encouraged by the King rhetoric that includes descriptions of the 120-day business review as "flimsy" and "superficial" and only likely to be welcomed by Celtic fans.

The nub of the matter, though, is contained in the following paragraphs: "The board has conceded that it does not plan to effectively compete with Celtic in our first season back in the Premiership."

And: "This is a great review for Celtic fans. It is stated that the board might only raise £20m over the next three years. This paltry amount will guarantee that Celtic will be in a league of its own for the next few years - and possibly permanently thereafter. Celtic will continue to enjoy exclusive access to the Champions League windfalls and will go from financial strength to strength. The gap could become financially irreversible."

King, instead, wants to bring in a share issue that would raise £30m-£50m and would be placed alongside the season-ticket money for a swift attempt to challenge Celtic immediately.

His fear is that time is against Rangers in any attempt to compete with Celtic. He insists that Rangers would lose a substantial chunk of its reason for being if it descended into a mediocrity in the top league and is contemptuous of the board's insistence that Rangers could compete in three years under its administration and, more pertinently, its financial plan.

He thus has to move quickly and convince the institutional investors to give him their proxy votes. This is hardly straightforward. Any rights issue would dilute holdings so is hardly likely to be cheered to the rafters by the incumbents.

Institutional investors, though, might accept this financial pain in return for the prospect of gain.

The City source said: "King does need to be persuasive but not exceptionally so. Many investors have despaired of their involvement with Rangers particularly when they see what could be a profitable club run at such a ruinous loss."

The market capitalisation stands at £14.32m. in contrast, the market capitalisation of Celtic is £67.5m.

Rangers have been crippled by mismanagement but there are many - and not all of them starry-eyed optimists - who believe that this gap is too wide. This, of course, raises so many questions about the past, particularly the £5m price tag placed on the company in administration.

However, other questions are more relevant to the moment. King has an element of the support backing his call for regime change but can he convince the institutional investors to give him the heavy artillery to bring down the Ibrox board?

And, finally, is the end game in sight in this battle even if the victors cannot yet be called with any certainty?

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