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Rangers: Peace in our time?

THOSE who regard the current board and Dave King as implacably opposed combatants engaged in a death struggle for the soul of Rangers would have been unable to believe their ears had they heard Graham Wallace at Ibrox on Friday.

Rangers yesterday took delivery of the SPFL League One trophy, which briefly united the club's fans and Board under one umbrella Photograph: Steve Cox
Rangers yesterday took delivery of the SPFL League One trophy, which briefly united the club's fans and Board under one umbrella Photograph: Steve Cox

Both parties have had plenty to say about each other in recent months but, whether it was an olive branch or just another smokescreen, mostly everything the Rangers chief executive had to say on the subject on this occasion was positive.

For starters, there was the bald statement from Wallace that come the autumn the South Africa-based businessman will have the perfect vehicle for his much-heralded proposed investment into the club.

That is to say, to implement Phase One of a hugely ambitious three-year plan for the club to win the Premiership title in 2016-17, the board intends to issue additional equity, first to existing shareholders, then "probably also" to fresh investors such as King.

Moreover, according to Wallace, as King's ambitions and visions are "not dissimilar" to theirs, there would be no ­flinching from a discussion about the dilution of power which would be a consequence of his investment, and the only thing stopping him from investing right now was that the board did not have the authority to make it happen.

As King seems intent on smoking the current board out by backing a scheme for supporters to demand security over Ibrox in return for season-ticket money, this all seemed like a rather unlikely come-and-get-me plea.

"The issue is right now we don't have the authority to issue a fresh batch of shares and say to Dave King '£20 million? Here's a bunch of shares, in you come'," Wallace said. "What we've said is we will go to the shareholders for authority in the autumn and the timing of that is important because it gives us time to demonstrate stability in how we're running the business from an investor's perspective.

"When we do that, the equity offering will be open to existing shareholders. It should probably also be open to fresh investors, including Dave King … there could be a number of existing investors who don't wish to take up their rights, or are happy to parcel them off.

"As Dave has said before, there may be 15% of the existing ­shareholders who may not want to participate further, in which case that's a significant block of stock that would be available."

Wallace added: "When we met with [King], when you look at his ambitions and his vision for what he would like the club to be, they're not dissimilar to what we're trying to do. We want to be competitive, we want to be punching at the top of the Premiership, and to do that we know the club needs investment.

"We agreed at the time that our conversation would remain confidential … but … there was no specific conversation about [his role going forward]. It was more about what do we think the club needs, the business needs, the size of the investment, the ambition - rather than: 'If I do that, can I get this?."

If this is a genuine attempt to re-open communication with King, the board are also determined to converse more clearly with supporters.

While negative comment has led to "slow" season-ticket sales and fans having to pay for season tickets by cash, cheque or bank transfer, Wallace is determined to put the board's vision of the future across.

"There has been a wide cross-section of the fanbase looking for some form of guidance, some form of reassurance as to how their club has been run," he said.

"People are worried about putting their money into the club and three months later it not to be there and they've lost their £400. There's a desire on behalf of a segment of the fanbase to support someone like Dave King, who's offering up - on paper, at least - a potentially significant amount of money to invest in the club.

"I understand that. But there's an opportunity for us now, coming out of the period of the review, having mapped out what we want to do, to step up our own engagement efforts with the representatives of the fan groups."

The credibility gap has to be bridged, however, with the chief executive admitting asking for a £1.5m loan on poor terms just after insisting the club's cash reserves were sufficient to take them through to the summer didn't exactly help.

"It was an issue, yes," he admitted. "I responded to a question at the AGM about was there sufficient cash to continue to trade in the near term and I said there is.

"That was an honest answer made on the assessment of what was available at the time. As we've gone through the review, there were certain assumptions made in the business plan which, when we went to push the button on them, we found they didn't exist. We got to a position where we had to look at an alternative strategy for a very short defined period of time. So yes, our credibility was questioned."

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