05 August 2013

Who kept the lights on at Ibrox?

by Gordon James | Guest Contributor

It looks like we are heading into another acrimonious civil war at Ibrox and the battle lines are been drawn not only in the boardroom and in the city but amongst supporters groups, bloggers and the fans. I don’t have a clue as to what is going on and I suspect that is the case for most of us. Even the main players will be in the dark on some issues but we can fully expect to see media and journalist being used to push agendas again as the black ops of leaks becomes a gush. 

This could (and probably will) go to a whole new level of nasty. There are a couple of things that caught my eye and all I do here is as one fan, raise some views and probably more questions than answers.

The group that includes Paul Murray are not buying anything. What Malcolm Murray has done is (as he has always done even when he was Chairman) is went directly to investors to woo support. The only way to do this is to appeal to investors that their investment is at risk and that he has a group who should be in power at Ibrox. The reason given to support him is he will look after your investment properly because at the moment it is being wasted and in danger of being lost. They are not putting money in; they are saying they will be a safer pair of hands and give the investor better security and a better financial return. So there is no question that the reasons they have the investor support they do have are purely financial ones.

So what financial plan are they offering? Well at the moment that seems very unclear and this is what irks me the most about the group. Rather than offering an alternative, the tactic seems to be to destabilise the current board and attack in particular Brian Stockbridge, Craig Mather and Bryan Smart who are not the villains here. And of course they want to panic the Rangers fans to get them onside. Amazingly the talk about running out of money was the preserve of the likes of CQN and Ph-ill not so long ago.

This is not a new tactic. Kieran Prior’s nonsense when Murray was still there (obviously in cahoots with Murray) was exactly the same. But is this fair? Firstly, why only them? Let me add another couple of names as an example. Hands up if you think Jim Traynor has done a good job. Do you think the well into (and I mean well into) six figures salary has been a good investment for Rangers? And now the almost taboo subject of our manager’s pay. Is £750k a realistic and appropriate salary for where we are in terms of league, financial situation and performance? If these guys came with a detailed plan that included cutting salaries for ALL the top earners in Ibrox, I would listen but they don’t. Taken together, the media department at Ibrox and the top three coaching staff must be around the £1.7million mark.

Now the argument could justifiably be that the Finance Director should be able to do something about that. The problem is that a lot of these salaries are historic ones and were in place before or were awarded when others were making those decisions at Ibrox. There are directors who are willing to take pay cuts but not unilaterally and there appears to be no indication that others would be prepared to do the same.

To simply judge the FD on his salary discounting others and how much of the IPO money is left is simplistic. What should be taken into account are the £1m per year cost savings that have happened and the money raised through Wifi, advertising, the Rangers App etc. At least he can claim to have earned the club more than he cost and it is also worth noting that he did not set his own salary structure as claimed. It also has to be said that the FD salary was clearly laid out in the IPO prospectus for all investors to see before investing. It therefore seems a little bizarre for anyone who invested to now kick off about it. You can also throw in the fact that he was not paid for two months, his part in the IPO success and his full payment for the shares he owns.

Intriguingly, Brian Stockbridge will claim that he and no one else paid a £50k electricity bill from his personal account noted in the last set of accounts as the related party transaction. Malcolm?

Much of the focus is on Charles Green but I think the “who do you trust more” line and making this a Green v Smith battle is duping the fans. I don’t even think personal gain is a major factor. Green could stay in France and become very wealthy very quickly. I know that a book deal would bring him in another six figures but the notion he is there to push up the share price for his own gain I think is misleading. This is about the forces that have been behind so many historic battles since the beginning of time. This is power, ego and revenge.

We have the man who spent such a large wad of money on an investigation that was kept going by him to try aid his determination to remove Brian Stockbridge now bemoans how the money is being spent. He sees himself as being badly treated. The man who earned himself a whopping £720k returns and bemoans how the money is being spent. He wants to stop Murray and Murray and he never wants to see them gain power at Ibrox. He also sees himself as a victim. A former FD who oversaw some very poor financial shenanigans at Rangers feels he is the right man for the job. Despite having not covered himself in any kind of glory when he was on the board and talked up a rescue bid that never ever got going despite leading fans to believe it was viable.

The problem is as I have stated in the past is the club belongs to the fans but is owned by institutional investors. This always leaves us open to moves like we are seeing just now. Walter Smith had seemed happy to work with Craig Mather. McCoist despite his pretty poor managerial performance seemed happy to work with Mather as well as he said “Craig has been shoulder to shoulder with us” (note the us) and Mather seemed happy to work with them. No leaks were coming from the board. The CEO that Smith and McCoist liked told us there was no cash crisis. The board are giving monthly financial briefings and the Chairman is present for them. The FD insists there is a plan and that losses were also expected before we would be in a better financial place. But now we are to believe that the club is in danger because Malcolm says so.

I firmly believe Green is back because of the moves made by Malcolm Murray, Paul Murray and the rest. I believe that in time shares would have been up for sale and those who were serious could have went down the route of buying them. I don’t believe the club is any danger of running out of money and the club and present board should have been left well alone. And what happens if bigger investors decide to sell and Rangers men who can buy don’t fancy the price. It is then pot luck who owns the club. 

In any case, if you think if this coup succeeds that that will be the end of it, think again.