THE umbrella body of Rangers supporters’ groups last night confirmed its plans to withhold season-ticket money from the club after the Ibrox board of directors refused to discuss the issue.
The Union of Fans – a coalition comprising the Rangers Supporters Assembly, Trust and Association as well as three more informal groups – wants supporters to pay into a trust fund that has the backing of former director Dave King and ex-club captain Richard Gough. The fund will only be released to the club once the supporters are given security over Ibrox and Murray Park.
“The Union of Fans would like to confirm that we will now be pushing forward with plans to collect season-ticket money,” a statement from the group read. “The money placed into the account will be released to the club, in full, as soon as they agree to give season-ticket holders a security over Ibrox Stadium and Auchenhowie. There will be no drip-feeding of funds and we do not consider that the board has any legitimate reason to reject this proposal.
“We have received no response from the board to this proposal, or to the offer of a meeting to discuss things amicably. This board’s public pronouncements about engagement and trust are a sham. To be clear, had the board complied, it would have meant that we would not have needed to collect season-ticket money in a separate account.
“It would have allowed the fans and the club to carry on with renewals as normal and would have removed any element of confrontation from the process.
“Despite repeated acceptance from [Rangers chief executive Graham] Wallace that the board do not have the trust of fans, and repeated claims that they are seeking to engage with them, this board have made no serious attempt to improve things. Their haste to release renewals before the completion of the 120-day business review has now forced our hand.”
The statement went on to insist that the accumulation of money in the trust fund would not endanger the club’s financial position, and to urge supporters not to give in to “emotional blackmail” by renewing their season tickets. “We do not consider that there is any prospect of this action forcing the club into administration. It would be a gross dereliction of directors’ duties for this board to allow that to happen when substantial investment is on offer to them and when they can ensure they receive all season-ticket money by securing Ibrox and Auchenhowie in favour of season-ticket holders.
“We also have concerns that, even with all the season-ticket money available to them, they will not be able to complete the season without further investment. Furthermore we reject suggestions this will push the board into securing Ibrox in return for further loans. Again, this would be in breach of their directorial duties when they would first have to reject a more favourable offer from the fans.
“Our fans have an opportunity to safeguard Ibrox – we sincerely hope they do not succumb to emotional blackmail from people who know nothing about what our club means to us and that they use the only power they hold for the good of Rangers.”
The move from the Union came on the day that Rangers announced a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with casino firm 32Red. No financial details were announced.
Meanwhile, manager Ally McCoist, who said he was happy to take the advice of both Wallace and King and stay out of the season-ticket fight, stated that he expects to know his playing budget for next season shortly. Speaking before the Union announcement, McCoist accepted that a successful campaign to withhold season-ticket money would affect his budget.
“I’ve been told by Graham that I’ll know what the budget is soon,” he said. “I’m obviously bursting to get moving. I want to get things sorted for the start of next season. I’m looking to strengthen areas of the squad and the team.
“It’s right to say if season-ticket money was withheld, it would affect the budget. But that’s something Graham has to answer. I don’t dictate the budget – that’s his job. I’m already looking ahead to next season. There’s no doubt, without the other circumstances, you’d be more confident in what you could do in terms of signing players.
“But those circumstances have dictated that we can only be ready to go when we get the nod.
“I have different lists of players. What happens if we’ve got a couple of quid to spend? I have to have a list of them, as well as potential free transfers. It’s hard work. I’d be far happier next season if I could strengthen.”
Reacting to the announcement by stand-in goalkeeper Steve Simonsen that he was suspending his Twitter account after being the subject of online abuse, McCoist said he could not see a positive side to social media for players or other high-profile staff.
“Simmo has come in this morning and it seems he closed his Twitter account. It’s understandable – and it’s questionable why he should have had one in the first place. That’s the way I look at Twitter, Facebook and things like that.
“I just think that, with social networking sites at the moment, you leave yourself open to all sorts of abuse from individuals perhaps who you wouldn’t normally give the time of day to.
“I don’t think it’s an age thing with me. I don’t think I’d be on it if I was 19 or 20. Maybe I would, but I find it difficult to see any benefits.”