CRAIG WHYTE today assured Rangers supporters he will underwrite an investment of £20million into the club by 2016 – but revealed he is open to the idea of other major investors coming on board and fan ownership schemes.
He also denied rumours that the club were running out of money and insisted that, although £3m of cash has been frozen in three pending claims against them by HMRC, former chief executive Martin Bain and finance director Donald McIntyre, there would be scope to make signings in January.
Details emerged today of his first meeting with the four board members of the powerful Rangers Supporters' Trust, which took place yesterday at Ibrox.
Whyte – who reiterated Rangers would survive even if they are hit with a £49m tax bill in their on-going battle with HMRC even though much of his future plans hinge on the outcome of that case – wants to establish a working base for the club's commercial operations in the City of London, like Manchester United,
Whyte was questioned on a number of topics, and the RST were pleased with his open and honest approach.
Trust board member Mark Dingwall said: "The meeting went very well. It was very open and relaxed and Mr Whyte answered all our questions that were put forward on behalf of our members. Everyone who attended was satisfied with how the meeting went. He is committed to engaging with the fans and groups such as the Trust, the Rangers Supporters'Assembly and Association.
"He is confident regarding the tax case but, if it does not go the way Rangers hope, he is determined to see the club through. He is fully committed to protecting small shareholders going forward, no matter the circumstances.
"He talked about the fact Manchester United have offices in London and meeting with the commercial director there to see how they operate. He thinks Rangers have maybe been under-selling themselves over the years and is keen to take advantage of the fact that the club is so well supported across the world. He is keen to expand the Rangers brand.
"We have a particular interest in fan involvement and Mr Whyte was certainly very interested in that and the nature of that. It is something that needs discussion, but he was speaking about looking at the model used at Hamburg and also by some Portuguese clubs. He is hoping to go to Hamburg for the friendly and speak with people at the club regarding this matter."
The minutes from the Whyte meeting with the RST reveal ...
ADMINISTRATION OF THE CLUB: The chairman is 100% committed to protecting the rights of small shareholders in the event of the club going into administration.
He does not consider that insolvency is inevit-able, but in any case it will be manageable. He stated "as a Rangers fan it would be as uncomfortable and unpleasant" for him as for everyone else, but he was confident we would see it through. There is no doubt the club would continue.
THE TAX CASE: The chairman expects the case to come to a head before Christmas, but any outcome would still be subject to appeal.
INWARD INVESTMENT: The chairman re-iterated he will underwrite the investment of £20m by 2016. However, he is open to other investment from other major investors and the fans.
FREEZING OF CASH DUE TO LEGAL PROCEEDINGS: The chairman conceded this makes life difficult with regard to cash-flow, but it will not affect the club's ability to, for instance, make signings in the January window.
FINANCE: The chairman regards it as necessary to pursue a twin-track approach in the current climate with both cost- cutting and income generation being the keys to financial health.
He used the example of the Manchester United operations base in London where they engage with major corporations to exploit commercial value.
He is actively seeking to establish an office for Rangers in the city of London – he regards the club as a big one and thinks it's time we started acting in a manner befitting one; believes Rangers has vast untapped potential.
RESIGNATIONS OF DIRECTORS: The chairman said he considered he got on well with both John Greig and John McClelland and he first heard of their resignations was when they were reported in the media. He felt he had not excluded them from decision-making.
FAN REPS: As fans are the major investors in RFC, the Trust favours looking at mechanisms to give them a real say in the affairs of the club.
The chairman is very open to such moves, but stressed the club finances are very much subject to the result of the tax case.
LEARNING FROM OTHER CLUBS: The chairman hopes to visit Hamburg and see how a large fan-owned club like HSV operates.
He also believes the membership system of Portuguese clubs could be worth exploring and which parts of them might be applicable to Scotland.
Whyte was asked about his decision to ban the BBC ahead of tonight's documentary programme, to be screened at 7pm, into his takeover and the club's future.
The minutes revealed: "The chairman considered that allegations put to him so far by the BBC were unfounded and unfair.
"He is not aware of all of the content of the programme but, after viewing, he will respond accordingly.
"He views the 'BBC Investigates' programme as part of a pattern of behaviour on behalf of the BBC towards Rangers and Rangers fans.
"He's astonished that the BBC would produce a programme largely based on internet chit-chat and bloggers."