Saviours In Shrouds

Baby Death_There is a glorious moment in the movie Things To Do In Denver When Your Dead, when one of the main characters, Easy Wind, has just been shown his future. He and a small group of friends are on the run from the feared gangland boss The Man With The Plan, after badly botching a job they were sent to do. Jimmy the Saint, the leader of this rag-tag band of losers, has organised Easy Wind’s ‘out’.

He will, henceforth, be living under the protection of a gang of crazy desperados led by the aptly named Baby Sinister.

Easy Wind gets out of the car with Jimmy, and he looks across at his new band of brothers. He gives Jimmy a pained look and says “When your saviours look like those mothers, you know you done stepped in it one time too many.”

Today Dave King’s in the papers again, offering himself as the saviour of NewCo Rangers. A lot of their fans seem in a big hurry to embrace him. Others are watching him warily, not wanting to commit, concerned that if this is help arriving things really are darker than they’d thought. Did things just get better, or worse? There is no good answer to that.

What is it with NewCo Rangers, and to an extent the OldCo before it, that it attracts these kind of people? Craig Whyte, Charles Green, the Easdale’s, Dave King and assorted space-cadets ranging from hard-core Unionist politicians, crooked struck off lawyers and, my favourite, even a story a few years back that involved the Russian Mafia.

News of the World ran that one. They spun it as good news. They said the OldCo Rangers fans wouldn’t care where the money came from, as long as it was improving the quality of the team. It’s that kind of reporting that has led the club to where it is.

Do all football clubs have people like this hovering about on the periphery? I would guess not. At NewCo Rangers they don’t chase these people. They open the doors wide, and let them straight into the boardroom … and the football authorities allow them to do it.

They say that victory has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan. At Ibrox that entire concept has been turned on its head. This disaster has so many authors that Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, would struggle to keep count of them all. This is a multi-layer catastrophe, with a cast like a Rodney Trotter Production.

It’s tempting to suggest that we should feel some sympathy for the supporters, but I’ve already seen a couple of websites claiming to speak for some of their fans organisations, and they are rolling out the red carpet for a convicted tax cheat, a man a judge condemned as a “glib and shameless liar.” That makes sympathy hard to sustain. If it wasn’t for the people sitting opposite King I would say those fans are mugs who deserve everything they get.

So begins another battle for the soul of the club. Looking at the combatants, you wonder just what state the soul is in if this grubby cast of characters are the only people scrambling to get their hands on it. No amount of media spinning will make this look any better. It is a slug-fest between one discredited, convicted crook and a rag-bag group led by another.

How did a “great Scottish institution” fall into this scandalous state?

We’ve been over that ground a thousand times on this site, and on others. The story of their downfall has been talked about, written about and even sung about until everyone in the country has some understanding of it, even if that understanding is warped by spin. The basic outline is familiar to everyone, and it does no good to go over it again.

Through all of it, it’s hard not to conclude that what binds all the moments of crisis, what unites those who oversaw them and drives this towards the next conflagration is that nowhere is there one person who appears to have learned the lessons of the past. From Ally McCoist in the manager’s office to the various directors and financiers, there is no willingness to embrace the truth of the situation facing the club. Everyone wants to carry on as before, whether that’s taking the club to fancy hotels before games against third tier teams or in talking about spending tens of millions to keep up with Celtic … there appears to be a wholesale policy of ignoring reality.

It is instructive, at this point, to study what Dave King has actually said, and what he appears to be proposing here. Comprehending it requires the abandonment of rational thought for a moment, and indulgence in pure fantasy instead. It may be the most far-fetched and nonsensical thing I’ve read since I picked up, started, and then threw Atlas Shrugged across the room.

“It is correct that any club must, over the long term, operate within its means, but in the short term, Rangers needs a significant once-off financial boost that cannot be met from the current revenue stream …. Without this, we will not get back to where we should be … If we cut our costs to suit our present income, we will remain a small club and Celtic will shoot through 10 in a row – and beyond – while we slug it out for the minor places.”

