• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Resolution lies with those who know the score

CONSIDER first the words.

For how much longer will Rangers fans be prepared to hand over thier hard earned cash?
For how much longer will Rangers fans be prepared to hand over thier hard earned cash?

This is David Somers, the Rangers chairman, on what happens if season ticket money drops short of forecasts: "This possibility results in the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast doubt about Rangers' ability to continue as a going concern and therefore that the Company may be unable to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business."

This is paragraph seven of the 10 allocated to his report. One can have suspicions on why it was placed so low. But why was it included? Bluntly, because Somers was tellt. The auditors, Deloittes, repeated this warning in their statement as they passed the accounts. The chairman had to do the same.

Consider the words in December and repeated thereafter by Graham Wallace, the club's chief executive, that there would be no administration at the club. Wallace might argue that he has not been proved wrong, that it is "so far so good". The same words could be spoken with unblemished truthfulness by a man who has jumped from the 21st floor and is just passing the 20th.

The seeming disparity between the words of December and those of March lead to the nub of the Rangers story.

Consider the issue. The Rangers crisis has always been about money. Now specifically it is about season ticket money. With club costs running at somewhere between £1.2m and £1.4m a month, Rangers need cash. After all, they only had £3.5m at Christmas. Season ticket renewals would do nicely, thank you very much.

The punters would continue on the journey, another cash infusion would be made and the crisis would be postponed, if not averted.

This leaves aside the truth that a crisis loan had to be found in the meantime. This is explained thus in the report on the figures yesterday: "When the Company was unable to generate short-term funding through planned asset refinancing and banking facilities, it was necessary to establish short-term funding in February in order that the club could continue to operate through the seasonal low point in its annual cash cycle." So the banks were unco-operative. And the asset refinancing? The scenarios are wide-ranging but do include putting up assets in collateral in return for dosh. This is, after all, what was negotiated in the deal with Laxey that was later taken on by a supporter.

This is all deeply troubling but what now follows is the most crucial period in the Rangers story post-liquidation. Its resolution will pivot on what happens over season tickets, both in volume and how they are paid up.

There are three options for the Rangers supporters.

The first is simply to renew their book in the normal manner. A board that lacks some subtlety is basically telling them that if they do not do that, then the ba's burst. A constituency is more than reluctant to do just that. A scribble on the back of a season ticket will show that just short of £50m has been spent post-liquidation. One would not have to be a cynic of the deepest hue to hesitate before consigning another tranche of the hard-earned in the direction of the easily spent. There might also be the odd murmur about an almost inevitable rise in price. A 25% hike was mooted but it may be in the region of 15%.

The second option is to back Dave King. The businessman needs the support of the fans to find the key to control at Ibrox. His power play is based on the board realising that there is no way forward without him because he carries the support. A rights issue would then be the likeliest way to find the money to keep Rangers in business. King says he could find at least £30m of a £50m issue and told Herald Sport that he was prepared to take "the thick end" of any shortfall.

This King solution is complicated by a "fit and proper person" test. A City source has told Herald Sport unequivocally that King would not be acceptable to the Alternative Investment Market. King, though, has told others that his legal advice is that it should not be a problem. The terms of the Scottish Football Association test would surely be academic if AIM found King acceptable.

Just imagine the saviour of Rangers arriving with his stuffed wallet, the agreement of AIM and the groundswell of popular support only to be told by the SFA board that he cannot be part of a Rangers revival. No, I don't think so either.

There are scenarios, too, that suggest that King need not be on the Ibrox board and could pull the strings from a distance. These are hypothetical points that will only be made real if King can enlist the supporters who have already backed the initiative over a season ticket trust. The fans want the security of the training ground and the stadium for their cash. The board has not offered this.

A City of London source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Herald Sport last night that he believed Laxey, for example, would want first refusal on any such deal to provide cash for collateral. "Imagine a scenario where Laxey or some other business takes over the stadium and simply rents it back to Rangers . . ." he said. This would be an anathema to a substantial proportion of the Ibrox support.

This leads to the third option. The loyalty of the Rangers support has been simply astonishing. Sceptics - this writer included - believed "the journey" would become tedious, the will sapped by repeated reruns of a deeply dispiriting farce. However, the brightest sentences of a chilling interim report are: "Season ticket sales of approximately 36,000 for the 2013/14 season. Average home league attendance of over 40,000 during the period; seventh-highest ranking UK football attendance."

Yet the Rangers board expects a modest increase in this number despite an almost certain rise in cost and an understandable drop in supporters' patience with the running of the club.

There is anecdotal evidence - and it is no more than that - that there is a rise in the number of the scunnered. They mutter in the bar and confide their disaffection on the supporters' bus. They have become tired of paying up and watching the money run out the door at Ibrox. They are unconvinced by King or find the season ticket trust scheme too tiresome or unworkable. They may also be watching their options and deciding that picking and choosing matches might be the sensible way forward.

The crisis at Rangers has thus crystallised. The ball is at the feet of the supporter, the power is in his or her pocket. Their decisions, individually and collectively, will decide the future of the club. Their intentions cannot yet be accurately gauged.

But this much is certain: Rangers are staring into the abyss.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

222546