WITH replies that raised many more questions than he answered, Rangers manager Ally McCoist has stealthily picked his way through the minefield that is the current financial ‘situation’ at the Ibrox club.
Having backed his players in their refusal to accede to chief executive Graham Wallace’s request for a 15 per cent pay cut, McCoist tried hard not to get into the blame game over the current money troubles at Rangers.
But in the middle of a press conference in which he was asked searching questions about those cash problems – tomorrow night’s match against Forfar Athletic wasn’t even mentioned – there was one telling instant.
McCoist said: “The chief executive at the moment is aware that some of the problems are there because some of the decisions were made for the short term, maybe a year ago.”
Asked point blank if some of those decisions were made for “other people’s benefit”, the manager nodded his assent.
The clear implication is that he feels some of those investors and directors of bygone months made decisions that lined their own pockets rather than fill the club’s coffers.
That is why Rangers are now facing a new crisis. The club’s leadership can deny it until they are blue in the face, so to speak, but when potential administration is openly talked about and players and staff – McCoist himself has sacrificed half his pay – are asked to take salary cuts, then something is very seriously wrong at Rangers, not least because player costs are down to a third or less of overall turnover, as McCoist claimed, which begs the question: where exactly is all the money going?
Having already reduced the player budget for this season, McCoist had no reason to suspect cash problems and asked no questions when he was told he could sign players.
“Not being an accountant,” he said, “maybe I have it totally wrong but the player budget coming down, I was looking at – wrongly obviously – season tickets, costs – I’m doing it on the back of a fag packet – it kind of fits.
“We had a lot of money in from an IPO [initial public offering of shares] and we had two amounts of season tickets but I was obviously wrong, and I obviously am wrong.
“I just went about my business signing players. The chief executives that I have had so far… Charles Green the first one, then Craig Mather came in. I was wanting to bolster the squad and that’s what I did. No one said it was a problem.”
McCoist eventually did ask some questions of Wallace, a man he patently considers honest and trustworthy.
“He didn’t go into great detail,” said McCoist. “He just said some mistakes had been made. He said to me that some decisions that were made, in hindsight, possibly should not have been made.”
Given his previous experiences, McCoist was asked if he would be within his rights to withhold his trust from the new chief executive. The manager replied: “Possibly – but I don’t think that would do us any good.
“I have to do my best to forge a healthy working relationship with the chief executive. It has to be in the best interest of the club and everyone within it. And that’s what we’re both doing, believe me.”
It will be several months before Rangers fans will be asked to renew those season tickets, and McCoist will understand if they are uncertain at the moment.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before then,” said McCoist, “At the end of the day the fans will make their own decision on what they’re seeing. Right now, there’s a lot of work to be done by everyone before we can start thinking about season tickets again.”
By any objective analysis, the problems at Rangers have one root cause – the club continues to operate as if it is in the top tier rather than in the third tier of Scottish football. So should Rangers have downsized to, say, Championship size?
“Again, I don’t know, that’s for the financial people to discuss,” said McCoist. “I don’t know what the financial situation of the club would need to be, what the break even point was, what the costs were – that’s a question for them to answer.”
McCoist has been asked to the next board meeting to discuss football matters. Asked if he would like to stay while the board talked about money and other matters, McCoist said: “I’d need to think about it. If it benefited my relationship with the players and the staff, then yes. But as you’re probably aware, in the current climate sometimes some of the stuff I don’t know suits me as well.”
Better the devil you don’t know, is how he might have put it.
1 How serious is the “severity” of the situation as Ally McCoist calls it?
2 Given that chief executive Graham Wallace, pictured, initiated the attempt to get the players to take a pay cut, and given that McCoist has backed the players in such a strong refusal, is the contradictory stance of the chief exec and manager a concern for the board?
3 How much is the club losing per month?
4 What are the average monthly figures for income and outgoings?
5 How much money remains from the share issue?
6 Is the club paying all its tax and VAT bills on time?
7 Are all debts being paid on time?
8 Are the club’s bankers, accountants and auditors comfortable with the current situation?
9 Given Wallace’s call for cuts, can the board say if it approved his strategy?
10 Did the board in any way initiate these potential cuts?
11 If the cuts are to proceed and the players won’t take a pay cut, where does the board see the savings coming from – player reduction or other staff wage cuts and redundancies, or both?
12 Given that the manager claims the player budget is a third or less of club costs, can the board say what the other two-thirds consist of?
13 Can the board give a guarantee that administration is not being considered?
14 Since the newco took over the club, who has made profits from share deals and how much did they make?
15 How much has been spent on paying off staff?
16 What new sources of investment are being sought, i.e. another share issue?
17 In the interests of transparency, will the board name the people behind shareholders Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Funds?
18 Since June 2012, how much has been paid to outside consultants?
19 Does the board intend to invite Dave King to discuss investment?
20 The chief executive told the manager that, with hindsight, bad decisions were made. What were they?