Or so we’re being told, anyway.
I’m trying not to laugh here, but it’s funny, because if this is true, we’ve seen one of the most wide-ranging press and PR campaigns of recent memory result in utter, abject failure.
We’ve seen two of “Scotland’s biggest business heavyweights”, Dave King and Jim McColl, fail to move a board fronted by a convicted criminal and his brother, who run a loss making bus company, and a fiancé director whose only claim to fame is a bit of amateur video making.
How do you recover from this? When you have more egg on your face than Kirk Broadfoot and you’ve partially destroyed the thing you love? Who told these people this was a good idea? Who convinced them it could work? When they commissioned their feasibility studies before embarking on this course of action, did they hire reputable people? Or was Clarence Beaks the only guy available on that particular day?
This really is like something from a movie, the kind where you’re laughing all the way through. Knock on the door of the Ibrox boardroom and if Randolph and Mortimer aren’t swinging on their chairs when you walk in, like big kids who just found out the teacher is gone for the day, then you’re on the wrong film set. Because this whole thing is a farce.
Dan Akroyd an Eddie Murphy could have walk on parts. But then, so too could Tom Hanks and Shelly Long, and in fact that’s more appropriate, because in the end there was no Trading Places today.
Instead, Sevco continues to resemble another great 80’s movie; The Money Pit.
That’s the one where Hanks and Long buy a mansion for a song and think they’re living the dream.
On the outside at least, it looks too good to be true, which is apt since it is.
The place is, quite literally, falling apart. On their first day and night, the doors falls off, the roof is leaking and even the trees in the garden aren’t exactly securely bedded in. Over the next few days they experience calamity on calamity, but the real nightmare starts on the day the pipes refuse to work, the electricity shorts out, the bath falls through the floor and the stairs collapse. It’s a wonderful, wonderful montage of grim destruction, which ends in Hanks laughing hysterically as he surveys the devastation, and his impending financial ruin.
None of the shareholders at today’s meeting were laughing. There were no sly jokes for the gallery to lap up at this one. The grim faces on one side of the table were more than offset by the angry expressions on the other.
Earlier in the week we saw the most uncomfortable TV interview since Peter Smith interrogated Charles Green. In the event, it was the same man who got Sandy Easdale in for a grilling, and asked some of the most pertinent questions any journalist had dared put to him yet.
At this juncture, I have to say that Smith is emerging as a real star in this saga, the kind of guy you wish the written press had. Easdale squirmed and evaded, and tried hard to get out of answering, but Smith didn’t let him off with it.
The big moment came when Smith asked him about the McGill’s Buses trading figures; a £450,000 profit for last year, following on from a £415,000 loss the previous year. He, rightly, wanted to know how much money Easdale has, and where it comes from. These questions are central to an understanding of what’s really going on at Ibrox, and they are even more important as to the question of what’s coming next.
Sevco Rangers is, at the present time, quite literally The Money Pit, sucking in cash like a black hole. The Easdale’s don’t have anywhere near the kind of wealth they’ll need to sustain the club’s current rate of losses, and anyone watching this carefully knows it. There is no-one on the board to continue to fund Ally’s dream of glory, and he knows it too.
McCoist got a standing ovation today, reminding me again that he is one of the most misunderstood characters in this whole farcical series of events. He and his forerunner Walter Smith are complicit in all of this, up to their armpits, and I can speak with categorical assurance when I say that there is not a day goes by when some in the Celtic support do thank God for these two men, because without them this might never have happened.
Smith spent Rangers to the edge of destruction, pursuing policies that were utterly suicidal. He thought what many at Rangers thought, that the Murray millions would never run out. Indeed, as long as his friends at the bank were continuing to throw good money after bad it might have been ten more years before we saw an end to the madness. But the crash of 2008 took care of all that, and even then, Smith refused to stop spending, and the result was a club on its knees by the time Craig Whyte bought the lot for a quid.
Smith’s spending demands, and the board which indulged them, made Rangers ripe for the picking for a man such as Whyte, who’s plan from the first was to put the club in administration so he could write off the historical losses. Without Smith at the helm, this disastrous policy would never have been pursued. It was like opening a blood bank next to a graveyard, and inviting all the vampires in.
Smith and McCoist have had a rare old time at the expense of the Rangers supporters. Both helped to sell first Whyte and then Green to the fans. They are the ones who allowed their names to become attached to the season ticket sales, the share floatation’s . They are the men who lent their legitimacy to the biggest bunch of chancers since Ocean’s Eleven.
Without them, the short con could never have been run. Indeed, McCoist is still there to this day, earning close on a million a year, as preparations for the long con get underway.
