Glenn Gibbons: Endgame in Rangers saga not in sight
RANGERS supporters sensible enough to resist hysteria and take a detached view of the club’s tremulous recent history are likely to have spent much of this week in a quandary; namely, whether to be more fearful of John Pritchett’s prediction of another economic cataclysm or Ibrox chairman Malcolm Murray’s reassurances of financial impregnability.
It is not, after all, without precedent for a Rangers chairman to be less than totally familiar with the machinations of a despotic owner impervious to the mores that normally govern boardroom business.
As recently as the present decade, John McClelland and Alastair Johnston during the proprietorship of David Murray would be prime examples of figureheads largely ignorant of the extent of the damage being inflicted on the organisation by the cavalier stewardship of the commander-in-chief.
At least, that claim will surely underpin the testimony they will almost certainly be asked to give to the HMRC-inspired investigation into Rangers’ scandalous mismanagement. It will not be forgotten that the tax authorities rejected the offer of a CVA from present chief executive Charles Green with the specific purpose of putting the company into liquidation, thereby arming the liquidators, BDO, with the power to carry out a wide-ranging official inquiry.
Given such a background, it seems perfectly legitimate to infer the possibility that Malcolm Murray is not au fait with every nut and bolt of the club’s business under the control of Green and the mysterious consortium he represents.
Murray’s riposte to the dark, apocalyptic pronouncements of the American entrepreneur – the latter was outlining the reasons why his associate, Bill Miller, had stepped away from assuming ownership of Rangers despite having been given preferred bidder status by the administrators, Duff and Phelps – was certainly vehement. Predictably, however, it lacked detail, the numbers that would have lent it credibility.
Murray was unarguably justified in making the point that certain aspects of Pritchett’s thesis were based on information gleaned months ago and now out of date. But it is not enough simply to insist, without the corroboration of relevant figures, that “there is no risk of the club going into administration and any suggestion otherwise is scandalous.”
While Pritchett’s article, written for the influential Forbes magazine, is certainly flawed in some respects, at least two elements should be treated as significant in any debate over Rangers’ troubles, especially in the wake of Green’s announcement of a share issue and the intention to register the club with the Alternative Investment Market (Aim).
The first is that Miller appears to have taken one look at Rangers’ books and experienced enough heat to singe his eyebrows. The subsequent administration and liquidation confirms (even without supporting data) that the economic devastation must have been irreparable.
The second is Pritchett’s claim that Rangers’ main revenue stream, the sales of season tickets, was projected to drop by 20 per cent, has turned out to be very probably worse than expected. Where once the figure was 44,000, we are told that the present regime has shifted 36,000, but at only half the previous prices, thanks to their now playing in the Third Division. This would suggest that the reduction in income from this source could be as much as 50 per cent. It seems very likely that the wage bill has been greatly reduced, but this is a conclusion drawn from the departures of so many known high earners on the playing staff and the subsequent recruitment of inferior (and, consequently, lower-paid) replacements. Green’s “revelation” that salaries now account for £6 million remains, like every other claim made since his takeover (including my own speculation on season ticket sales), merely hearsay. Until these statements are accompanied by documentary evidence – that is, audited accounts – nobody (possibly even Malcolm Murray) can be certain of Rangers’ condition.
And, with a raft of huge issues, including the liability to HMRC, the SPL inquiry into dual contracts, the police and the liquidators’ investigations into possible criminal activity, still to be settled, those who blithely comment that the endgame in the Rangers saga is in sight have not been paying attention.
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