Rangers' changing of guard: John Bennett's arrival unlikely to stop unrest as crucial spells looms

There has been a changing of the guard at Rangers after Douglas Park decided to step down as Rangers chairman, with his deputy John Bennett moving up to replace him.

Park joined the board in 2015 and was installed as chairman in 2020. He guided the club through the Covid-19 pandemic, watched them win the cinch Premiership, the Scottish Cup and reach the Europa League final. “It’s been a great honour to serve the club as a director and chairman,” Park said. “During my eight years in office, we endured extraordinary pressures. I am glad we have stabilised and strengthened the club and it is now time for me to hand over the baton to a new chairman for the next stage in the club’s development. I look forward to continuing to attend matches supporting the team, and I wish John and all at Rangers Football Club the very best.”

Park’s departure comes during a period of fan unrest at Ibrox. Some supporters are not happy with the current regime, with managing director Stewart Robertson and sporting director Ross Wilson targeted with banners. Whether Park’s exit will satisfy those dissenters is difficult to tell. They feel Rangers have failed to build on the title win of 2021/22, with Celtic under Ange Postecoglou reclaiming their crown. “After 55 titles you took your eye off the ball, time for a change,” read one banner unfurled recently at Ibrox.

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Making his name through Park’s Motor Group and riding into the Rangers boardroom alongside fellow “Three Bears” George Taylor and George Letham, Park carries credit with some of the fanbase by improving on the situation left by Mike Ashley. However, it was clear any good work was being eroded by the current gulf between the two Glasgow clubs – on the pitch and off it. Rangers announced another share issue shortly after Park’s departure and the board have used this tactic before to raise funds. The club’s accounts are due out imminently and while player trading, with the sales of Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey, have no doubt swelled the coffers, it will be interesting to note where they stand in relation to Celtic, who reported healthy figures earlier this year.

John Bennett has been appointed the new chairman of Rangers.John Bennett has been appointed the new chairman of Rangers.
John Bennett has been appointed the new chairman of Rangers.

Unhappy Rangers supporters will want more heads to roll, though, and their sights will be firmly set on Robertson and Wilson. It does not make for a comfortable environment for Bennett, a 59-year-old lifelong fan of the club who has made his name in the financial sector, not least because there is also a potential row brewing with the Scottish Professional Football League due to its sponsorship deal with Glen’s Vodka. Reports claims that Rangers say they will not be able to fulfil the agreement with Loch Lomond Group, the owner of Glen’s. Rangers and the SPFL have already rowed over a sponsorship deal with cinch, which clashed with Park’s own business interests and tie-ins with the Ibrox oufit.

On the field, Rangers are performing well under Michael Beale, although unable to make any dent in Celtic’s domestic stranglehold. There are three Old Firm derbies coming up in the space of six weeks that will define the destination of the league and the Scottish Cup. Adverse results will make the landscape more challenging. Beale reiterated last week that he will have money to spend in the summer as he embarks on a sizeable rebuilding job, with a number of high earners coming to the end of their contracts. He, and the Rangers fans, will expect total backing from Bennett and his fellow directors.