DAVID Somers, the chairman of Rangers, challenged Dave King yesterday to prove that his bite matches his bark with regard to his public condemnation of the Ibrox board, inviting the fans’ champion to a meeting when he is next in Scotland.
In an open letter to South Africa-based King, a former Rangers director and investor, Somers asked that he “explain his allegations in more detail as soon as possible”, but the tone of his missive was both aggressive and dismissive, suggesting that any encounter that takes place would be lined with the sort of distrust that has hampered efforts to revive the club.
From afar, King has accused the board chaired by Somers of steering Rangers in a direction that would leave them incapable of challenging Celtic for another decade, and, more obliquely, of masking the fact that former owner Charles Green is still pulling the strings at Ibrox.
He stepped up his campaign for change after attacking chief executive Graham Wallace’s decision to apply for a high-interest £1.5 million loan from two club investors, Sandy Easdale and Laxey Partners, to ease cashflow problems. King’s condemnation of a “transaction that makes no business sense” has gained him a stronger foothold on the ground in Glasgow, as has his stated conviction that the maligned Green is still in “de facto control of the club”. He now seems to enjoy the unconditional support of the Union of Fans, a conglomerate of six supporters’ groups, which will not please Wallace and Somers, who continually express their desire to interact more closely with supporters.
Somers’ response to King, released today, read: “The Board of Rangers International Football Club has noted your astonishing press releases over the past few days.
“These statements and innuendos are very damaging to the club, which we can only assume is your intention.
“We wish you to attend a meeting to explain your allegations in more detail as soon as possible. Please confirm your availability.”
King, who is expected to fly back from South Africa within the next week, had not publicly responded by the time of going to print, but, earlier in the day, he moved to reassure fans that, whatever they feel about the board’s ability to restore stability to a business that lost £14.4m last year, their club is not in imminent danger of suffering a second insolvency event. Asked whether he feared, like many fans, that Rangers were on the brink of administration, he said: “I don’t believe that it is likely that the club will go into administration at the present time.”
Given that King wants the board removed, it is not obvious what benefit he would derive from meeting Somers. It is conceivable that the chairman expects his RSVP gesture to be ignored, and that by refusing to register his complaints in person King will remain a renegade element agitating for change from the outside.
Somers’ suggestion that his only motive is to harm the club will infuriate King, who wants the club to be run by Rangers-minded people – Somers and Wallace have no historic affinity with Ibrox. Public handshakes and smiles for the camera are probably not on the cards, then. But there remains the thorny matter of season-ticket revenue.
King has encouraged supporters to withhold their money with respect to next season, promising that he will help them instead to formalise a system whereby they pay to watch Rangers on a game-by-game basis, denying the board a lump sum that would be the cornerstone of their next move.
Meanwhile he wants to help the supporters create a “substantial fund to secure an influential equity stake in the club”.
In essence, he is saying that he wants to neuter the board and simultaneously give the club a more powerful terrace voice. But the size of stake in Rangers he would like the supporters to attain remains unclear. Buy Rangers, a scheme run by the Rangers Supporters Trust, currently holds 557,856 shares, which amounts to 0.85 per cent. Its stated ambition is to own a million shares, which would amount to around 1.6 per cent, which would still make theirs a hard voice to hear when fundamental decisions are being made.
Last November, King said after a trip home that included face-to-face talks with both Sandy Easdale and Paul Murray that he had been reluctant to voice his opinions on Rangers’ predicament in the media. In recent weeks, he has used the media repeatedly to get his message across to fellow Rangers supporters, with considerable success.
The 58-year-old resisted the temptation today to similarly play Pied Piper with the team. He said he respected Ally McCoist’s decision to step out of the debate on Friday when he refused to answer questions about which side he felt inclined to take in any arm-wrestle between King, whose credentials he has talked up before, and Wallace, his boss.
“I believe that it is the manager’s job to focus on team affairs and to stay away from the corporate activities that he has no influence over,” said King. “I have not had discussions with Ally on my recent statements and I don’t believe that it would be appropriate for me to do so.
“Ally has always demonstrated his loyalty to the club and will, no doubt, continue to put the club ahead of any