By Andy McKellar | Contributor
The Gallant Pioneers, who launched our proud institution from the humblest of beginnings, could not possibly have envisaged the true greatness of the gift that they were bestowing upon those future generations who were privileged enough to call themselves Rangers fans.
Words like history, tradition and success are synonymous with our beloved football club and money simply cannot buy the memories that we have accumulated throughout the years of follow following.
The dream however has turned into a nightmare. The values that our club and its supporters hold so dear have been discarded, replaced by cold, corporate greed and financial mismanagement. This is not Mr Struth’s Rangers. This is not the Rangers that we all know and love.
While it could be reasonably argued that this has been the case for the best part of two decades, the current climate of exploitation and disregard for the supporters, and in fact the club itself, should be enough to truly sicken all Rangers fans. Whyte, Green, Ahmad, Stockbridge. Choose whichever villain you find most representative of the problems which our club has faced and remember that right now we can do absolutely nothing to prevent people of their ilk damaging our club in the future.
The recent announcement to the London Stock Exchange confirmed that insolvency beckons should the Open Offer fail to raise the minimum requirement which, even then, would only sustain the business until the end of December. Emergency funding would most likely be put in place to avoid an actual insolvency event, but secured borrowing or the sale of any assets is certainly a scenario that we all want to avoid.
The problems have been accelerated by the fact that fans are disengaging at an alarming rate. Season-ticket sales and attendances have plummeted, meaning less income and a rapidly dwindling bank balance. The rights and wrongs of that can be debated another day but right now our club sits on the brink of another disaster or, at best, faces a steady decline which means we’re unlikely to return to the very top of the Scottish game anytime soon.
The problem with walking away and throwing our hands up in the air is that it solves nothing. I can understand not wanting to fund a regime which has failed miserably but to do so without any contingency plans is both ludicrous and extremely dangerous. We will again become reliant upon some white knight riding over the horizon to our rescue. Maybe Dave King will finally step up. Who knows? But while fans may help open the door for King, perhaps as some have planned, there’s nothing to stop another Charles Green or even Mike Ashley taking advantage and starting the whole cycle over again.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We are a huge club with a massive support. What other clubs could call upon over 40,000 fans each week in the fourth-tier of their national game? The numbers are undoubtedly there to make a difference, there just has to be a willingness to work together to produce a better Rangers for us all.
While the club was presented with a unique opportunity when we dropped to the lower divisions, so too were the supporters. In terms of match-day support, we were absolutely tremendous. I’ll never forget the pride in those early games seeing our fans unite to drag our club off its knees. But we’re back down there again and this time we need more than season-tickets.
True power lies with ownership. If one thing has been demonstrated above all else in the last couple of years then that is surely the lesson we must learn. We can shout, scream or withdraw our custom. That will have an impact, sure. But we’ll never be in control of the process and we’ll never be able to properly hold the board to account in the way that we should.
Fan ownership may sound like some sort of misty-eyed pipe-dream, but the truth of the matter is that it’s very achievable under the current circumstances. The beauty of a plc is that you don’t necessarily have to own 100% and it doesn’t have to be bought outright. Shares are readily available on the open market and, with share issues to follow, we can see our money going into the club at the same time as increasing our influence and power. We could work with the institutional investors. We could work with Dave King, Mike Ashley or anyone else. We could do things on our terms and not rely on directors that we didn’t elect and don’t want running our club.
Here’s the catch: we need big numbers. Without significant support for such a plan it is destined to remain an irrelevance and make little or no difference to proceedings at Rangers. That’s the harsh reality of the situation. We would really need to push this plan, commit to it and wipe out the apathy that has permeated and damaged our support.
The Foundation of Hearts has approximately 8,000 paying members, all working towards regaining control of their football club. That’s admirable and, to be honest, should leave our own fans feeling rather embarrassed that we are still floundering around while rival groups are actually making things happen. If we honestly believe that we cannot better such a membership then that’s a sad indictment indeed of our support, one that we should all be thoroughly ashamed of.
Right now there are two schemes: Buy Rangers and Rangers First. Both are committed to fan ownership and both have around 1,000 members contributing towards the purchase of shares. From as little as £5p/m supporters can be part of a growing community, one that can really make a difference to our club.
Rangers is certainly worth more than £5p/m to me and I’m sure that’s the same for all supporters. I would urge all fans to, rather than sit back and wait for them to fail, get involved and give them a chance to succeed.
The “it cannot be done” attitude is precisely the reason that it hasn’t been done and it’s about time we all sat up and realised that. If all the people who are wary or sceptical actually signed up and gave it a chance, the whole scheme would snowball and gather momentum. Once that starts, we’d be well on our way to reclaiming our club and getting back to the values that we all hold so dear.
It's not too late to make a difference. We might not be able to influence next week, but what about next month or next year? We cannot give up on our club's future because it will take time and effort. It means too much for that.
At the end of the day we all want a successful, sustainable Rangers Football Club. We have the ability to make history and be the modern day Gallant Pioneers. They dared to dream. Why shouldn’t we?