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Spiers on Sport: dissenting Rangers fans, look east to Hearts

Agitating Rangers fans who are hellbent on bringing about change at their club could do worse than look across Scotland to see how Hearts supporters rallied to the cause.

The Union of Fans, a group of Rangers dissenters who detest their club's board, are advocating a boycott of the normal season-ticket purchase process in order to force change at Ibrox.

The plan has not received universal backing and has provoked some heated debate - not to say much brotherly falling-out - among the Ibrox faithful.

The UoF wants season-ticket pledges from Rangers fans to be made to a trust-fund under former director Dave King's supervision, wherein money would then be passed on to Rangers, but only in return for certain conditions.

It's a slightly complicated scenario but, nonetheless, if enough Rangers fans sign up to it, it would send a strong signal to the Ibrox hierarchy. Alas, what it does do, unarguably, is threaten to hurt Rangers FC, the club those same fans profess to love.

Any diversion of 2014-15 season-ticket money will starve Rangers of much needed income, at a time when the club is vulnerable, and on the cusp of a season when Ally McCoist's team will seek to get promotion from the SPFL Championship into the Premiership.

Little wonder, while the UoF are dogged in their pursuit, other Rangers fans are appalled by the concept. The weeks ahead will surely bring clarity to the issue.

Strangely, what dissenting Rangers fans have opted not to do, but which has proved very successful, was follow the Hearts fans' model of the past 12 months.

The two situations are not identical, but what is similar is this: Hearts supporters, like the current Rangers group, needed a self-generated financial muscle. And they got it, through 8000 supporters pledging monthly sums of £8 or more, building up a fund by which to claim control of the club in an insolvency crisis.

It has been an impressive feat by the Hearts fans - the envy, in fact, of many Rangers supporters looking on from the west of Scotland. Yet those same Rangers fans have the power to do even better.

Suppose the UoF had chosen a different tack, rather than starve their club of much-needed cash. Rangers has three times the size of the Hearts support - minimum - and could have established a cash-fund far in excess of anything achieved at Tynecastle.

The Foundation of Hearts roused 8000 regular monthly donors. Rangers, by the same arithmetic, could have 25,000 donors, each giving, say, £10 a month. That would raise £3 million over one year, £6 million over two years.

Dave King is viewed as the saviour by the UoF, with various vague promises from him about what he will put in to Rangers. So let's suppose King could match the 25,000 Rangers fans' donation: that would make £12 million raised in two years, all of it just waiting to be handed to the club.

Of course, there would be a catch, and quite rightly. King and the fans could say: "We've got £12 million here, and we want this to go to Rangers. But, in return, we want some power, some influence."

That would be a hard gift for a fragile Rangers board to turn down. All such money could do is enhance the club and the team. And it would involve nothing as damaging as starving Rangers of much-needed up front season ticket money.

Right now Rangers are in a fresh turmoil. There are two separate issues: first, the issue of the Ibrox board; second, and arguably more important, the issue of the ownership structure of the club.

For many supporters, the fact that Rangers are effectively owned by the market is the bigger concern.

Graham Wallace, an embattled Ibrox CEO, could do a decent job in restoring Rangers to better health, if only he could be given a fighting chance. But Wallace is surrounded by poison, bitching and name-calling by fans, all of it making his working conditions pretty unsavoury.

If you spend so much as 20 minutes in cyberspace witnessing some of this, it makes for very depressing reading. Extraordinary abuse flies around.

Amid all this, no-one can doubt the good intentions of the Union of Fans - they surely want what is best for Rangers FC. Yet their residual problem remains: might they only end up damaging a club that is already on the brink?

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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