NEW Rangers chief executive Graham Wallace has been warned he faces a battle to earn the trust of the club’s supporters before next month’s potentially explosive annual general meeting of shareholders at Ibrox.
The 52-year-old former Manchester City chief operating officer was appointed yesterday, replacing Craig Mather, who resigned last month.
Dumfries-born Wallace further reinforces the current Rangers board, which now numbers five, following the recent appointments of David Somers as acting chairman and Norman Crighton as a non-executive director alongside major shareholder James Easdale and finance director Brian Stockbridge.
Battle lines are being drawn ahead of the agm on 19 December when a rival group, led by former Rangers director Paul Murray and businessman Jim McColl, will requisition for the removal of current directors and the appointment of their own nominees to run the club.
Wallace has pledged to bring “stability and governance” to Rangers and says further recovery for the club will require the continuing backing of the fans. There have been supporter protests against the current board in recent weeks, however, and Rangers Supporters Association general secretary Drew Roberton has urged Wallace to engage personally with fans if he hopes to persuade them he is the right man to lead the club forward.
“I would hope he would speak to supporters before the agm,” Roberton told The Scotsman. “The biggest issue anyone in charge at Rangers has now is trust. After what has happened over the past couple of years, the Rangers fans are sceptical of anyone coming into the club. We would like the opportunity to sit down with the chief executive and hear what he has to say.
“Anyone can come in and say they are going to do this or that for the club. But, until you can look into their eyes and hear it face to face, then there will still be doubts.
“We had already asked for a meeting with the current board, who seem a bit reluctant to engage with fans. But Brian Stockbridge’s PA has said they’ll be in touch over the next few days to arrange a meeting with us before the agm so, hopefully, it is a possibility.
“I thought they might wait until the boardroom turmoil had settled down before they appointed a chief executive. I don’t know if putting one in place before the agm strengthens their position, although I daresay they see it that way.
“We don’t know much about Mr Wallace but, when you look at his CV, you have to say he must be a high-calibre person.”
Roberton believes the conflict between the Rangers board and the rival group is too close to call and that the agm may even prove indecisive.
“I wouldn’t like to make any attempt to predict the outcome,” he added. “The current board and the requisitionists both seem confident ahead of the agm.
“The general mood of fans seems to be that they believe the club is in the wrong hands. However, 50,000 fans at Ibrox are not all shareholders. What happens is in the hands of shareholders. Both sides are confident they have enough institutional investors behind them to triumph.
“There is a possibility that, after the agm, the board could be made up of some or all of the requisitionists along with some or all of the current board. It could be a bit of a mix and match. What we all want is some stability, but it’s impossible to say what will happen next month.”
Chartered accountant Wallace, whose previous roles include high-profile positions at sports media giants IMG Media and MTV Europe, expressed his pleasure at his new appointment, saying: “I am delighted to join Rangers Football Club as chief executive as the club continues its journey back to the pinnacle of the game in Scotland and beyond. For more than 140 years, this club has been recognised throughout world football and, whilst the last few years have been distressing, there is no reason why Rangers cannot be even stronger than we once were before these challenges presented themselves.”
Wallace added on the official Rangers website: “That strength will be built upon strong leadership of the club and the continuing support of the fans.
“I watched from afar as the Rangers support came to the club’s aid during the times of turmoil and now it is the turn of the board and management to provide the stability and governance to drive Rangers’ recovery forward and ensure further football success.
“I am genuinely delighted to join this wonderful club as we look to build a successful future.”
Acting chairman Somers, who was instrumental in Wallace’s appointment, insists the new man will prove a significant asset to Rangers.
“I am absolutely delighted to welcome Graham to the role of chief executive,” said Somers. “Following an extensive recruitment process the board interviewed several high-calibre individuals and determined that Graham was by far the outstanding candidate.
“His first-class business and financial experience combined with his extensive knowledge of football operations at the highest levels will be of huge benefit as we strive to take the club forward in preparation for our return to the top of the Scottish game.
“Graham’s appointment will also help provide the club with further stability and leadership and we are certain that everyone connected with the club will wish him every success as he embarks on the job ahead.”
One of Wallace’s first tasks may be to address claims that the SPFL are considering pursuing Rangers for the £250,000 fine imposed by Lord Nimmo Smith’s SPL commission into payments made to players under the Employee Benefit Trust scheme operated by Sir David Murray’s group of companies when he owned the Ibrox club.
Lord Nimmo Smith’s findings stated that the current owners should not be held responsible for any breaches by the previous company. But, according to a BBC report last night, SPFL lawyers believe the fine can be recovered under the terms of Rangers’ SFA membership transfer, which granted authorities the right to pursue football debts.