Rangers crisis: Administrators desperate for quick sale of club

THE administrators at Rangers sounded a distress call last night as they warned that only securing a quick sale of the club or reaching an agreement with the first-team squad on wage cuts will prevent them from implementing severe across-the-board redundancies.

After another dramatic day in the astonishing crisis gripping the Ibrox club, which saw director Dave King release an explosive statement criticising former owner Sir David Murray and claiming that liquidation of the club is “inevitable”, administrators Duff and Phelps announced they were “accelerating” the sale.

Former director Paul Murray, leading a Blue Knights consortium which could yet include King, confirmed his intention to make a conditional offer for Rangers before the 16 March deadline set by Duff and Phelps. It is understood the administrators will begin talks with up to three interested parties, including Paul Murray, today in a bid to reach an outline agreement within the next 48 hours.

But the administrators also believe making a deal attractive to a new owner is largely dependent on maintaining the size and value of the current playing staff as much as possible. To that end, they have set a deadline of tomorrow to end the impasse with the first-team squad over a programme of staggered wage cuts. Those negotiations broke down late on Tuesday night after several of the players’ agents were unhappy with the terms set out.

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Rangers manager Ally McCoist, who has been asked by the administrators to be involved in the talks with prospective buyers of the club, last night insisted the wage cutting deal was “not dead and buried” and stressed that his playing staff remained united in their desire to achieve a solution which would facilitate a successful exit from administration.

After 22 days running Rangers, Duff and Phelps have so far avoided the kind of cuts normally seen within days of a club going into administration. But they struck an alarmist tone as they claimed Rangers will not be able to complete their SPL fixtures this season if, in the absence of a successful sale, drastic financial reductions are not made. “We are announcing today we are accelerating the sale of Rangers Football Club,” said co-administrator David Whitehouse in a statement released a couple of hours after the Rangers players left Murray Park after another inconclusive round of talks. “The club is in a perilous financial situation and that should not be under-estimated.

“Regrettably, we have been unable to agree cost-cutting measures with the playing staff on terms that will preserve value in the business.

“We understand the players’ position as the scale of wage cuts required to achieve these savings without job losses were very substantial indeed.

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“In view of this, we are faced with a situation of making redundancies within the playing staff on such a scale that would materially erode the value of the playing squad. We are striving to strike a balance where cost-cutting measures can be implemented but do not destroy the fabric of the playing squad to the extent that it will inhibit the prospect of a sale.

“However, no one should be in any doubt that in the absence of sufficient cost-cutting measures or receipt of substantial unplanned income, the club will not be able to fulfil its fixtures throughout the remainder of the season.

“As a result, we are expediting the sale process and over the next few days we will be holding discussions with prospective purchasers who have declared their interest. The manager, Ally McCoist, will play an integral part in these discussions.

“If, however, it becomes apparent that the sale process cannot be accelerated there will be no choice but to implement very severe cost-cutting measures at the club.”

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In a later statement, the administrators delivered further bad news with confirmation that Rangers will not be able to play in European competitions next season, because there is “no realistic prospect” of the club meeting the necessary criteria before the 31 March deadline set by Uefa.

McCoist was the last of the playing and coaching staff to leave Murray Park, at around 4pm yesterday, just as the non-playing employees at Ibrox were being updated by the administrators at a hastily-convened meeting.

In light of suggestions that a minority of his players and their agents were holding up the deal which the administrators claim can prevent widescale redundancies among other employees at the club, McCoist last night insisted their was unanimity of purpose among them.

“I’ve got to tell you there is no split camp at all,” said McCoist. “It would annoy me, or in fact anger me for anybody to suggest that is the case. I can promise you that it is not the case, it is far from it. Everybody to a man is together in this and we will get through this.

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“Everybody has the club’s best interests at heart and there are absolutely no personal agendas within the playing staff or any other staff. We all want what is best for the football club and that is what we are all still attempting to achieve. There has been a lot of hard work already, nobody should underestimate the amount that has gone on in the last few days, and that will absolutely continue in the search for the positive result we all hope we can get.

“Nobody should underestimate the sacrifice that the players have been asked to make. It is to their eternal credit that they have discussed it and gone through it and in a lot of the cases there have been agreements,” McCoist added.

“It’s still not dead and buried and, to a man, everybody is behind us and wants to take this club forward. All the players, and I mean all the players, and indeed all the staff can reassure everybody and every Rangers fan that they are singing from the same hymn sheet.

“There are maybe one or two people out there who are underestimating the situation, but it should not be underestimated. We are in a very serious predicament, but we are still fighting for our lives and we’ll continue to do that.

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“Make no mistake, though, action will have to take place if we cannot come to some arrangement that suits all parties.

“I think the sale of the club has always been a measure that everybody knew would become inevitable, but what maybe wasn’t inevitable has been the speed of it.

“If and when it happens, the administrators will see to it that it is in the best interests of everybody involved at the club. It’s an opportunity for me to meet one or two possible investors and we’ll do everything we can to send out the right message to the investors and hopefully hear the right message back.

“I’m delighted to be asked to be involved. It’s a big thing for Duff and Phelps to ask me to be part of that and there was no obligation for them to do that.”