24 February 2015

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

by Garry Carmody | Contributor

Call it the historian or the masochist in me, but every day I look back at what was happening in the Rangers saga on the same date in previous years.

The script is generally grim and the cast reads for a 'who's who' of some of the most tainted and disgraced figures in the history of this club. 24th February 2014 - Rangers entered into two credit facilities with Laxey Partners and the Easdales. 24th February 2012 - Ally McCoist reacted to the news that Craig Whyte had sold the club's historic shares in Arsenal. And that's a fairly quiet day. In the age of pain-inflicted stimulation being all the rage, this is "50 Shades of Blue".

However - as Paul Murray said recently - the words "never forget these years" should be emblazoned all over our club. Exactly where Mike Ashley wants it to say "Sports Direct". Invigorating scripts and enthralling casts have been few and far between - the fans bellowed out for good news but the cries either went unheard or were forcibly shot down. For two years fans demanded the tertiary characters on the sidelines become part of the leading cast and for two years the various belligerent directors refused.

It might have taken a while, but following disappointment after disappointment, the fans eventually thought: "why don't we do this on our own?".

History is currently being written by the Rangers support. In a matter of weeks there has been an outstanding rise in both the Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First. In their own separate ways, the two groups have contributed to the awakening of the Rangers support - an act long overdue - and the fans are reacting in a way unexpected of even the most ardent supporter of fan ownership. As Rangers First approach 12,000 contributors, it is the largest group of its kind in Britain - a spectacular achievement in less than 12 months. The Rangers Supporters Trust continues to expand its shareholding, and has lead from the front when it comes to tackling the board and shareholders.

To a Rangers supporter of ten years ago, the notion of fan ownership would have been completely alien. Granted, it is generally a new concept that supporters worldwide have began to rip up the typical subservient role of the football fan. However, the Rangers support in particular have always been noted as being too spoiled and too reliant on someone else doing the heavy-lifting. To an extent, this is true. Whilst the Rangers Supporters Trust correctly existed as a thorn in the side of David Murray during the 2000s, most fans just didn't want to know. 

As long as they turned up on a Saturday afternoon and were treated to football they generally asked for no more. It has taken years of rogue owners, humiliatingly poor directors and dreadful onerous contracts for fans to realise they do not need to swallow this any more. Fan ownership is finally a realistic dream.

This has now become an unstoppable movement - there is no room for regression from here. If the upcoming EGM goes to plan, a group of wealthy fans will reclaim boardroom control of the club and there will be a number of fires to be fought in the short-term. This is not fan ownership in the conventional sense, but it is a step in the right direction. A group of directors willing to commit to fan ownership is what this club is ripe for and fans would undoubtedly embrace it with further contributions.

However, if the EGM does not go in the favour of Dave King and his fellow requisitioners, the battle simply continues. Efforts have to be redoubled, and the message that this support will not stand for this has to be reinforced. Through King and the Three Bears, a large enough chunk of shares will be in the hands of people who will make it nigh-on impossible for Ashley or any similar figure to reach an insurmountable shareholding. King recently said that if the EGM is unsuccessful, he will simply buy more shares. This has to be reciprocated by the fans - if further rejection wouldn't motivate more fans to join up to RF or the RST, what would?

Whether this film has a happy ending or not is still unknown. Today's news that the Rangers Supporters Trust have expanded their shareholding to 2.12 percent through buying shares from the Easdale bloc is the latest in a long line of positive developments. Although at this point, history teaches us there are still many obstacles to be overcome and too many factors which remain unknown to confidently predict a joyous outcome. Yet at the moment, fans can confidently reflect on what may be a few of the most important months in the long-term history of the club. The fans have built up such a movement they can no longer be ignored, and whether they gain representation through forcing it, or by engaging with a cooperative group of directors, it is inevitable that it has to happen.

At the upcoming EGM, the vote still cannot be called but it is in the hands of the fans. Through the Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First and proxies, both will hold well over five percent to vote against this current board. The fans which this, and previous, boards wanted to roll over and shut up.

Wouldn't it be fitting that it was the fantastic work of the two groups is what finally ousts the current cast?