The disaffected Rangers supporters may have given it to their board with both barrels but in their attempt to over-throw a regime at Ibrox they suffered death by proxy at yesterday’s tempestuous agm.
• Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Scot Murdoch and Alex Wilson fail in bid to be voted onto board
• Result of boardroom changes expected Thursday afternoon/ Friday morning
• Chief executive Graham Wallace says operating costs currently “too high”
• AGM told club has “sufficient cash to continue to trade in the short term”
• Cost of season tickets expected to rise next season
Despite shouts of “Out! Out! Out!” directed at the top table where the power-brokers sat, nobody is moving out of the boardroom any time soon. The directors were roundly booed by the fans but they were voted back into power in a landslide. The requisitioners, headed by Paul Murray, were routed, pure and simple.
The numbers will have made them grimace. This was far removed from the close-run thing they predicted. Brian Stockbridge, the chief target for the requisitioners’ fury, was re-elected as finance director with a percentage vote that was greater than the combined percentage of votes cast for both Murrays, Paul and Malcolm, in their bid to be appointed to the board. Of the five directors seeking re-election, Stockbridge garnered the lowest number of votes – 65.3 per cent – but it was still way more than he required.
Sandy Easdale, another unpopular figure among the fans, secured 76.9 per cent backing from shareholders. Norman Crighton and David Somers got 79.5 per cent and 79.9 per cent respectively. The chief executive, Graham Wallace, got 85.5 per cent.
The requisitioners fared dismally by comparison, especially when you consider their mantra that the vote was going to be close and that every vote mattered. Malcolm Murray, seeking to get back on the board, won only 29.8 per cent support, the lowest figure of the four requisitioners. Alex Wilson got 29.9 per cent, Scott Murdoch 30 per cent and Paul Murray 31.7 per cent.
The result merely proved the immense power of the institutional investors and the fact that the requisitioners didn’t do nearly enough to lock in as many votes as they claimed to have done.
“We have brought all the issues to the fore, we have got transparency to what is happening to the club,” said Paul Murray. “The important thing is the issues won’t go away, they are there for all to see. The most pleasing thing is the fans have to be involved and I think the board could see that and the board, however it is comprised, they have to embrace that. If they don’t, then I really fear for the club.”
The result was not a surprise but still came as a thunderous let-down for those seeking change at Rangers. Stockbridge was subjected to the most hostile reception of all the club’s board members. The shareholders may have vented their spleen in this, the first Rangers AGM in three years, but it was to no avail. All they had to show for their day was the knowledge that if the board didn’t fully appreciate how they felt before the meeting, well, they most certainly do now. The jeering, after all, was unmissable.
The dysfunctional relationship between the fans and the board was referred to during the meeting and there was an
attempt at a conciliation process. Somers, the chairman, appealed to the fans to give the board more time to win their trust after he had been greeted by barracking from large sections of his audience.
Somers spoke of the need for “honesty and integrity” and said that in terms of corporate governance the new board had made “significant strides forward” compared to what was there before. This, of course, was a reference to their predecessors, Malcolm Murray being one of them.
“In the three weeks I have been here I have learned that engagement with fans is the key area we need to focus on,” said the Rangers chairman. “Graham [Wallace] has already started work on this but we know we need to do more. I fully understand we don’t have fans’ trust.
It will take time to build that.
Despite what you read in the press I have no fundamental quarrel with requisitioners. They, like us, want what is best for the club. Once today’s democratic process is over I hope shareholders and fans will get behind this club and board. Give us the time to win your trust.”
Wallace spoke about the running costs at Rangers and accepted that they were too high and that new funding would be needed before Rangers returned to the top flight of Scottish football. Wallace also announced a 120-day business review which would include strengthening of the club’s scouting network.
“I can understand suspicion, scepticism or even worse about anyone accepting this position,” said Wallace. “I’m here to lead this club to best of my efforts. Nothing less. The current operating structure we have is too high, too high even for the top division never mind the lower leagues. It is reasonable to assume that in order to take the club back to competing at the top levels domestically and in Europe that this will be the case (the need for a new injection of money).
“However, this funding will only be sought once we have completed a robust business planning process that will allow us to engage with shareholders and potential investors from the platform of a well thought out strategic plan.”
The defeated requisitioners were left to talk up the positives of their campaign. “Today was quite an emotional day in some ways,” said Paul Murray. “I was really keen to put my point across, which I hope I did succinctly. They’re all shareholders but I think the vast majority are ‘shareholder fans’ and they made their views clear about as to what they thought of the board. Brian Stockbridge in particular has come in for a lot of criticism and was asked a lot of questions, which I think is the right thing to have happened. Were they answered sufficiently? I don’t think so.
“In my view the club belongs to the fans and today was their opportunity – for the first time ever really – to get in front of this board and ask the questions they want answered. What I really hope comes from this is that the board realises that you cannot get trust unless you earn it.”
Some weeks ago, Murray revealed that he would walk away from this battle if he was defeated at the AGM but wasn’t so definitive yesterday. “We’ve had two-and-a-half years of a lack of trust and transparency. There has been too much self interest and not enough Rangers interest and that has to change for the club to go forward. The board have to engage more with the fans as they are the lifeblood of the club and so I hope if nothing else comes of this process there will be a lot more fan involvement in the club at every level.”