RANGERS chairman Dave King believes he deserves the trust of the club’s long-suffering support as he targets the hugely ambitious sale of 45,000 season tickets at Ibrox for another year of second-tier football.
Launching the club’s renewal campaign, in which a 5 per cent increase in prices from the campaign just ended has been imposed, King expressed his hopes of raising as much as £13 million from 2015-16 season tickets.
The South Africa-based businessman, who revealed Rangers are likely to announce a new manager early next week after assessing a shortlist of five candidates, admitted it will be difficult to persuade fans to roll up in such big numbers after the club’s calamitous performance on and off the field since going into insolvency three years ago.
But King, who stated he will make “substantial investment” of his own over the next two months, is hopeful Rangers supporters will back the new board he led into power at a general meeting of shareholders in March.
“We would have to move 45,000 season tickets to reach that target of £12m or £13m,” said King.
“I actually don’t know if that’s an attainable figure. It’s something we have to say to the fans, that this is what we would like them to do. We want them to show the support they showed three years ago in coming back to support the club.
“If that happens, that’s the kind of numbers we are looking for. But it’s difficult to predict and it would be inadvisable to even guess what the figures will be. But I’m hoping to appeal to them to come back and give us that level of support.
“It is difficult to convince them. What we are really saying to them is that they have been part of this process of regime change at the club. So far, since we came in, we have demonstrated that we have done everything we said we were going to do.
“The club needed money – we put the money in. That’s an absolute fact. We’ve done our bit, so I’m really asking the fans to think back to three seasons ago when, for their first home game in the Third Division, Rangers had the biggest attendance in the UK.
“That was because the fans came back and said they wanted to support the club and the vision. But I understand they might be a little leg-weary now, because they have seen it come and go.
“I’d like to think, if they look at the board they have now, and the fact we have put our money into the club, then they can roll back to that time and come and give us their full support. It really is a combination of the fans’ support and increased funding that we require over the next three years.
“Maybe if the fans don’t come back and give that support, then the level of increased funding becomes higher.
“You can compensate for that over the next three years but, in terms of sustainability, it only happens if we get the fans back.
“Ultimately I’m going to be judged – and quite rightly so – by whether I deliver on my statement of intent. It’s not a promise, because one cannot make a promise like that. But the statement of intent is that we are taking it very seriously and going to provide the funds. If I stop providing the funds then the fans can come and say ‘You let me down’.”
Season tickets, priced at £312 for adults, £210 for concessions and £53 for juveniles, go on sale as Rangers remain without a manager. Whoever gets the job also faces a frantic period of recruiting a largely new squad of players for next season with King confirming that 11 out-of-contract players have not been offered new deals – Steve Simonsen, Lee Robinson, Lee McCulloch, Bilel Mohsni, Richard Foster, Stevie Smith, Sebastian Faure, Kyle Hutton, Ian Black, Kris Boyd and Jon Daly.
Former Brentford manager Mark Warburton, who would bring ex-Rangers captain Davie Weir as his assistant, is on the shortlist of five candidates along with Stuart McCall who was in interim charge for the last 12 weeks of the season. King revealed that several potential candidates withdrew their interest in the job when Rangers failed to earn promotion to the Premiership but he insists he is not overly worried by the delay in the process.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a concern,” added King. “It would have been preferable if it could have been done differently.
“But it is a necessarily long period. Nothing meaningful on the managerial side could be done until we found out what league we were playing in.
“We knew there were certain candidates we had a level of interest in, who could have been the right choice for the way we see the club going forward, whom any further level of engagement with was fully dependent on us getting into the Premiership. That’s completely understandable.
“Stuart always understood that if he had performed well and got the team up, then he would have been a strong candidate. But there were certainly no assurances given to him directly or indirectly that he would get the job. He always understood that to be the case.”