Yesterday was a bad day for Craig Thomas Whyte, at least if you believe the papers. Some people have gone so far as to say it wipes him out as a force in all this, but if you really accept that then you’re living in a fantasy world. At worst, Whyte now has his back to the wall, with no other choice than to pursue a claim against Sevco Rangers, without which he’s ruined. The man now, quite literally, has nothing to lose … and I suspect he’ll go “all in.”
Charles Green and Craig Whyte were working together over the relaunch of Rangers. There can be little doubt about that, and they carried off the first part of their plan flawlessly. Green came in, took over everything, and was running things his own way, until the lies he was telling tripped him up. He took a back seat. He appointed some willing acolytes, who stepped in and ran things on his behalf.
He returned to the club, as a consultant, stayed just long enough to trouser another six figure sum, and was off again. Yet who runs Sevco Rangers now? After today, there can be little doubt that it’s the people Green helped put in place.
And where did Whyte find Green or vice versa? Who the Hell knows, but the one constant throughout the last year have been the secretive guys at the back of the room who fronted him the money for the club, and who have never been identified. Who really cares whether these guys are working for Whyte, or for Green, for both or for none of the above?
Their votes are the ones that made the difference today and their interests are all that really matter.
The way it works is simple. The faces of these men are not revealed, but they’ve pulled every string in the last few years. Was Green their front man? It doesn’t matter, because when Green was no longer useful they moved him out. The same with Imran Ahmed and Craig Mather. These weren’t people doing a serious job; they were yes men for the real power behind the club. Those same shadowy figures now have the Easdale’s in place, along with a new chairman and a new CEO … but nothing’s really changed.
Those guys are now looking at their “investment” and pondering the future. Thanks to Paul Murray and his campaign of destabilisation, there is little prospect of any serious person putting more money into Sevco Rangers in the hope of getting a return via dividends and a rising share price. This is beginning to take on the look of a “pump and dump”, with the Rangers fans as the ultimate targets of the scam. I could be wrong … but there are a couple of indicators I can’t ignore.
Ponder the following scenario. Tell me if it sounds credible. It’s certainly not impossible.
The Sevco Rangers share price should already have “bottomed out” and it hasn’t. I find that amazing, with a period of sustained board instability tearing the club to pieces. Yet through it all, un-named groups have been buying and selling shares, and I can’t help but think the reason for this isn’t, as some have surmised, a jockeying for position at today’s vote, which most of us predicted months ago would end just so, but actually a scheme to keep the shares trading at a reasonably high price, until this whole AGM business was done.
Now, with their positions secure and further scrutiny largely impossible, there’s nothing to stop these guys from running down the cash and then offering the shares back to the fans, at a rate which guarantees them a good return. They can tell the supporters anything they like; the club needs a period of renewal, that it needs recapitalising, that it needs to restore trust with the supporters. Hell, they can even say the club will be better run if it is run by people who know it, and love it. Any of those could work.
So what happens? The fans are, once again, encouraged to buy shares. McCoist can make a wee plea to them to get behind this new offering. And they will, of course, run out to buy out the spivs, putting their own hard earned money down to change the regime again.
But then what? Well, imagine you wake up one day and find the Rangers fans own Sevco Rangers. At first there would be jubilation, delight, enormous relief, the end of a long hard road.
Then what? None of the money “invested” would be in the club. That would have already gone into the pockets of the spivs, who would be laughing all the way to their own banks. The club would have a board of directors made up of non-shareholders, on high salaries. McCoist might still have his shares, Smith might still have his, but so what?
A fan owned club sounds all well and good, but Sevco Rangers can’t be run by committee.
There’s a great scene in the final season of The Thick of It, when Ben Swain thinks he’s about to become Shadow Chancellor. Malcolm Tucker sarcastically questions him on his qualifications for the job, which are non-existent. The whole idea is ir ridiculous, and that Swain believes he can do it is embarrassing, as Tucker well knows, but the spin doctor has no intention of making it real.
Rangers fans running the club is on a par with that. Look at their leaders, and you’ll see why it’s a nonsense. Who are they going to appoint head of Media Relations? Chris Graham? You might as well put Mark Dingwall in as Finance Director whilst you are there.
Imagine it. Rangers fans owning Sevco Rangers, a club leaking a million pounds a month. Who in the Hell would be able to steady the ship then? It would be a matter of time before the whole thing tanked, before the share price tumbled, before the walls came down.
And I can see it happening just-so. The Rangers fans want these people out. These people are now in total control, and the future is in their hands.
None of the potential scenarios are good for Rangers fans. Let’s go through them one at a time. We will base these on the assumption that there is no crazy end game here like the one Whyte was pursuing going in; the game where these people actually benefit from an administration and/or liquidation event. If we exclude that, what do we have left?
