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The time for administrators to take decisive action on the future of Rangers is drawing ever closer

Sitting at the back of the Ibrox directors' box, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse would have considered Sunday's Old Firm game as a timely diversion.

Several deadlines are approaching in the administration process, and decisions need to be made about the status of the five parties that have made indicative offers for the club. There was a lull around the game against Celtic, because of the competitive demands of the rivalry and the self-esteem that was at stake, but the onus is now again on determining Rangers' future.

Of the five bidders, three have been identified, and only two of them have made any effort to appeal to the supporters.

Paul Murray's Blue Knights consortium intend to actively involve the supporters in the running of the club and speak regularly to the three main fan groups, while Brian Kennedy has loosely involved Graeme Souness, as an advisor, and spoken of offering Walter Smith a role.

Only Club 9 Sports, the Chicago-based investment fund, have been identified among the other three bidders, although the two principal owners – John Prutch and Jon Pritchett – have so far declined to respond to interview requests.

The other interest is said to come from a British consortium and one from Singapore. Supporters will be wary of their anonymity, since they are anxious about how the club emerges from this troubled spell. However, there is no obligation, and often little worth, in seeking publicity.

"The norm would be anonymity; when people are looking to buy a company they don't normally go around advertising the fact," said Neil Patey, a partner with the accountancy firm Ernst & Young, who has worked on football club takeovers. "This one is slightly different, because it's very much a public auction since everybody knows it's for sale. But getting the fans on your side doesn't really help much in your deliberations with the administrators. Their obligation is to do the best by the creditors. I would say that it doesn't necessarily mean that, because someone is under the radar, they are a bad option. You're just unable to assess them or what their motives might be. And, as we saw with Craig Whyte, what you say is not necessarily what you do."

The administrators are thought to be keen to name their preferred bidders this week, but that is merely a way of identifying the offers that are most likely to succeed.

Serious negotiations would then begin on the details of the purchase, but the administrators would also be shuttling between the bidders and the major creditors – Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in particular – to try to settle on an acceptable company voluntary arrangement (CVA) figure.

Rangers have been in administration for six weeks, which means that Clark and Whitehouse have two weeks remaining in which to draw up a full list of creditors.

Letters will then be sent out informing them of their status, and a meeting called, at which the administrators could propose their CVA offer. The deadline for that offer falls on May 14, three months after the club was formally placed in administration.

"The best thing they can do is get the CVA under way, because there's an appeal period of 28 days, so the whole process can become prolonged and the funding issue is exacerbated in the close season, when there's no income, but bills to be paid," said Brendan Guilfoyle, an expert in football finance and insolvency.

"What we've tried to do in the past is get the CVA and the creditors meeting together and do it all in one big crash of cymbals. They [administrators] are at the stage now of trying to evaluate these offers and see if they're real. Proof of funds is always the challenge. The technique I've used to flush people out is to say, 'if you're really interested then start funding the club and I'll give you exclusivity for a period of time'. But most purchasers are loath to put money in until they've agreed a deal with the creditors."

Preferred bidder status is not binding, since a new, higher offer can be accepted right up until the paperwork is signed. It does, though, allow the process to move on.

Murray and Kennedy appear the most likely new owners just now, but only because their intentions are known. Since White turned out to have duped the supporters, among others, their openness will at least find favour with Rangers fans, who will be expected to support the new owner by buying season tickets, merchandise and, perhaps, shares. Insolvency and a 'newco' are the only other options – and cannot be discounted – but there is certainly an attempt being made to negotiate a CVA; it just takes time.

"Putting administration to one side, if there's such a thing as a typical acquisition, it takes between four to eight weeks, from initial agreement on the headline price figure, to access to due diligence and getting the lawyers involved," Patey said. "The complication here is trying to juggle the creditors and getting a deal with them. The administrators have said they would like a deal to be done by the end of the season, and I've always thought that's a realistic timeframe to know if they're going to make a CVA work or not."

With the wage cuts agreed by the players lasting only until the end of the season, time is a critical factor.

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