Sons of Struth: Board hid behind jargon to confound fans

THE Rangers board must answer serious questions about the club's finances to earn the trust of the fans.

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The Rangers board face an uphill battle to win fans' trust
The Rangers board face an uphill battle to win fans' trust

That was the stark message delivered to the five directors who held on to power at a stormy AGM.

Norman Crighton, James Easdale, David Somers, Brian Stockbridge and Graham Wallace all kept their positions. But it was the major shareholders - most significantly mysterious institutional investors Blue Pitch and Margarita - who voted the quintet back into power.

And it was clear from the reaction of most supporters at the meeting that not all the club officials had their full backing. Controversial finance director Stockbridge in particular was subjected to some vitriolic abuse as tensions rose.

Craig Houston, mastermind of the Sons of Struth protest group, left, was unsurprised some directors had a torrid time. The lifelong supporter has, like many fans, been deeply frustrated at the lack of transparency around the club's business. He believes chief executive Wallace and his colleagues MUST shed light on key issues before they can join forces with fans and move forward together.

Most importantly, he feels a detailed breakdown of exactly where the £22million raised by the IPO last December went to must be forthcoming.

"There were no surprises for me in terms of the questions that were asked by the fans or the answers that were given by ­directors," he said. "I felt there were a lot of political and non-specific answers.

"There was a lot of hiding behind phrases like 'stock market regulations say I can't answer that'. I am not a lawyer or a stock broker, but it just seemed like ducking and diving."

Houston added: "We are still waiting for a number of important issues that we have to be addressed.

"We were informed months ago by Brian Stockbridge that we would be told where the £6.5million that the share issue cost went to. Well, we are still waiting for that information.

"The board want to offer an olive branch and engage with fans. That is fine. Unless, of course, it is more futile dialogue that goes nowhere. They have to show trust and openness and answer the questions we have. They have to stop telling us it's big bad boys who did it and ran away. They have to man up and start building bridges."

New Rangers chief executive Wallace, former chief operating officer at Barclays Premier League giants Manchester City, has admitted fresh investment is needed.

The SPFL League One leaders will have just £1million in the bank by April and some financial experts predict they will run out of money midway through next season. But Houston believes existing investors, those who voted for requisitioners Scott Murdoch, Malcolm Murray, Paul Murray and Alex Wilson especially, will be uneasy with the board.

And the businessman believes Wallace has a lot of work to do to convince interested parties to plough cash into an institution after seeing its share price halved in 12 months.

He added: "I spoke to a major investor after the AGM. He was wanting to see change and voted for the nominees.

"There are now a whole group of guys like him, significant investors who do not have representation on the board. It seems like Blue Pitch, Margarita and Laxey Partners are the only institutional ­investors represented. Artemis, too, have done a 180 degree U-turn and supported the board so maybe they were promised something.

"We were told by Mr Stockbridge that we were on track for the five-year plan. But we don't know what the five-year plan is: They would probably tell us that under Aim regulations they are not allowed to tell us!

"Before the IPO we were told the club would lose between £1million and £2million in its first year. Then when the accounts for the year were finally published it turns out we have lost £14million…it does not fill you with great confidence."

It appears despite their victory the Rangers board still have a lot to do to enhance relations with their paying customers.

Finance

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