A CONFERENCE call of the Rangers board yesterday failed to reach agreement on the identity of the man to replace Charles Green but it is believed Craig Mather, already an investor in the club after being brought in by Green last July, remains the favourite to become the new chief executive.
Despite former chief executive Martin Bain’s name being mentioned in dispatches, it is believed that the Nottingham-based Mather the front runner.
According to his website, Mather is a former semi-professional footballer and an ex-coach in the second tier of football in America.
On another day of terrible uncertainty at Ibrox – the piece de resistance of the misery being the loss to Peterhead and the boos that accompanied it – there was the unmistakable feeling that Rangers have now become a rudderless ship both on and off the pitch. Green has gone – and he is not lamented among the club’s hierarchy – and his associate, Imran Ahmad, might very soon be following him, the commercial director being the subject of some heavy criticism among certain members of the Ibrox board.
To add to the general state of flux, manager Ally McCoist said that the club needs to be “cleansed” of suspicion and doubt in relation to Craig Whyte’s power grab and the lurking fear that Whyte may have been involved behind the scenes when Green acquired the club. The commission the club has set up will investigate any link with Whyte, the doomsday scenario being that the former owner played a part in the new administration, thereby putting the club’s SFA licence in jeopardy.
Even then, in the business of the commission, there is some disquiet. The Rangers Supporters Trust said yesterday that it would be “far healthier” if it wasn’t accountants Deloitte who were overseeing the commission. Deloitte acted for Green when he took over the club last summer. “They have a conflict of interest as both advisers in Green’s takeover and as his own personal tax advisers,” said a spokesman. “It would be far healthier if the investigation was in the hands of a firm that were completely independent and had no previous involvement in the club.”
Along with Deloitte, the London-based international law firm Pinsent Masons will oversee the legal side of the commission. It is likely that the next major announcement to come out of the club will be the confirmation that Ahmad, Green’s right-hand man, has been ousted.
Yesterday was McCoist’s first opportunity to talk about Green’s departure. “I always felt there were things unfolding because there were stories appearing here and there,” he said. “We were never going to get an opportunity to move on. What the club actually needs is to be totally cleansed. We need to get everything out in the open and hopefully this internal investigation will do that.
“We need to get everything out in the open, cleanse ourselves so that everyone can see what has been going on and where this club is hopefully heading. We haven’t had the chance to do that.”
McCoist also said that he feels his playing budget will be revised now that Green has gone. In a classic piece of Green bombast, the former chief executive declared in December that McCoist would get £10m to spend on players when the transfer embargo was played.
“I would imagine my budget will have changed from what I was told it was initially. I was pleasantly surprised with my budget prior to the departure of Charles. I would settle for it not changing but I have a sneaky feeling that it will. I’m just guessing. I hope I’m wrong. I was told what the budget would be, but I’m fearful that won’t be the case now.”
Later, McCoist dropped a hint that he never quite believed in the £10m figure to begin with. Very few people did, to be frank.
“You have to give Charles credit initially,” he added. “We were in desperate need of someone coming in to buy the club and take us forward in terms of not even having a licence to play or any players.
“The biggest thing you can say about that is that he got us a licence to play and got a team on the park. Listen, Charles told everyone he was a straight-talking Yorskhireman and that’s certainly what he was. Did everyone agree with what he said? Not at all. I’m not going to attempt to put the blame on one man for the club turning a bit, though. Not at all.”
There is further intrigue in the appointment of Green’s successor. Mather is now deemed to be the most likely choice. The 43-year-old was courted by Green last summer and invested £1m in the club, calling it the first emotional investment he had ever made in business. He owns a packaging company – £17m turnover according to his website – and a sports-based management company called Simply Sport Management. The website says he has worked all over the world and is also owner of a “successful horse-racing business with the assistance of former advisers of Sheikh Mohammed”.
Little is known about Mather’s horseracing business but it appears small-time. The latest annual accounts submitted to Companies House for the year up to 30 April 2012 reported “cash at bank” of £27,244, liabilities worth £232,666 and assets worth £218,750, leaving a negative net worth £13,916.
“My forte and future role with Rangers will be based on the youth development side,” he said in July. “So, [I’ll be] spending more time at Murray Park rather than the Ibrox side of the business. From discussions we’ve had to date, there is an intent for me to have a seat on the footballing board, looking at that side of things. I’ll be working with the staff there.”
In October he was officially appointed director of sports development at Rangers but little or nothing has been heard from Mather since then. He has had the lowest of low profiles and has never publicly outlined the vision he has for what is a critical side of the business. Mather was at the match yesterday. McCoist said he longed for the day that he could get back to talking about football but having watched his team perform so abysmally the distraction might have suited him for once.
“We all want decisions yesterday and I’m no different from that,” he said. “But it’s so important now that we get everything right and get a real opportunity to move on.”
He was speaking as a manager who does not know his budget for next season, or what will come of the investigation into Green and his links with the former owner, and whose board seems in the grip of an internal battle. Moving on might take a while yet.