AMID the anger and the acrimony of seeing their club plunge into administration, prominent Rangers supporters’ organisations and ordinary fans alike vowed yesterday to present a “united front” to help rebuild the Scottish champions.
With the future model of the 140-year-old institution uncertain, supporters have expressed a growing appetite for a democratic rebirth which would see the club’s considerable fanbase make not just an emotional investment, but a financial one.
Come what may, they said, the pain of recent years ought to warn against any single majority shareholder again dominating the Ibrox boardroom.
Andy Kerr, president of the Rangers Supporters Assembly, suggested that whatever factions might have existed until now in the club’s support, “The labels are almost superfluous now.
“We need to be as resourceful as we can, and pull in knowledge and expertise from across the fanbase,” he told The Scotsman. “This is about something more important than any of us.”
Followers of the Glasgow side have long debated the merits of a continental-style supporter ownership model, either involving ordinary fans or a consortium comprised of more wealthy individuals with allegiances to the club, such as Borders-based businessman, Paul Murray. Now, in the wake of recent events, Mr Kerr believes such options should come back on the table.
“In the time leading up to Craig Whyte’s takeover, various ideas were touted around, but nothing really happened, predominantly because there was a huge fear that any capital raised would go to Lloyds bank, and since then, there have been fears that any money would go towards HMRC,” he added.
“I don’t know what single model would work best, but there’s a desire for fans to be involved in the ownership. Culturally, it’s a whole different approach, but as we stand at the moment, there are 27,000 shareholders, and I’m sure there’s a fair bit of overlap with season ticket holders.
“That’s a number of people committed to making a viable contribution, and if it could be doubled, loosely speaking, we’d maybe be in a strong position. Whether the model was through shares, an annual contribution, or a more regular contribution remains to be seen.
“The feeling is that a majority shareholder is probably not the way forward. If an Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour came along, I don’t think we’d knock them back but, realistically, that model’s from the past and we need to spread the load to create a stronger, healthier, buoyant club.”
Mark Dingwall, a board member of the Rangers Supporters Trust, said the practicalities of giving fans the “biggest say” must be done in a “controlled and organised manner.”
“The two models we tend to look at mostly are Barcelona and Hamburg, both of which are very successful in their own ways,” he explained. “Obviously they are the product of their own cultures, but nevertheless we believe that with the best elements, we can produce a workable model where we take the talents of the Paul Murrays of this world along with fans who are perhaps not quite so well off.
“The system would see everybody get a say, and I think events have proved once and for all that having one single benefactor is not a great model to run a football club.”
Dingwall agreed that all fans will show their support for the players, manager and the “concept of Rangers,” and emphasised that supporter organisations were pulling in the one direction.
“We are all Rangers fans, so there’s no animosity between the three fan organisations and that will continue,” he added.
Outside Ibrox yesterday afternoon, fans turning up to secure their tickets for Saturday’s home game against Kilmarnock echoed the views of the fans’ chiefs.
Stuart Griffin, 26, Duncan Paterson, 27 and Scott Lamont, 32, all from Greenock, said they would attend every home game from Saturday until the end of the season.
“I’m a season ticket holder and that won’t change. We have to support the club and players,” said Mr Paterson, the fifth generation of an ardent Rangers supporting family.
Other fans offered their own thoughtful and considered solutions. Greig Chambers, a 37-year-old from Bonnybridge, said: “My feeling is that the Barcelona model could work. Rangers have an enormous fanbase worldwide and tapping into this potential would be important moving forward. The fans will be there long after any chairman, any manager, any player, and it’s important to involve them.
“Perhaps Paul Murray’s idea is a great starting point to get us the stability we require and investment. Longer term, I would hope that the aim would be fan ownership or certainly a large element of this, so that the fans have a long-term interest and, more importantly, a say in the running of the club.”
Andrew Jarvie, 36, from Cardonald, said: “I’ve read a lot about copying the German route and the fans owning 51 per cent of the club. In an ideal world, that’s what I would like, as I don’t think Rangers, or any club for that matter, should be in the hands of one man. We’ve seen what can happen when the individual doesn’t have to answer to anyone.
“How do we start it up? The individual or individuals that own the other 49 per cent would have to agree to not make money out of it. I’m not sure it could work because money is tight as they say, and fans are fickle.”
As the representatives of Duff & Phelps work to reform and reshape Rangers FC, antagonism aplenty still exists towards Craig Whyte and Sir David Murray. But at a time of crisis, many ordinary fans are astutely contemplating a brighter future.