So many questions arise from that short statement that just asking them would require an article in itself. Of course, one of our sites will probably have to take up that task at some point. Our media certainly won’t. I look forward to reading that piece.

Looking at the substance of what King is suggesting, you can see that it’s ludicrous. Even if those funds could be raised – and good luck going to the City of London and asking people to invest money in building Ally McCoist’s dream Rangers XI – it creates more problems than it solves. I’ve looked a hundred times at the figures, and even if the club was competing for the title and playing in Europe the funds would not be there to keep the lights on.

This isn’t difficult to work out. Say you can pay for the transfer fees to assemble a competitive squad. It’s madness, but let’s suspend disbelief for a moment.

You have to push wages up with them. By how much? Well, Celtic’s footballing wage bill sits, right now, at £35 million. Rangers’ sits at £8.2 million. To attain equilibrium, Rangers would have to increase their salary costs by as much as 400%.

Season ticket prices at Ibrox are about to shoot up. Some analysts think the club will just about break even next year at the new level. Others think that, too, is fanciful. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they would. Spend the kind of money King is talking about, however, and everything changes. You’d need to double the price again just to come close to achieving income on a level which would support wages that high.

So you need someone to carry constant losses. Who’s going to do that? Who’s going to go to UEFA and explain those losses to them, when they ask how you plan on reaching parity with Financial Fair Play regulations? I consider that just one of the big gaping holes in the notion that spending vast sums of money is the answer to NewCo Rangers many, many ills.

King’s solution – that the fans withhold season ticket money – is also a highly questionable notion. Destabilising the club appears, to me, like an unusual way of showing the love, and I am moved to ask why, if the situation is so desperate, do King and these other alleged “high net worth individuals” not just pony up the money and start buying shares right now.

They will say it’s because they want the money to go into the club itself, and not to line the pockets of existing shareholders, and that, on the surface, seems all well and good … except those existing shareholders will only leave one of two ways; if someone buys them out or if their shares become worthless. If you rule out the former, that leaves only the latter … and that can only be achieved by another liquidation. Note the word I used there.

King’s plan for the fans to put the money into a “trust fund” is equally insane. He has told the fans to get that fund up and running. But which fans? The supporters groups hate each other with a passion, perhaps more so than they hate all those “outside enemies” they collect like football cards. Some of these groups won’t share a room together, and the notion they’d trust one another with vast sums of money is almost inconceivable.

Perhaps recognising this, if not outwardly acknowledging it, the first fans group to endorse the idea, in principle, wants him to set up and administer it, and I chuckle at the notion; trusting a man found guilty of hundreds of counts of fraud and tax evasion to watch over a pot of money worth as much as £15 million … what could possibly go wrong there?

King makes no bones about what the intent here is; deprive the club of money. “Starve the directors out”, is how he puts it. But the problem, of course, is that the directors will get paid either way, whether in terms of their salaries or in the value of the shares. What’ll happen, instead, is that when the hammer falls it’ll fall first on the support staff, then the suppliers, then the management team and finally on the players.

An enormous world of pain will be inflicted on the club, and everyone in it, long before the least director even feels the itch in his feet, and King knows this, because as idiotic as his scheme appears to be, the man is not an idiot.  He just doesn’t care. He talks about rescuing the club, but his scheme, by its very design, is divisive, dangerous, destabilising and, ultimately, destructive. He is perfectly willing to push the entire institution towards a new administration, and perhaps far beyond, and it’s to his credit – if I might use that word – that he’s not even trying to hide that.

Of course, it’s not how the NewCo Rangers fans see it, and it’s certainly not how the media is spinning it. When your saviours look like these, well, you’re in one Hell of a hole.

