10 June 2015

King: Managing Expectations

by Garry Carmody | Contributor

Reaching such a level of notoriety, one may expect that the press conferences of Dave King may soon end up on pay-per-view television.

Further scrutiny has been placed upon his increasingly frequent trips to Glasgow. As chairman of the incomplete Rangers board, the onus still falls almost exclusively upon King to lead within the public eye until an executive team is put into place.

The King press conferences have become of great interest to all - the press smile with glee as they know tomorrow's back page is sorted, Rangers fans hope for answers as to what's going on behind closed doors, and other fans listen on with intrigue due to the nature of Scottish football. Every single word King utters is placed under the microscope and scrutinised; every small contradiction torn apart. There arguably is no figure in the history of Scottish football to have caused such a storm of attention. 

King appreciates the need to engage, whilst the press appreciate the headlines. His demeanour is generally well-received amongst Rangers fans, and whilst inevitably question marks remain over some points of contention, very few could argue that this is not a step in the correct direction.

A phrase King stumbled upon very much sums up the current position of the club. When asked about the expired contract of former captain, Lee McCulloch, King stated that a "new everything" was required. That's hardly an understatement - the club is currently without a captain, a manager, a scouting network, a Financial Director or a Chief Executive. Just to name a few unfilled positions.

Something else sits upon the very near horizon - a new batch of season ticket renewal forms.

This past Monday, Dave King arrived back in the UK and wasted no time in launching the season ticket campaign. Attached was a moderate five per cent price increase but also a promise to invest all funds back into the club.

What also accompanied the season ticket launch was a very optimistic rallying cry from King - sell out the season tickets. This is a feat which has not been achieved in almost two decades, would easily bypass the total sales for the Third Division, and would break all sorts of Ibrox records. Quite a statement to make.

When Rangers were in the latter days of previous regimes, fans started by boycotting season tickets. Many then stopped going on a game-by-game basis as the situation further deteriorated. When regime change occurred in March, there was a spike in attendances, but swathes of blue seats remained empty across the stadium. Whilst the notion of change sparked thousands to return to Ibrox, thousands more still could not bring themselves to return to the turgid performances of a team and manager who simply did not care. It was not quite the revolution that many had hoped or anticipated and the reality set in.

Whisper it, but the casual fan does not purchase a ticket on a Saturday because David Somers has been replaced by Dave King. They might take an interest and join the protests, but that does not mean they have seen enough to justify enduring ninety minutes of sub-standard football.

The most important question to influence the level of season ticket sales has still to be answered - the new manager. There will be very few more critical appointments in comparison to making sure an appropriate manager is in place fairly soon. Whilst the primary role will be to return Rangers to the top flight in under 12 months, if King is to reach anywhere near his sales target, a bold and new approach is required to appeal to the fans beyond those who will renew regardless of the appointment. 

Whilst realistic parameters will naturally be set, the club must go beyond the obvious and commonly-linked candidates - those simply linked to the club because they manage in Scottish football or have a link to the club are not good enough. Very few with their name linked in such a capacity have anything on their CV to suggest they could take Rangers to a new level whilst implementing a long-term philosophy for the club.

Whilst I doubt the directors are in any way taking this decision lightly, they must realise that simply their presence will not suffice in bringing back fans. They need to begin this summer with a statement of intent. A decision which makes Rangers fans believe that this genuinely is a turning point in the club's history, and that things will never be the same again. Whilst the fans must have a growing influence in the running of affairs, the fan still requires something they enjoy when match-day arrives. If a genuine commitment is made to that within the coming days, it will make fans sit up and take notice. 

An appointment which exudes confidence and ambition is necessary - a figure fans can genuinely believe can rip it all up and start again is necessary. My own personal choice to do this is Mark Warburton, but I have little doubt that there are other potential appointments that could achieve a similar effect. The fan who turned up for two or three games last season suddenly finds themselves genuinely intrigued once more, and those three games may well turns into a season ticket.

Whilst it still appears unrealistic to suggest Rangers could sell out season tickets, they can make important steps straight away to bring back the disillusioned fan. This is not just a case of bringing in season ticket revenue, this is a case of continuing the momentum the play-offs recently gave the club. There was a buzz surrounding Ibrox during these games and with the correct appointment, Rangers can carry that momentum on despite not being promoted. 

The next managerial appointment could be met with an apathetic grunt, or an enthusiastic roar. The grunt or roar may well set the tone for both the short and long-term future of the club.

The reaction to this decision still very much lies within the board's hands. It is time to see what they are made of.