Tom English: Rangers and the need for transparency
SO MANY voices in this Rangers saga and so many mixed messages, so much contradiction to pile on top of the poison that has reigned in the place for far too long.
Dire warnings from Dave King that the club is living beyond its means and is heading inexorably for the rocks again and, on the flip side, Ally McCoist looking to sign a reserve goalkeeper (is there nobody there already who can warm the bench for the season?) as well as two others. The club appears to be bleeding money. They have burned their way through their share-offering revenue – supposedly £20 million-plus – and have £10m left in the bank and overheads that are eye-watering. And yet the manager is carrying on – being allowed to carry on – spending where there is no need. No need whatsoever.
Three more players might increase Rangers’ winning margin in League One. Big deal. They might give them an extended run in a cup, but is it worth it? More mouths to feed, more money going out, more pressure on a club’s finances that concerned Rangers fans are bending over backwards to have a look because they fear the worst. Is there nobody at Ibrox prepared to cry “Stop! We need to cut costs not add to them”? Apparently not.
Contradiction upon contradiction. Yesterday, more of it. Sandy Easdale sent a message out there via his PR man, Jack Irvine, who came blinking into the light having spent so many years operating in the shadows. Laughably, Irvine attempted to portray his client as a man who would sooner jump in the path of one of his buses than do anything to damage his beloved Rangers.
What is required desperately at Rangers – before it is too late – is transparency. The bonnet needs to be lifted on the club’s fiscal reality and the suspicion is that it had better happen quickly. For all their faults, the trio of Jim McColl, Paul Murray and Frank Blin want to do this in rapid order. That’s their modus operandi. Easdale doesn’t want it to happen. He has called the prospect of an EGM and a possible over-throwing of the board an “appalling waste of money”. He has, through his PR man, said McColl and company are wasting their time and that they will end up looking embarrassed. That is to say that seemingly an overwhelming body of the Rangers support are also wasting their time in their pleas for proper financial transparency.
Easdale, it would appear, thinks everybody in the Rangers fanbase should pipe down with their complaints. He – or his man – calls the whole thing “boardroom nonsense” Boardroom nonsense? Quite a description, that. Just a little bit of an understatement, wouldn’t you agree?
Tuesday is when the Rangers board meet to discuss Charles Green’s role as consultant. By rights, Green will be stripped of his position, if only for his capacity to cause humiliation to all those around him. That’s a long-honed skill of the Yorkshireman and his cohorts and it’s going to be difficult to stop. Green holds a lot of aces at Rangers. He’s going to take a bit of shifting. Overseeing all of this, of course, is Craig Mather, the chief executive who has to, on one hand, appease the Rangers support and, on the other, attempt to neutralise Green’s addiction to mortifying public utterances that send those at Ibrox into apoplectic fury.
Mather, it has to be said, is not exactly a leader of substance. You might remember that, back in June, he borrowed a move from the Green playbook by trumpeting his desire to go after Rangers’ enemies, a carbon-copy of the tactic deployed by Green at the outset – and one that worked very well with the fans until they could see through him and his money-grab. “There will be times when you [the support] want us to tackle our enemies and it will seem like we’re somehow reluctant to do so or that we don’t care,” he said. “You might believe we don’t feel hurt to the same extent as you, but we do. Sometimes you have to wait. We’ve chosen, and we will continually choose, the right moment to strike. Please, never believe that I or any other directors don’t know the names of the people who have tried to damage this club. We know them all. We know what each one’s tried to do and I can assure you we will never, ever forget about that.”
This was populist claptrap at the time and it’s populist claptrap that Mather has singularly failed to back up. Rangers’ enemies? Does he – or anybody else at the club – seriously believe that the media, the BBC in the main, are the club’s major enemy? If they do, God help them. Their analysis is desperately skewed. The main “enemies” are surely the ones who are wearing – or have recently worn – the Rangers blazer. The Greens, the Imran Ahmads, the Brian Stockbridges. Stockbridge is the financial controller at Ibrox. A few weeks ago at a fans meeting he was asked how much of the share-offering money remained in the club bank account. He didn’t know. Or didn’t want to say. A few days later he appeared in a tabloid saying that, er, nothing was left. Nothing. A financial controller? What, exactly, is he controlling when vast bonuses are given out to himself and Green for the pitiful honour of winning the Third Division. Big salaries and 100 per cent bonuses. That’s not control, that’s the very opposite.
Where is Mather’s ire at these people? It doesn’t exist because he is among them. Mather doesn’t know who the real enemies are.
On Tuesday he, and the board, will have a chance to right a wrong and remove Green, a man who, it is said, is prepared to support Ahmad in his multi-million pound legal action against the club. With friends like that…
Mather has said other things. He went after the SFA, for instance. Another Rangers enemy and more populism. The chief executive demanded answers from Hampden about the different punishments doled out to Hearts and Rangers in administration. He made great play of this in a statement. He wanted to know if it was one rule for Rangers and another for Hearts. He was going to press the SFA to explain themselves. All of this gave the impression of a man taking on the Rangers haters. It was bunkum.
His anger and his call for transparency didn’t even amount to him taking the time to send an e-mail or write a letter to the SFA asking for clarification. A warrior in his statement and a pussycat thereafter. The SFA did, indeed, provide clarification, but not because of an official request – that’s normal procedure – but because they wanted to highlight what garbage Mather was talking in his phoney call to arms. The SFA statement was a deconstruction of Mather’s earlier position. Why had the SFA fined Rangers, Mather had demanded to know. Answer: Because Rangers asked them to.
To Tuesday, then. And the hope that those seeking clarity are not once again painted as the enemy by the incumbents who want an end to mere “boardroom nonsense”. The reality, as most appreciate now, is far bigger than that.