Well, the way I see it we have five possible outcomes.
1) The spivs run the club like a business
I cannot think of anything worse for the Rangers supporters than if these guys are serious in their aims to turn the club into a sustainable enterprise, a la Celtic. The cutting would be savage, the kind no club’s supporters would put up with, far less fans who, for thirty years plus, have seen their club shot up with steroids and easy money.
2) The spivs sell the shares back to the fans
The scenario I described above. At first it would seem like a dream come true, but in short order fans would discover they’ve been sold a dead puppy in a brown paper bag. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe how entertaining and amusing and farcical that scenario would actually be. I would die laughing, I’m not joking.
3) The Rangers fans boycott to get the spivs out
Could happen. They’ve threatened to make it happen. But the sad truth is, it’s already too late for that course of action to do any good. The optimum time for it would have been here, now, this season, whilst the club has a healthy lead in the league. If they do it in the close season the club will be plunged into instant administration and the cuts would start for real. The playing squad would not be strengthened, but dismantled, just in time for the new season to start … and here’s the funniest part. The Big Lie depends on Sevco Rangers being a direct continuation of the old club, and as a result, to support that, the SPFL would have no choice but to term it a “second administration event” and impose the standard penalty … a 25 point deduction, and there goes all hope of being promoted and, with a patchwork team, run by Ally, makes relegation a distinct reality. Oh what fun we’d have watching that particular slow car crash.
The spivs crash the club through mismanagement
They are losing £1 million per month right now. That’s a staggering sum of money, and even if they brought in “fresh investment” it would only delay the day of destiny as long as the club continues to operate as it is now. Chasing world records and Ally’s dreams leads to only one place; the graveyard. There is no magic “reality altering” formula here. Either someone funds that insanity himself or the money will run out, and the lights will go off.
5) The spivs cash in on the assets … the club survives … for a while
There are various sub-scenarios here, but all of them fall under the heading of what I’ve elsewhere described as The Long Con, otherwise known as the Death of a Thousand Cuts. In the Long Con, the spivs or their allies not only cream off big management fees for running the club into the ground, but they also make a tidy annual sum on “rent” for the properties the club presently owns.
There is one scenario where the spivs could actually “sell” these assets to themselves, at a discount rate, leaving Sevco Rangers as two separate companies; one that owned the football club and the other owning the stadium, and collecting rent from the first.
This deal might sound so unpalatable there’s simply no way it could be sold to the Rangers fans, but emotion is a difficult thing to overcome and if it were presented as a choice of “we do it or we die” there is no doubt in my mind that the bulk of the support would accept it.
When you look at English football, at Cardiff being “rebranded” and at Hull being renamed, when you look at the support amongst the Rangers fans for a stadium naming deal, when you consider that supporters throughout the land will put up with just about anything … how can you write off that scenario as being something the fans would never accept?
Those are the five possibilities, and regardless of what the press might think they are the only five with even the remotest chance of happening. The sixth, the one people in our media and in the Rangers support like to imagine, the one where a cabal of money men comes in and funds the next big assault on Europe, is a fantasy which no rational person can honestly believe in.
Darkness has fallen over Ibrox today. When your saviours come with criminal records you have to take a long hard look at where you are and wonder how you got there and where you might be going next. When vast sums of money are being frittered away, and the only solution some at the club can come up with is to spend more, you have to wonder how long you can survive.
A few short months ago, Walter was at the helm and McColl was on the periphery, and King was about to breeze back into town with an open chequebook … or so the press would have you believe.
Those who think the media in this country really, truly, loves Sevco Rangers and wants the best for the supporters are really not paying attention to the enormous psychological damage they are doing to those people over and over again by continuing to spin the fantasy that everything will be alright. It will not be alright. Today is the beginning of the end.
Nothing good can come of this. Today’s events leave Sevco Rangers in the hands of men whose only viable plan is one to take as much money from the fans as they can, and they can put a gun to their heads to get it.
This piece started out on a funny note, but I’ll end it on a deadly serious one.
When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was at the height of his powers, he had an interesting way of making friends in the government and police force. He called it “plata o plomo”. It’s Spanish, meaning “silver or lead.” In other words, your choices were to take the money or pay the consequences.
Rangers fans, your options are to pay the money or take the consequences.
You can keep on paying, or you can watch the club die. There’s no middle ground.
Of course, if you keep on paying there’s no guarantee the club won’t die anyway … but that’s just the reality of your position. It’s not a nice one, is it?
Merry Christmas to you from On Fields of Green.
I’d wish you a Happy New Year … but something tells me there may be trouble ahead.
(James Forrest recently published his first article on Yahoo. You can help On Fields of Green by reading his work there, becoming a “fan” and subscribing to his updates.)
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