Deserted seats show reality of angry Rangers fans voting with their feet

THE displays of the Rangers team on the park last week were cause for optimism down Ibrox way.

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There were thousands of empty seats at Ibrox on Saturday
There were thousands of empty seats at Ibrox on Saturday

Ally McCoist's side netted 12 goals in their two competitive outings and put their shaky early-season form well and truly behind them.

The size of the crowds in the home games against both Clyde and Dumbarton, however, were reasons to look towards the future with trepidation.

And the attendance at the SPFL Championship fixture with Dumbarton on Saturday afternoon was particularly alarming.

For the league meeting with the Sons was perhaps the best chance so far to gauge what the turnout will be like at Rangers home games in the 2014/15 campaign.

The Petrofac Training Cup matches with Hibs and then Clyde were always going to attract smaller crowds due to the stature of the competition and the size of the opposition.

Much was made of the fact that only 11,190 supporters filed through the turnstiles in the 8-1 victory in the latter game last Monday.

It was the lowest Ibrox attendance at a competitive fixture for 29 years.

Yet that encounter with part-time opponents from the bottom tier of Scottish football was - despite Gers great Barry Ferguson being in charge of the opposition - expected to draw that sort of response.

There were 43,683 in the Championship opener against Hearts a fortnight ago. But there were special circumstances surrounding that fixture.

The League One flag was unfurled and the Govan Stand was renamed in honour of Sandy Jardine before kick-off.

Plus, the first game against age-old adversaries Hearts after two long seasons of often uninspiring outings against our national game's lesser lights was guaranteed to put a fair few bums on seats.

No, the Dumbarton game at the weekend was a far better barometer of what size the attendances - and, in turn, the gate receipts -will be for Rangers in the weeks and months which lie ahead.

And the fact that only 31,175 turned up on a perfect afternoon for football must be worrying for both those who follow the fortunes and those who control the purse-strings at the troubled Glasgow institution.

It was the lowest turnout at a league game at Ibrox since 24,177 fans watched Rangers defeat Falkirk 4-0 thanks to a Robert Fleck double and goals from Davie Cooper and Terry Butcher on December 13, 1986.

A home game against Methil minnows East Fife around this time last year drew 42,870.

No company can have nearly a quarter of their customers disappear in the space of 12 months without drastic consequences.

Even if all of the 34,000 fans who bought season tickets to see Rangers in League One last season had renewed this summer, the club would still not have had enough money to see them to the end of this term.

So for just how long will the Light Blues be able to limp along with just over 20,000 season book holders and fewer than 10,000 turning up and paying at the gate on match days?

There are ambitious plans for Rangers to hold another share offering in the very near future and the hope is to raise in the region of £4million of much-needed capital from that.

But with shareholder Sandy Easdale and wealthy fan George Letham due to have loans totalling £1.5m repaid, financial experts have predicted that will only sustain the club until the end of the year.

The ongoing lack of clarity over Rangers future off the field is overshadowing the fact that on it they appear to be getting their act together after some poor performances.

They brushed aside Dumbarton with ease at the weekend thanks to strikes from Lee McCulloch, Darren McGregor and Nicky Clark. An own goal from Chris Turner aided their cause considerably.

Bilel Mohsni, who was highly fortunate not to be red carded by referee Brian Colvin for his trip on Scott Agnew, also turned the ball into his net late on to give the sizeable travelling support a reason to cheer.

That lapse of judgment by the Tunisian, though, could not wipe the smile from McCoist's face after a highly satisfactory performance by his charges from front to back.

He said: "The skipper played in central midfield and chipped in with a goal, Nicky got a good goal and our right-back played well and scored a great goal.

"To be scoring goals is always good. But to be scoring goals from different areas is an added bonus for us.

"I was annoyed we didn't keep a clean sheet, but I thought the football was of a high standard. We created a lot of chances, scored four good goals, hit the post and had a goal disallowed.

"It is consistency that is going to win us the league this year. That is what we have to work hard to get.

"There are going to be a lot of difficult games for us in the months ahead and we have to be at our best every week."

Football

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