15 August 2012

Charles Green and the PR war

by Andy McKellar | Contributor 

Recent years have not been overly kind to the Rangers supporters as a cloud of financial uncertainty cast an ominously dark shadow over the grand old walls of Ibrox Stadium. The looming tax case caused the bankers at Lloyds' to become understandably twitchy as their grip over our Club tightened by the day, making the task of remaining competitive on the pitch increasingly difficult. 

Thankfully we had the legendary Walter Smith at the helm, and I hate to think just what would have been had he not been in a position to conjure the many minor miracles required during his wonderful second spell in the Ibrox dugout.  Despite his best efforts however he was powerless to prevent the meltdown that consequently resulted following the sale of the Club to Craig Whyte. 

From the fateful day of 14th February 2012 we have been wholly enveloped by the worrying uncertainty that ran from day-to-day and from week-to-week as administrators Duff & Phelps consistently missed deadlines and appeared to unnecessarily lengthen the process, with clarity being a luxury that was largely unavailable.  

We faced the frankly unthinkable possibility of there being no Rangers Football Club at all, although some poor, deluded people will still try to convince you that said nightmare is now a reality. And of course the concern that we could again be in the hands of another shyster like Whyte or Murray. 

Many fans naturally rallied round The Blue Knights & Brian Kennedy, who were of course attractive potential owners as their motives were not financial but instead emotional. Such rationale was however not prominent in the minds of Paul Clark and David Whitehouse who, in the end, plumped for Charles Green’s consortium as they were deemed to offer the best value to the unfortunate creditors of the Rangers Football Club plc. 

So that was that, and despite the eleventh-hour attempt from Walter Smith & his backers to intervene, we were now under the ownership of the Green consortium and for the first time since 1899 also under the operation of a new company. 

Whyte undoubtedly pulled the wool over our collective eyes for a period of time and our beloved Club suffered as a result, although perhaps it was a case of when and not if with regards to administration anyway. 

Inevitably the blue legions were, and arguably still are, wary of our new owners and chief executive and such a reaction is completely understandable given the recent events of the past. Charles Green spoke of the need to earn the trust of the Rangers fans and perhaps now is as good as any to evaluate just how successful he has been in that quest. 

Our newly appointed Chief Exec was perhaps a consequential victim of the actions of our previous owners and also perhaps from the fact that he was not one of the favoured bidders as, to be honest, we actually knew very little about him or his plans. A little research would have told us that he was previously the CEO of Sheffield United but also worryingly that the Blades’ fans were certainly far from thankful for the work he had carried out at Bramall Lane. 

There were reports of a ‘spiralling wage bill’ at Sheffield United in 1997 when Green was involved and of course we now know only too well that such an imprudent approach can be very dangerous indeed. In January of the following year Charles Green sold Brian Deane & Jan Age Fjortoft in deals which were deemed to be good pieces of business, however United's support were angered by the exits of their top stars, particularly when chasing promotion. 

The day became known as ‘Black Thursday’ amongst the fans such were the ramifications which included the resignation of ex-Ger Nigel Spackman as manager as well as the eventual failure to regain their top-flight status.

There are however two sides to every story, and Green begins his by informing us that when his involvement at Bramall Lane began the players hadn’t been paid for two months. He went on to say how the PFA were paying the salaries and how two directors were under investigation by Interpol.

Green’s tale continues that he did have the reluctant job of axing Dave Basset but acknowledged that his role required such tough decisions to be made. Furthermore our new CEO claimed that not only was the Sheffield United floatation ‘the most successful football club float in history’ but also that ‘they were the only club in England with no debt, no borrowings, no overdraft and cash in the bank’. 

Sheffield United did reach the play-offs but came up short in their quest for a return to the Premiership. One can only wonder what might have been for the proud Yorkshireman had the Blades gained promotion that season.

The first point of discussion should perhaps be the fact that Mr Green successfully compiled a consortium which put their money where their mouths were and purchased the football club while other bidders floundered and complained. 

The bidding process almost bordered on farcical at times, but in the end Green & Co were clever enough and determined enough to follow their plans through and successfully emerge as the new owners of Rangers Football Club. For that they surely deserve some credit. 

One huge issue for the Rangers fans with regards to Charles Green was the anonymity of his various investors, especially given wild and likely unfounded rumours that Whyte and/or Ticketus were involved. Certainly the ramblings of John Brown did little to aid matters either.  

Shortly after his purchase of the business & assets of The Rangers Football Club plc was completed, he named Chris Morgan, Ian Hart, Blue Pitch Holdings & Zeus Capital as new owners of Rangers FC. Of course it is not clear just whose money is being invested via the final two organisations and that perhaps is something which still raises questions amongst the Rangers support. I think in terms of ownership the jury is still very much out. 

Green of course was required to find a league for Rangers to compete in, and again this was another process which was unnecessarily and negligently drawn out by the football authorities. Eventually our Club was admitted as a member of the Scottish Football League and our CEO certainly ruffled a few feathers with his comments on ‘bigotry’ being part of the reason why we were denied entry to the SPL. 

Given the mood of defiance that encompassed and continues to encompass the Gers' supporters, I certainly think his comments were well received by the people he was encouraging to back himself and the Club. 

Given the irresponsible and disgraceful silence of Sir David Murray during the latter part of his tenure, fans were just glad that somebody was finally speaking out and at least attempting to represent and defend Rangers and the fans. 

Green also stood firm amidst the bullying and blackmailing of the SFA and SPL while attempting to secure the required licence and membership that would allow us to play football once again. 

Okay, we were backed into accepting a number of sanctions, but crucially the Yorkshireman retained our right of appeal against any potential sanctions resulting from the ongoing ‘EBT investigation’ conducted by the SPL. He has vowed to fight the SPL all the way on this issue and again you will not find any Rangers fan who would criticise him for that. 

Today, as season ticket sales crossed an impressive 30,000 on the opening day of the public sale, Green again spent time with the queuing supporters and provided them with a rousing speech that has been very well received. 

Green claimed that he won’t allow people to take the ‘pee’ out of our Club any longer and that he felt there was an agenda against Rangers. 

Furthermore he added that while ‘that lot’ are against us, he won’t be going anywhere and that new signings will be soon be on the way. 

Again, amidst today’s latest comments, there certainly won’t be too many fans who will be unhappy at what was said. 

It may still be relatively early days, and certainly far too early to judge the performance of Green or the Rangers board as a whole, however I am most certainly of the opinion that Charles Green, despite the early concern, is beginning to win over our supporters and earn their trust. 

Many outsiders have perhaps described the Yorkshireman’s antics and comments as crass and even undignified, but under the current circumstances I think they were just what was required. 

Rangers’ PR department has been badly under performing for almost as long as I can remember, but perhaps what we always needed was a straight-talking man from the North of England to speak his mind. Our current one seems to be making a relatively good job of his public releases, even if admittedly some doubts still remain lurking somewhere in the background. 

Charles Green plans to spend part of the weekend’s match in amongst The Blue Order & Union Bears in section BF1 and will visit other areas of the stadium in the home matches that follow. It may only be a small and insignificant gesture in itself. 

But following the snooty attitude of David Murray who would never dream of sharing seats with his ‘customers’, it is yet another small step in the right direction.  

Green has stated that there are many battles still to be won. I would take this opportunity to suggest that as long as he keeps fighting, we’ll keep supporting. 

Onwards and upwards.