OUT of chaos comes order – but it can take a seemingly interminable time, as dread-filled Rangers supporters will almost certainly continue to discover in the coming weeks, months or even years. In the meantime, the tumult that marks the kind of hostile environment into which the Ibrox club has been thrust inevitably gives rise to some notoriously uncertain proposals for salvation.
Among the more frequently mentioned of the dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of suggestions voiced on the myriad media outlets now available to all has been the notion of a fans’ buy-out. This supposed ideal, strangely, appears to have gained so much currency that the three official bodies, the (Rangers Supporters) Association, Assembly and Trust respectively, have launched a website that invites their members to make pledges of financial support that will serve as an indicator of the plan’s feasibility.
If this unarguably well-intentioned, indeed idealistic, exercise is to produce the many millions required to put a badly-listing ship back on an even keel, those who wish to sail in her will have to confound recent history on a pretty spectacular scale.
Surely nobody with a declared allegiance to Rangers can have forgotten the damning results of the former owner/chairman David Murray’s rights issue of just over seven years ago, in December, 2004. Then, as now, the club was in desperate need of re-financing and Murray publicly proclaimed his confidence that the target of £57 million would be reached.
In the event, Murray (or at least his group of companies) was forced to underwrite the issue to the tune of £50.275 million. The total raised amounted to an embarrassing £51,430,995, with “new business” – that is, first-time share buyers – investing only £307,530.00. Even these figures, however, were not miserable enough to prevent the irrepressibly bombastic Murray from acclaiming the exercise as a resounding success.
“The investment by over 4,500 subscribers,” he said, “demonstrates strong support for this initiative. Collectively, we have created a firm financial footing for the future of our club.”
As was often the case with Murray, the omissions from his utterances were more significant than the inclusions. He did not, for example, dwell on the detail that his pumped-up 4,500 had, with a total of £1,155,995.00, invested precisely £256.88 per head. Or that the new business (£307,530.00 from 1,263 takers) had brought an average subscription of £243.49.
The tripartite website organised by the respective supporters organisations displays a box into which fans are invited to enter the sum they would be willing to pledge to help “save 140 years of history”. Intriguingly, the amounts to be ticked, presumably mere “suggestions”, start at £500.00, more than double the figure the 1,263 were willing to “sink” on average seven years ago. And, back then, unlike now, the money would be surrendered with a view to a future yield.
Murray’s claim to have demonstrated “strong support for this initiative” and created “a firm financial footing for the future of our club”, of course, now sounds as empty as a balloon. There was, however, hardly a murmur of demur at the time, despite the absurdity of his bluster having been made clear by the figures.
Nor would his audacity in this respect be checked even by Rangers’ ever-accelerating plunge towards their present ignominy. When a contract with the retailer, JJB Sports, gave the latter control of Rangers’ shops in exchange for annual revenue which could, naturally, fluctuate in direct relation to sales, Murray insisted that the deal would bring the club £11 million per year.
One gullible business writer on a Sunday newspaper claimed an “exclusive” interview with the Rangers chairman and, in the article, presented a breakdown of the JJB agreement which basically contradicted itself.
Murray had said that Rangers would receive a lump sum of £18 million, but it transpired that this would be “annualised” over ten years, meaning instalments of £1.8 million. The “breakdown” then states that £1 million a year will be saved in interest by paying off £18 million worth of debt, a curious achievement since the £18 million would not arrive in the form of a lump sum. This million in saved interest, along with £2 million-£5 million based on replica shirt sales, was included in the projected year-on-year income of £11 million.
Astonishingly, but almost typical of Murray’s 22-year-tenure, this patent nonsense was widely accepted as an inviolable truth. It was left to a City analyst – clearly a man with at least some understanding of Glasgow’s football culture – to cast serious doubt on the viability of the deal. “They (JJB) are effectively paying them (Rangers) for something that only appeals to one half of Glasgow,” he said. “I wish them luck.”
As events have demonstrated, that luck never did materialise. Instead, Murray unloaded the badly damaged goods on Craig Whyte and now the wreckage is so extensive that the salvage experts are having great difficulty in making a proper assessment.