The administrators in charge of directing each act in this convoluted offering had been expected to announce which of the three potential buyers has been given star billing. But turning the drama into a farce, the SPL played up to its role as villain of the piece, making public the possible alterations to the current punishments imposed on clubs who dally with insolvency and who fail to live up to their fiscal responsibilities.
It meant the preferred bidder announcement was delayed, the administrator Duff & Phelps insisting it was prudent to see if the announcement had any impact on the bids lodged by the Blue Knights, the Far East consortium headed by Bill Ng or the offer made by American businessman Bill Miller. It was one stutter too many for the disgruntled Rangers supporters, with a spokesman for one of the main fans’ organisations, claiming fans were fast losing patience with the men charged with the responsibility of moving forward the process of identifying new owners and stabilising the Old Firm club.
While the game’s governing bodies have not escaped the wrath, with conspiracy theories, accusations of sly tactics and self-serving agendas all feeding the internet messageboards and phone-ins, there are others now bearing the brunt of some furious finger-pointing and attracting a dwindling level of trust.
“There’s definitely been a mood swing concerning Duff & Phelps and their recent behaviour,” said Mark Dingwall, board member of Rangers Supporters Trust. “We feel it has become more and more curious in terms of the time it is taking to make the important decisions. At each step of this there has been delay after delay, from the way they handled the players’ wage cuts, the handling of bids and the things they are saying about Craig Whyte.
“I have been to several meetings with the administrators and they assured us that Craig Whyte would be no impediment to doing a deal but then we see things this week saying that he will have a say in who gets his shares. I think people are beginning to question the administrators. Why haven’t they taken the legal steps needed to make sure he can’t do the club any more damage?
“The due diligence has taken too long and in terms of the creditors meeting and everything that has to happen before we can get out of administration, it’s hard to see that happening before the end of the season and then the fans wonder what will happen with the players who are out of contract in June. It is vital that things are moved on because we won’t be able to hold on to our best players and we will have to rebuild completely.”
Dingwall says the fans have made it very clear that they are opposed to liquidation, with the banners and the red-card protests at Ibrox last week making those charged with the future stewardship of the club aware that the stance is unequivocal. But with that in mind, Dingwall wants to know why the administrators have not pressed on with appointing the preferred bidder.
He feels the obvious choice if they want to avoid trundling down that road would be the Blue Knights, the consortium viewed as the only one with the club truly at heart.
But for all the hopes, the projected timeline is becoming a real source of irritation. The fans have recovered from the original boot in the proverbials and are now simply seeking advancement. They knew it wasn’t going to be pretty, they knew it wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs but they had hoped it would be expeditious.
Instead, it has been torture, says Dingwall. The announcement of preferred bidder was supposed to be something for them to cling to, evidence that the process had some kind of forward momentum.
“There is a lot of confusion now,” said Dingwall. “The timing of the SPL decision has angered the Rangers support. Many of us don’t believe it was coincidence that the SPL unveiled the new proposals on the day Duff and Phelps were supposed to announce the preferred bidder. We feel it was an attempt to delay or derail the process.”
But one insolvency expert insisted that the administrators had done the correct thing in stalling the announcement in light of the SPL statement, saying that, if he hadn’t given all three bidders time to reassess the impact of any proposed changes, it could have led to an even more damaging delay or dismantling of any offer further down the line.
“It is unfortunate that the SPL created further uncertainty but I’m not sure it will cause any material variation. In terms of making sure the interested parties had all the information, the administrators really had no alternative and in the grand scheme of things it will actually save time,” said Donald McNaught of Chartered Accountants Johnston Carmichael.
“But after re-evaluating the situation I wouldn’t think it would affect the interest in the club. I think the reality is that few people buying football clubs do so as a financial investment. The normal rules of business don’t apply.”
He added that, while the public perception is of a disjointed administrative period with so many legal and footballing side shows distracting from the main event, he was convinced that there would be a “more collaborative approach” behind closed doors.
Dingwall isn’t convinced and feels that, given the number of uncertainties hanging over any takeover, with Whyte’s intentions, as well as the outcome of the HMRC case and the willingness of creditors to enter into a CVA, the fans are perturbed as to why the latest SPL desire to tinker would be the unknown which brought the process of anointing a preferred bidder to a halt.