THE prospect of full-blown peace breaking out in the Rangers boardroom may still be some way off, but over the last couple of days two different but possibly complementary developments have at least made an end to the club’s internal strife appear possible.
One is the return from South Africa of former director Dave King, who will be at East Fife this afternoon to see the Ibrox club attempt to consolidate their lead in League One. The other is the revelation that businessman Jim McColl and his colleagues, all of whom are opposed to the current board, are open to working closely with organised supporters’ groups.
King, who first became a Rangers director in 2000, wants to become club chairman and appears to believe he has a chance of uniting the warring factions under his leadership. It would take a lot for McColl and the two Murrays, former director Paul and former chairman Malcolm, to agree to bury their differences with the current board. But they have said they are open to a meeting with King, while insisting that “nothing specific has yet been agreed with him”, according to minutes from their meeting with the fans’ groups.
The resignation of chief executive Craig Mather earlier this month has left the Rangers board consisting of just two people at present – Brian Stockbridge and James Easdale. Yesterday Sandy Easdale, a director on the club’s separate football board and brother and business partner of James, issued a brief statement after a meeting with King. “I had a very pleasant meeting with Dave King at McGill’s Buses in Inchinnan,” it said. “He’s a very interesting man and I enjoyed his company. However, our discussion was private, and I will be saying nothing further.”
If King decides that the Easdales and Stockbridge have a valuable role to play at Ibrox, he will have a hard job squaring that with the insistence by McColl and his associates that the club must be run by gifted individuals who can both inspire and reassure the support. The two Murrays and their colleagues Scott Murdoch and Alex Wilson hope to be appointed Rangers directors when the club’s delayed annual general meeting is held sometime before the end of the year.
Clyde Blowers chairman McColl and the Murrays outlined their plans at a two-and-a-half-hour meeting at McColl’s East Kilbride headquarters on Thursday night with representatives from the Rangers Supporters’ Trust, the Supporters’ Assembly and the Supporters’ Association. “The intention is firmly to work towards proper fan involvement,” according to the minutes of the meeting, which were released yesterday. “All three of the hosts confirmed their support for this. The nitty-gritty detail needs to be addressed, but a future shareholder structure where financial institutions, high-net-worth individuals and individual fans and fans organisations all had significant holdings would be welcomed. The group would canvass the support for input before anything was implemented.”
That offer to “canvass support” falls some way short of accepting that supporters should eventually control the club or even have a formalised way of influencing major decisions. But the impression from the meeting was that the trio at least recognise the need for board and support to have a certain unity of purpose. At the start of the meeting, the supporters’ representatives said they thought around 50 per cent of Rangers fans currently backed the trio while the other 50 per cent did not. Whether that estimated statistic is to be transformed into overwhelming support could depend on the identity of the people who McColl and his colleagues have earmarked to take over the running of the club.
“The hosts have detailed views on financial issues, but their main concern is to create a structure at the club led by a quality CEO,” the minutes continued. “They have identified and had discussions with a suitable candidate who they believe would work with them. They have also targeted a highly credible Head of Finance. Making such high-profile appointments will, they believe, gain further support from the major financial institutions invested in Rangers. They are satisfied that this will help in securing further investment if and when required.”