Time To End The Poker Game

As Rangers FC enters arguably the most important phase of its long history, CEO Graham Wallace – a bumper bonus cheque in his back pocket – reputedly has jetted off to Greece for a family holiday.

To the astonishment of the rival camps bidding to get control at Ibrox, Wallace has downed tools at a critical juncture. Rumours were swirling last night that he was on the verge of quitting, following Philip Nash’s resignation yesterday.

Wallace’s departure for a holiday in the sun will not sit well with Rangers fans who are biting their nails and hoping for a positive end to the funding crisis which has engulfed the club.

Dave King insists his deal is still on the table but fans are growing increasingly impatient with his soundbites and want to see substance behind the rhetoric. Nash’s departure has seriously weakened King’s move which was regarded as dead in the water, anyway, by sources close to the board.

Mike Ashley then entered the fray with his own rescue package.  As expected, this is apparently a loan offer which allows the Sports Direct tycoon to control things at Ibrox without increasing his shareholding. I personally thought he would kick in with something like £30 million to take the heat off everything but reports say he has only offered to pony up £2 million.

This is where things get a bit complicated.

On the surface, the Dave King offer dwarfs Ashley’s £2 million but, although Ashley could feasibly trump the King bid with more money, the argument is that he doesn’t have to, at least not in a one-off amount. Ashley could simply act as a lender of last resort and give Rangers the security of this backing. This would mean that there need be no new share issue which would dilute the shareholding and/or concede controlling power to another consortium.

Sound business for sure but not necessarily a ploy that will be grasped by some anxious Gers fans.

My information is that Ashley wants to sell Newcastle United and be the outright owner of Rangers in due course but this might not actually ever actualise.

The big problem is not that Mike Ashley will treat Rangers like a toy; he is much too serious a businessman to do that. No, the problem is that he will be perceived to. As long as Ashley is a minor shareholder he could be regarded as playing around with the club and this is something I am sure that the mentalists in SoS and UoF will try to use in their bitter campaign against him.

Then you have the Brian Kennedy bid. Again, it is more than Ashley’s but still only enough to keep Gers afloat for a few months. Kennedy claims “real Rangers men” have rallied to his cause but I think he is out of touch with the mood of the bluenose legions if he thinks that hackneyed old phrase will sway anybody anymore.

These boardroom battles are grim and ferocious affairs and this is understandable. However, the problem with this long-running saga is that the eventual winner could be celebrating a Pyrrhic victory. By that I mean fans are increasingly resentful of seeing their beloved club treated like the pot in a high stakes poker game. Whoever wins could see unhappy supporters exercising the ultimate veto and staying away from Rangers games. To a measure this has already happened, although many cite the poor fare on the park as the reason rather than the Dallasesque boardroom wars.

The winner who takes the crown at Ibrox may have to expend a lot more time, effort and money to woo back people who are just sickened by living in constant fear of the club going under.

Saying all that, I think Rangers fans should take a long view and be positive about the future. This season was always going to be the most challenging on and off the field of play. As Rangers gear up for the top tier once again, the pressure of finding the funds to meet the costs would inevitably come into play.

But let’s put things into perspective.

Rich men are fighting over who gets to put money into the club. Worst case scenario is only one of them wins. Maybe they all club together and pool their resources. The bottom line is Rangers will go on. Mr Struth said we would have our times of adversity. I believe he saw our day coming. But he also knew that real Rangers men and women never surrender.

Quitting and being second best is for others. It is not the Rangers way.