IN THE standard media take on Rangers’ affairs, Graham Wallace is the big, bad bouncer barring entry to the club to Dave King, a man whose deep pockets would ensure everything went with a swing for those inside.
Yet, Ibrox chief executive Wallace has tried to create the impression that King will be welcome to join the party. Just not take it over. “We have quantified a range [of investment, the figure being £30 million] where we think the club needs to be looking at in order to be competitive,” said Wallace, as the club published a damning 120-day business review which showed £70m had been haemorrhaged over 18 months. “Right now we don’t have the authority to issue a fresh batch of shares and say to Dave King ‘Here you are… £20m? In you come...’
“What we’ve said is we will go to the shareholders for authority in the autumn and the timing of that is important because it gives us time to demonstrate stability in how we’re running the business from an investor’s perspective. When we do that, the equity offering will be open to existing shareholders, it should probably also be open to fresh investors, including Dave King, and potentially others. There’s no one stopping Dave King or anyone else putting money into the club today other than the regulatory authority the board needs to have.
“Dave has said before, there may be 15 per cent of the existing shareholders who may not want to participate further, in which case there’s a significant block of stock that would be available.”
Wallace denies the current directors fear their power being diluted by King’s involvement.
“When we met with him, when you look at his ambitions and his vision for what he would like the club to be, they’re not dissimilar to what we’re trying to do,” insisted the chief executive. “We want to be competitive, we want to be punching at the top of the Premiership and in order to do that we know the club needs investment.”
Rangers supporters find themselves in an horribly invidious position. They are understandably contemptuous of the current board for the cash burn and calamitous contracts that Wallace excoriated in his review. However, through a gushing press for King, the only alternative being presented is a man who mismanaged his own financial affairs so profoundly he had to repay more than £40m to the South African tax authorities and lodge certain payments to prevent his convictions landing him in prison.
“A wide cross-section of the fan base is looking for some form of guidance, some form of reassurance as to how their club has been run,” Wallace said. “I hope as they look at this review that they get a sense of where it’s been, where it is now, and more importantly where it can go.
“People are worried about putting their money into the club and three months later it not to be there and they’ve lost their £400. I completely understand that, and I’ve been repeatedly asked if the club is under threat of another administration and I’ve said the same thing every time – no, it’s not.
“The point about the fans is, yes, there’s a desire on behalf of a segment of the fanbase to support someone like Dave King, who’s offering up – on paper, at least – a potentially significant amount of money to invest in the club. I understand that.
“We’re giving the assurance that if the fans continue to back the club in the way they have, then there is no threat to the financial stability of this business. That’s the single most important thing. If fans are really concerned about the financial health of their club, if they give us the support by behaving as they have done and renewing their [season] tickets, then we’re in a very very strong position.”
That is tantamount to the emotional blackmail the supporters’ coalition the Union of Fans has railed against. Wallace might not be so tainted in the eyes of the wider support, and might have been perceived more as a figure to trust by them, were it not for the £1.5m loan at exorbitant rates the club required only months after he stated such an injection would not be needed to keep the club afloat. The chief executive now accepts his credibility was damaged.
“It was an issue, yes. I responded to a question at the AGM about [whether there] ‘is sufficient cash to continue to trade in the near term’ and I said there was. That was an honest answer made on the assessment of what was available at the time. As we’ve gone through the review, there were certain assumptions made in the business plan which, when we went to push the button on them, we found they didn’t exist. So yes, we got to a position where we had to look at an alternative strategy for a very short, defined period of time. So yes, our credibility was questioned.
“Subsequent to putting the deal in place there were offers of similar amounts at vastly reduced monies. I think we’re in a better place now.”
A huge measure of sensible husbandry is required at Rangers, but with Wallace stating manager Ally McCoist’s playing budget for the Championship will be “comparable” to the indefensible £6m with which the club have bulldozed their way through two part-time lower divisions, questions can be asked about lessons learned. Perhaps in one sense they have been. Rangers announced in their review that they will appoint a chief football operations officer, essentially a director of football, who will “concentrate initially on developing player talent identification, scouting and recruitment capability”. In the past two years, Rangers have certainly been guilty of having a flawed recruitment strategy that has been the largest consistent drain on their revenue and resources.
“In terms of building this club to be competitive back at the top level, the level of infrastructure is not there,” said Wallace. “So scouting, recruitment, talent identification, managing and driving value from sourcing players [needs to be addressed]. Bringing players in here, if they’re good enough to play for us great but if they’re not then they might do a season and move along and get some value.
“We’ve no one looking at that. That’s what I see this particular role focusing on. It’s very much a support role for me, for the manager, at an overall level. The hunt for this person begins now and it’s about getting the right person, with the right skill set and the right experience. I’d hope over the course of the coming months to have someone.”
Wallace maintains this new appointment did not reflect on McCoist’s job security.
“I have never even had a thought about the manager’s future. We speak every day and meet two or three times a week.
“He’s obviously interested in the financial budget. We’ve talked about it. He knows we’re going to make funds available for the summer. He doesn’t know the magnitude, the number. We will sit down and agree that.”