FORMER Rangers director Dave King has received the unified backing of the club’s main supporters groups for his call to withhold season-ticket money and prevent it going directly to the current board.
The Union of Fans, made up of representatives of six Rangers supporters organisations, released a lengthy statement endorsing King’s criticism of the club’s business strategy and issuing a vote of no confidence in the board of directors.
Rangers chief executive Graham Wallace responded by attacking what he described as a “divisive campaign” played out in the media to undermine his efforts to restore stability to the club after “years of mismanagement”.
South Africa-based businessman King, who invested £20 million into the club during Sir David Murray’s tenure and remained a director until Rangers went into administration under Craig Whyte two years ago, had responded to the £1.5m short-terms loans made to the League 1 leaders by major shareholders Laxey Partners and Sandy Easdale.
King called on Rangers fans to place their 2014-15 season-ticket money into a trust with funds released to the club on a “pay-as-they-play” basis. He also expressed his wish to lead a fan-based bid to secure an influential shareholding in Rangers.
In declaring their support for King yesterday, the Union of Fans expressed dissatisfaction with Wallace’s 120-day review of Rangers’ business operations.
King has used the media to outline his fear that Rangers will fail to regain parity with Celtic in the foreseeable future if the approach being proposed by the current board is pursued. The Union of Fans appeared to buy into this view wholeheartedly yesterday with the declaration: “We cannot doubt the intentions of one of our own who has previously committed £20m to the club we love.”
Their statement, issued on behalf of The Rangers Supporters Assembly, The Rangers Supporters Association, The Rangers Supporters Trust, The Blue Order, Union Bears and Sons of Struth fans groups, read: “Events over the past few days have left us deeply concerned, once again, about the direction our club is being taken in.
“We have waited patiently, as requested by Graham Wallace, to see progress as part of his 120- day review, but feel that the latest decision from the board, to line the pockets of shareholders who showed a total disregard for the wishes of fans at the recent AGM, is yet another kick in the teeth.
“Over halfway through Mr Wallace’s 120-day review we have seen little or no progress. Indeed, the investment committee set up by the board has only been able to secure a loan, at an inflated interest rate of 30 per cent APR, from an existing shareholder. We have spoken to shareholders who were, and are, willing to provide the funds required at considerably better terms than the loan that has been taken from Laxey. This offer has not been progressed by the board or the NOMAD
(Nominated Adviser and Broker to the Company), Daniel Stewart. We would simply ask why?
“We note Mr Wallace’s comments that a full process was followed but we have little or no faith that Daniel Stewart or the board have properly analysed the options available. We do not believe that taking a short term loan, at both an inflated rate and securitised against club assets, is addressing the need for a long term solution and urgent investment, and we have seen nothing to suggest this is part of a robust long-term plan, despite Mr Wallace’s assertions.
“We have no confidence in the current board and would ask Dave King, following his statement yesterday, to set up a trust where fans can place our season ticket money to be released to the club on agreed terms. We would also ask him to lobby all non-aligned shareholders and form a new Shareholders Group to challenge the anonymous shareholders behind Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita, then take control of the board.”
Wallace responded by renewing his plea for fans to give him the time to undo the fiscal damage done to the club by previous stewards.
He said: “Of particular concern are media comments that the club has been offered significant interest free loans which have been declined. This is wholly untrue and supporters need to know this. Further comment about withholding future ticket revenues is also damaging to the operation of the club which, in common with many others, operates on a cyclical basis.
“We are putting in place a business structure and operational model that will protect and develop Rangers Football Club for future generations.”
Reiterating his desire to liaise with fans, he concluded: “We need to do this together. Divisive campaigns, fuelled by inaccurate statements played out in the media benefit no one, particularly Rangers Football Club.”