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Rangers must move swiftly to resolve an unwanted boardroom issue

It may be that the most prominent act of Malcolm Murray's time at Ibrox is his departure.

He has been a low-key Rangers chairman, with fewer and fewer public appearances and statements during the course of recent months, but the decision by the board of directors to ask him to stand down in the best interests of the club suddenly returns Murray to the centre of attention.

It is not a place he finds comfortable. Murray does not talk to journalists, other than set-piece interviews, of which he has carried out very few, and he is steeped in the tradition of Rangers being a club that retains a dignified silence about its affairs.

In many ways, he should have been an archetypal Rangers chairman, with a long career in business and finance, and a lifetime of being a fan of the club.

However, concerns, raised by two supporters, about his personal conduct appear to have brought his chairmanship to the brink.

The decision to ask him to step down was taken by the board of directors. There have long been rumours of tensions between Murray and Charles Green, and they are certainly contrasting characters.

Green has spent much of his time as chief executive engaging with supporters and, at times, the media, with few subjects left unaddressed.

There is a bullishness and sense of purpose about Green, even if he might admit himself that, on occasion, he says a little too much. That is his nature; he is unabashed and supporters have welcomed the presence of a high-profile chief executive prepared to fight the club’s cause.

Murray might favour a more subdued, less assertive style, but Green had wary fans to win over and a club whose sense of identity and position in the Scottish game had to be restored.

Whatever personal animosity lay between the two men has been managed up until now, but it was clear enough that Murray's time as chairman would come to an end sooner rather than later.

This leaves Rangers in an awkward position, since the view of the directors was that the club would be best served by an orderly transition. That seems unlikely now.

Murray's private life had been raised in previous board meetings, but a second complaint by a fan led to him being asked to step down by the board last week.

There is acknowledgement of his contribution to the club, during the takeover saga last year then during the Initial Public Offering of shares last December, although figures within Ibrox are thought to be incredulous at the notion that the success of the IPO, which raised £22m, was due to Murray.

The chairman has contacts in the city of London and arranged a handful of investor meetings with institutions, but the marketing roadshows were carried out by Green and Brian Stockbridge, the finance director.

It is, none the less, an untidy state of affairs for Rangers, one that will irk shareholders and the business community, particularly with the interim financial results due  next month.

"Charles Green has done a good job, with the really driving ahead bluster," said Jim McColl, the leading businessman and a member of the consortium that tried to buy the club from Green last May.

"You probably need a different kind of approach now.  I am sure that [Malcolm] Murray is providing that."

Yet Murray has been a low-key chairman. Rangers cannot continue to act as though faced with an array of battles to be fought, but league reconstruction, the SPL commission investigating whether or not Rangers’ use of Employee Benefit Trusts constituted a breach of registration rules, and even the topic of cross-border competitions, have been seen as issues that needed forceful responses.

A period of calm can follow, although not before the issue of Murray’s chairmanship is dealt with.

Since Murray was in place before the IPO, his appointment has not been voted on by shareholders. That would happen at the annual general meeting, but in the meantime he can be sacked. There is, though, no enthusiasm for taking this action.

Rangers are attempting to rebuild and move forward from last year's financial crisis. It is an unhelpful complication that the current chairman is unlikely to continue that journey, and one that is an issue for Rangers.

Supporters are still bruised by the Craig Whyte regime, and the departure of Murray, a long-term and committed Ibrox supporter, will trouble those who still doubt Green. Despite his low profile, Murray was considered by fans as one of their own.

Murray, like the other  non-executive directors, has responsibilities to ensure proper corporate governance. With the interim results due out and the successful listing on the stock market, the club should be celebrating its return to a solid footing.

Dealing with Murray's situation and, in all likelihood appointing a new chairman who has the confidence of the support and the business community, will need to be swiftly resolved.
 

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