In a lengthy statement, the South-Africa-based businessman insisted that such an investment had to come from supporters rather than institutions seeking a substantial return for their money, and volunteered to lead a united fans’ body bidding to build up a substantial shareholding in Rangers.
King, who sank £20million of his own money into the old Rangers company when Sir David Murray was chairman, has become frustrated with what he termed the “opacity” of the present board. He said that, unless the board was more open about the state of the club’s finances, supporters should consider putting their season-ticket money into a trust which would only release funds to the club once certain conditions were met.
“My assessment is that the business is not commercially sustainable in the short term and hence requires a level of soft investment,” he said. “The board is focusing on right-sizing the business, ie cutting costs to match the income. It is correct that any club must, over the long term, operate within its means, but, in the short term, Rangers needs a significant once-off financial boost that cannot be met from the current revenue stream. Without this we will not get back to where we should be.
“If we cut our costs to suit our present income, we will remain a small club and Celtic will shoot through ten in a row – and
beyond – while we slug it out for the minor places.
“That is not the Rangers that I grew up with and not the Rangers that we should be passing down to our children and grandchildren.
“Such a soft investment will only come from a fan-based group that regard their return as winning trophies in the top flight. I have been such an investor and want to be so again. I would like to lead a fan-based initiative to acquire an influential shareholding in the club.”
At the same time as restating his willingness to contribute financially to Rangers, King said that the supporters could no longer trust the directors. Arguing that the purchase of a season ticket is, in essence, a loan to a club, he said that fans should no longer provide those loans unconditionally.
Instead, he thinks that until the board is open with supporters – above all regarding the true financial position of the club – those supporters should join together and only release funds with certain stipulations.
“The big question is: ‘What can fans do to protect themselves but still assist the team and management?’,” King continued. “Fans must remember that the purchase of a season ticket is essentially an individual loan from the fan to the company until such time as all games are played.”
Last night leading representatives of several Rangers supporters’ organisations, including the Trust and the Association, were meeting to decide on a common response. A joint statement is expected today in the name of the “Union of Fans”.
“We’d like to take a bit of time to read and digest the statement,” Drew Roberton of the Association said. “It is a big step to pay season-ticket money into a trust and only release it to the club under certain conditions. But there’s no doubt about it, withholding the season-ticket money would have an impact.”
Given Rangers’ current financial difficulties, the withholding of even a small number of season tickets could have an impact. But the question is whether, more than two years after Craig Whyte first took the old company into administration, the Rangers support can unite and put sustained pressure on the board. The Rangers Supporters Trust recently announced that it now owns more than half a million shares in the club, and has made a million shares its next target. At the same time, however, another group, understood to include several former Trust members, has met Supporters Direct Scotland to learn how it could set up a rival scheme. And many other fans are individual shareholders, unaligned with a supporters’ organisation.
In a brief response last night to King’s statement, Rangers chairman David Somers denied a claim by one newspaper that the businessman had offered the board an interest-free loan, and said the door remained open to King if he wanted to make proposals directly to the board. “I can confirm that this [the interest-free loan claim] is untrue,” Somers said.
“I have been in email correspondence with Mr King and suggested that, even though he is not a current shareholder, I would be interested in hearing any proposals he might have.
“Mr King replied and indicated a willingness to consider participating in any future equity issue that the Club might undertake. This has been the extent of the discussion and I repeat that no offer of an interest free loan has been received from Mr King, or anyone else, apart from Mr Sandy Easdale.”
Rangers later issued a brief second comment. It read: “The board notes Mr King’s comments with concern as they are potentially destabilising and damaging to Rangers Football Club.”