Rangers ... who picks up the pieces?

THE acrimonious battle for control of Rangers is nearing its end game.

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The Rangers AGM takes places on Thursday
The Rangers AGM takes places on Thursday

Both sides are wheeling out their key players - Blue Knights and white kings, alongside a support cast of assorted pawns, in the ultimate battle for control of Ibrox.

Very soon, all of the political posturing from the rival factions will, at long last, be over. And who is to assume power at the Ibrox club - the existing board or the requisitioners - will become clear.

For anyone who has grown weary of this saga, and that has to be just about everyone who has shown even a passing interest, it will not be a moment too soon.

Alas, the likelihood is the long-awaited AGM at Ibrox on Thursday morning will not, regardless of the outcome, result in peace breaking out immediately.

If the current directors prevail especially.

There are too many unanswered questions, is too much uncertainty about what the future holds, is too much mistrust among supporters for that to happen.

Both Graham Wallace, the new chief executive, and Sandy Easdale, the shareholder and chairman of the football board, spoke publicly last week of their need to engage more with fans.

They were not wrong. The relationship between the Rangers hierarchy and their paying customers has deteriorated to an all-time low in recent weeks and months.

The three main supporters organisations, the Assembly, the Association and the Trust, have even spoken of the prospect of "disengaging" with the club.

That thinly-veiled threat not to buy season tickets and official club merchandise underlines their deep unhappiness at the stewardship of Rangers.

This, remember, is a club that some financial experts have predicted will run out of money midway through next season. Even Brian Stockbridge, the financial director who has been subjected to so much abuse from the stands, has admitted there will be just £1million left in the bank by April.

Having raised £22million in an IPO and banked significant sums from two tranches of season ticket sales, those are alarming and inexplicable forecasts.

So supporters are quite entitled to ask where their hard-earned has gone to and, given the inflated bonuses and mammoth pay-outs handed to some, where it will go to in future.

The haemorrhaging of so much cash is what turned the fans - who, it must be remembered, were desperate to get behind the club - against those who were previously in charge.

They need to receive satisfactory answers to all of their queries if they are to continue to bankroll the club as it bids to return to the top flight.

Previous meetings with senior officials at Rangers have done little to allay their fears. In some cases, in fact, they have simply heightened their frustration, suspicion and unhappiness.

The appointment of Wallace, a former chief financial officer and chief operating officer at Barclays Premier League club Manchester City, does augur well for the future.

He has the potential to become a key figure at Rangers in the years to come. Perhaps THE key figure.

The 52-year-old Scot is widely accepted - including by the nominees - as being a credible, experienced, professional and trustworthy individual.

There has been a distinct dearth of those kind of businessmen at the top of the marble staircase in the last few years.

But he has much work to do in order to regain the backing of the supporters and drive the club forward. Whether he can do either is far from certain.

There are also no assurances his fellow directors, Norman Crighton, James Easdale and David Somers, will be accepted.

Somers is another who appears, like Wallace, to have built up an impeccable track record in business throughout his career.

But the Englishman disappointed many Light Blues diehards with his open letter that was published on the official club website at the end of last month. Talk of "bogey men" set alarm bells ringing. There was quite enough of this mumbo-jumbo when a certain Charles Green Esq was at the helm.

His vociferous support of Stockbridge, who pocketed a £200,000 bonus for Rangers winning the Third Division, was not well received either.

Stockbridge has accepted he was wrong to accept that sum and has promised to return it to the club.

But even Laxey Partners Ltd, the largest single shareholder in the club, admitted to a group of Rangers fans in London last week that they had issues with him.

Even if Scott Murdoch, Malcolm Murray, Paul Murray and Alex Wilson win the vote at the AGM it is not guaranteed that normality will be restored.

Just what that quartet will find lurking in the club accounts if they do does not bear thinking about.

Who are the anonymous investors behind Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Funds? What is the strategy of Laxey Partners Ltd?

The value of shares has halved in a year. Are these institutions, with no emotional attachment to Rangers, going to sit idly by as their stake plummets in value and do nothing?

A look at the former business practices of Laxey Partners suggests they will not. Those running the Isle of Man-based hedge fund have a tendency to try and make a swift profit before moving on to the next project.

Utilising the assets of Rangers, namely Ibrox, the Albion car park and Murray Park, has been mooted as one of their plans.

Former chief executives Charles Green and Craig Whyte also continue to cast a shadow over the club despite repeated assurances they are not involved.

Both sides say they have wealthy investors lined up who are willing to plough more money into the club if the unrest ends.

It is, though, difficult to see that happening in the near future no matter who is voted in at the AGM.

As Malcolm Murray stated: "This is just a nightmare, the most difficult corporate governance situation I have ever seen."

Football

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