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The 'buy tickets to safeguard the club' shtick at Rangers is finally exhausted

A WHOLE pile of numbers poured out from Graham Wallace the other day.

Betrayals of the past mean that Graham Wallace cannot be taken at face value by the Rangers fans. Picture: SNS
Betrayals of the past mean that Graham Wallace cannot be taken at face value by the Rangers fans. Picture: SNS

Two were conspicuously unforthcoming. If he was asked once about how many season tickets Rangers have to sell to keep the ship afloat, he was asked half-a-dozen times.

There would have to be "a substantial decrease" on last year's 35,000 before the club was in trouble, that was as much as he would say.

It was an answer which was meaningless without a figure. Nor would he put a number on how many had been bought already, although he did concede that sales had been "slow" since the launch 18 days ago. The idea of a club's viability being entirely reliant on season-ticket sales would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago.

Now, the vast body of the Rangers support has the power to bring down a board of directors which seems devoid of funds, ideas and trust.

The tide is rising against Wallace, this new but already beleaguered Ibrox chief executive. The water level is around his neck. It has emerged that Rangers knew their credit card provider was reluctant to do business with them well before fans launched a campaign to withhold season-ticket money (which Wallace had said was the real factor). Then, yesterday, Wallace was splashed across the front page of the Sunday Mail for being at the centre of a police investigation.

A Rangers shareholder has accused him of contravening the Companies Act by misleading all shareholders at the annual general meeting in December. These are controversies Wallace will probably survive, but supporters are turning against him.

He delivered his 120-day business review in a calm, measured tone on Friday, seeming neither flustered nor glib. But the days are long gone when anyone at Rangers could be taken at face value just because they are comfortable selling a message to the media. The prospect of a "substantial decrease" in season-tickets is not some sort of vague danger Wallace needn't worry about, it is real, and in fact it seems both imminent and unavoidable. The one set of circumstances which could put Rangers in grave danger, according to Wallace, looks to be exactly what is coming their way.

"The Rangers Supporters Trust urges fans not to renew season tickets". That headline appeared above an online report on 4 June, 2012. Back then it was the same tactic deployed against a different Rangers board and a different Rangers chief executive.

The motivation two years ago was to starve out the new Charles Green consortium and force a sale to Walter Smith, Jim McColl, Douglas Park et al. Everyone knows how that one panned out. Green turned around the way the Rangers support felt about him and by the time he and Ally McCoist did a publicity drive the masses were convinced. Around 35,000 signed up. A year later Green was embattled again but having persuaded Smith to become his chairman another sales push shifted another 35,000.

That is now a hat from which no more rabbits can be pulled. This year's launch was delivered by Lee McCulloch, Alex MacDonald, Johnny Hubbard, Fraser Aird and Calum Gallagher. With all due respect, those five could talk until they are blue in the face without a queue forming for tickets. There will be no Rangers icon tapdancing to save the board this time.

Wallace did his damndest to present his review as a snapshot of Rangers' past. The message was clear: the guilty men (unnamed) were gone, buy into us, the current board want to clean up Ibrox; this regime will restore a sense of order. But what will sink this board is the widespread perception that it is a continuation of the catalogue of spivs and opportunists who have pillaged Rangers. It is a regime being hounded by an organised campaign of opposition while maintaining a flabby and self-serving bonus structure, making staff redundant, hiking season-ticket prices and telling fans they will have to pay by cash or cheque because their credit card company are not certain the club will survive as a going concern.

A line in the review states: "Should the club suffer a substantial decrease in season-ticket income in the next two months then it would be unable to trade in the short term without seeking additional external funding". In other words, a board which needed £1.5m in emergency loans in February, simply to keep the place running, will need to have the begging bowl out again in June unless the fans bail them out again. What is it, exactly, that any of these directors add?

Fatally for Wallace, the "buy tickets to safeguard the club" shtick is finally exhausted. Rangers are on course for regime change or insolvency.

And another thing

Talking of supporters; at their game against Napoli on Saturday night, Inter Milan fans unveiled a banner in the San Siro which deserved the widest circulation. It said the following: "No TV organisation is interested in what the fans want but without the shouting and movement of the people, football is nothing.

The history of football lies in passion. And it will always be like this. Without the passion, football is dead: only 11 men on a field kicking a ball around. Basically complete bulls***. It's the supporters who make football something important."

Jock Stein presented the same case - "football is nothing without fans" - more than 20 years ago.

The point remains as valid now as then. The need to express it is more important than ever.

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