THE evacuation of the Ibrox boardroom continued yesterday when Craig Mather, the chief executive, “agreed to stand down”, according to a club statement, and was followed out the door by Bryan Smart, the non-executive director.
On the back of Ian Hart’s departure last week, the Rangers International Football Club plc board is now down to just two people, Brian Stockbridge, the beleaguered finance director who is under mounting pressure from supporters to resign, and James Easdale, the non-executive director.
In the past seven months, Rangers have lost two chief executives and two chairmen and are on to their third nominated financial adviser (NOMAD) as per AIM company rules. Now without a chairman and a chief executive, it has become a rudderless ship. The directors suffered a mortifying blow on Monday when they were forced to delay the club’s AGM because they had failed to include a request by shareholders for the election of four new board members. The Court of Session found them guilty of failing to discharge their statutory duties.
Mather’s position – and that of Stockbridge – had been described as “untenable” by Paul Murray, one of the leading voices in the so-called ‘rebel’ group now led by Dave King. On another day of drama and intrigue at the Glasgow club, it is understood that there was some concern inside Ibrox that the club’s shares could be suspended by the AIM given the turmoil that exists and the fact that the two most important seats on the board lie vacant. It seems unlikely that trading will be halted, however.
A Rangers statement said that “as a matter of priority”, they will now seek to strengthen the board, “both to meet the standards required for an AIM company, and to achieve stability through a consensus amongst major shareholders, which can then be considered by all shareholders at the Annual General Meeting.” There is no doubting that the place was in uproar yesterday.
Mather issued a valedictory statement on his exit that will have gone down like a lead balloon among the support, the majority of whom seem to celebrate his departure. The chief executive was seen as weak and a man who made statements about the financial state of the club that flew in the face of reality. Many Rangers fans never forgave Mather for not taking action against the club’s PR adviser, Jack Irvine, after Irvine had allegedly belittled the great John Greig in an email. Mather may have had his hands tied on that one, but he was blamed nonetheless for his inaction.
He said that he was leaving because the interests of the club were best served by him vacating his position. He also repeated recent criticism of those he saw as those causing mayhem from the margins. He didn’t name Paul Murray and his group, but that is who he meant.
“Despite recent events and speculation, the facts of the matter are that the club is financially secure and in a far better place than it was a year ago. Unlike most football clubs Rangers has money in the bank, no borrowings and this season we have assembled a squad which is capable of progressing through the leagues.
“I have enjoyed a very constructive relationship with Ally McCoist and wish him and the team every success. My short tenure as chief executive has been beset by incessant attempts to destabilise the operations of the club, all done supposedly in the interests of Rangers.
“I had real faith in the rebuilding of Rangers and invested significantly in the club. Sadly, those who have been most active in upsetting the very good progress we have been making were not willing to do the same. I leave with my head held high and will remain as a shareholder and a supporter of Ally and his team.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding commitment and loyalty of Rangers supporters. No individual is more important than Rangers and my departure will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure surrounding the club and herald an end to the current hysteria, which I believe most fans desperately want to see.
“I have always tried to do my best for the club and the fans and I will continue my support of what is a fantastic club. There are a great many good and thoroughly decent people working with Rangers and I am proud to say that I was able to stand alongside them for a time.
“It is often forgotten that I put in £1m of my own money but I can assure everyone that it was never about the money for me. I consider it to have been my privilege.”