The ultimate irony of all this is that this weekend will see the return to Celtic Park of a genuine hero, a legend who’s contribution to our club is up there with that of Walfrid and Stein. The people who claim King could be NewCo Rangers’ Fergus McCann have taken all leave of their senses.

The truth is, even if there were a Fergus type out there, wrapping himself in Union Jack bedclothes at night, it’s far too late for such a person to affect real change at NewCo Rangers. There will be a second administration event, either because King pushes the club to one or because the club is headed that way regardless. The damage that will inflict on them will be truly epochal, but I no longer think even that will bring home the message that so far has eluded understanding.

The party is over. Whichever version of Rangers emerges from the wreckage, once the next tsunami of crisis has passed, will have to live within its means and accepts its limitations. King is yet another saviour, clad in the role of Pied Piper, playing a happy tune as he leads the fans towards the abyss.

Sooner or later, I keep expecting an outbreak of … sanity.

Today, as ever, there is no sign of it on the horizon.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

6 thoughts on “Saviours In Shrouds

  • 27 February, 2014 at 7:03 pm
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    You touched on an important factor, the SFA! WTF are they doing? Sitting on their hands as per usual. Whatever this secret 5 way agreement holds, it’s time we found out.
    Regan has bailed out on holiday,obviously he hopes what is undoubtedly going to happen is going to happen when he’s no there, Doncaster and Ogilvie will have already donned the tin hats and barricaded themselves inside a bunker.
    The “powers” that be should be ashamed,but they aren’t.

  • 27 February, 2014 at 7:55 pm
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    Frankly, I do not care what becomes of Sevco. My thoughts on the whole lot are unprintable.
    What did astound me in your excellent piece was that you estimated Celtic’s football wage as being circa £35M. If that is anywhere near accurate then we need to get our finances in order. That level cannot be sustained without regular UCL stage involvement. Also if we are paying out £700K a week in wages then we as punters are being seriously short-changed and NL is massively under-achieving as a Manager. I doubt if say Ajax would pay half that amount in football wages. For £35M a year, every domestic trophy should be a cert. Anything else is failure. If we can’t do trebles on that budget then the Manager should go along with the overpaid duds who fail time & time again on one-off cup ties etc. Let’s get our house in order. HH

  • 27 February, 2014 at 8:04 pm
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    Excellent piece, James.

    You ask, “What is it with NewCo Rangers, and to an extent the OldCo before it, that attracts these kinds of people?”

    I’ll give the short version of the answer.

    Both versions of the Huns have attracted a specific type of supporter who has a weakness for identifying with the apparent success of others as a substitute for addressing personal lack of achievement. All supporters like to share in their club’s moments of success but only at Ibrox has such supremacy been presented to the fanbase as a fundamental right rather than as a pleasant bonus.
    Thus, they have attracted and pandered to a particularly arrogant mindset which is very strong on demands for the success that is essential to fuel its delusions of supremacy and just as weak on perspective, self-awareness and objective analysis.
    It’s hard for followers to be objective about something into which they have invested their very identity.

    This weakness is easily identified by predatory businessmen who soon realise that all they need to do to exploit this source of revenue is present themselves as the guarantors of The WATP Myth upon which the parasitic FollowFollowers have chosen to become completely dependent.
    It’s easy.

  • 27 February, 2014 at 8:05 pm
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    Yeah John, according to the last published accounts that’s the football operations number. The overall bill for the club is £41 million.

  • 27 February, 2014 at 8:42 pm
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    Is Dave king sevco’s John Gaunt?

  • 28 February, 2014 at 1:39 pm
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    Q #1, I, m amazed at the cost of running celtic.f.c, no way can any underachieving club sustain that ammount of baggage ? Oldco and newco 2012 are also a joke , wish I knew the recipe for success , but at cfc, , no way can we justify the running costs compared to the outcome of results , time for massive re-think to halt the runaway of funds , and get s grip on the long term future , not good situ to be in , full stop “”

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