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The Rangers AGM - The More People Talk, the Less They Say


Frankie

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It seems every time I travel through to Ibrox this season, the weather is dreadful. Heavy rain, low cloud and an atmosphere of foreboding seem the norm no matter the time of year. Add in the less than positive mood of the Rangers support then we could change the club colours to grey, bring in John Major as manager and sell boiled rice at the kiosks and it would probably reflect the general feeling at the club well enough.

Yet, conversely, the chat online has been a bit more interesting of late: potential new owners interviewed by in-the-know journalists; fan groups releasing statements about ownership schemes; strong arguments between bears who share the same goals and objectives; and general excitement about a new era sans Sir David Murray.

Unfortunately all the (largely positive and interesting) debate surrounding the ownership of the club was turned on its head for the time being with yesterday's damp squib of an AGM. With new chairman Alistair Johnston in charge, the format was changed from recent years with an in-depth statement from him and Martin Bain (available in full from PLUS Markets) pre-empting much of the more difficult questions from the 3000 strong shareholder crowd.

Amid farcical scenes early in the meeting, the token (but important) gesture of the majority present voting against the re-election of Donald Muir was as interesting as it got. Sure, the huge proxy shareholding of Sir David Murray meant any such vote was always going to be futile but Rangers, MIH and Lloyds bank (delete as applicable for Muir's real employer) will have taken on board the opinions of these active supporters. This shows even widespread media coverage surrounding Muir's appointment didn't sway the opinions of many bears giving an increased realisation that even David Murray can't spin as well as he could do in the past. Alistair Johnston's comments added to that rather bluntly at times.

Moving onto the new chairman's speech, Johnston spoke rather well and held the attention of the crowd despite the 20mins he spoke for. An undoubtedly clever man, his awkward appearance in front of the media cameras a few months back was forgotten about here in this confident performance. Most interesting were his comments that he'd lead a Rangers Board that will become increasingly independent of the Murray Group - qualifying this by discontinuing all reimbursements to Murray Group for management services and refusing to take on four directors instead of two (Muir and McGill recently replacing SDM and Wilson) as representatives from MIH. It will be interesting to see how much further the board can go in this respect as SDM (or Lloyds depending on your opinion) still owns >91% of Rangers FC.

The chairman also made regular references to a business plan that he had reluctantly agreed with Lloyds in recent months. Obviously, every Rangers fan is aware of the financial restrictions placed upon us, so the likelihood of no future transfers and the importance of winning the SPL was nothing new. The fact he did go until to express 'scepticism' and 'caution' for any new owner in terms of not only raising the initial capital to buy the club but, more importantly, being able to prove they can retain a working finance to maintain the business moving forward was a stark reminder to those who think buying then running Rangers is simple. I wouldn't go as far as some to say he has outright dismissed the aspect of supporter ownership (wholly or in part) but he quite rightly brought everyone back into the real world by way of showing the difficulties therein.

In summary, Johnson concluded rather blandly that the club's commitment to the fans would remain a priority and touched on youth and scouting as two specific ways in which we could improve our operations.

Martin Bain then took to the stage and was also given the same courtesy by the fans for his slightly shorter but more empirical speech. Concentrating on the individual issues that would inevitably have cropped up during open questions, Bain was clever to address these beforehand and also maintained an eloquent realism while again not really saying anything we didn't know. Despite the drop in season ticket sales it was comforting to know our percentage capacity in the UK remains something to be proud of. All the more reason then for he and his chairman not dismiss our opinions lightly in future months one would hope. By concentrating on the Dundee Utd ticket fiasco and JJB merchandising improvements Bain gave the impression the club did share our opinion on such matters though. Further comment on the importance of youth football and the mention of a new structure in domestic and European football were contributions we'd also heard before. No concrete plans were outlined on how were were addressing all the above which was somewhat disappointing. Nonetheless most major talking points were covered empirically before he opened up the meeting to the shareholders for questions.

Pleasingly the time given for such questions was agreeable enough when compared to recent years. Perhaps it was the cold, cramped nature of the Bill Struth Stand or perhaps it was because the preceding speeches were delivered confidently but the quality of questions were by and large disappointing. The Jumbotron screens' condition, the discipline of players on international duty, and kick-off times dictated by TV monies didn't really add anything to the event and those that were a bit more interesting such as the contract status of players (including Boyd) and further media representation complaints were easily answered by Bain who was well briefed for these expected queries. Meanwhile Donald Muir again denied he was employed by the bank and/or that he was preparing the club for administration.

Thus, two hours after it started, the always ill-at-ease and unimpressive John McLelland brought the meeting to a close. As everyone bustled their way to the exit (and the incessant rain) the media sat in wait to try and catch shareholders off-guard with their own questions. But the truth was nothing exciting really happened. Sure, the stadium re-naming rebuttal; the no-contract status of the management team; and the guarded nature of the discussion with regard to the ownership of the club kept people awake but all-in-all the debate isn't really all that further forward.

Thus, the status-quo remains. We know the club is in financial difficulty. We know the current board appear to be in conflict with each other. We know Lloyds/MIH retain a key involvement in the running of the club. We know all the board lack the innovation required for obvious improvement. We know the ongoing financial underpinning of the club is dependent on our success. We know that club are wary of increased supporter involvement. We know the club is for sale. We know there are a few interested buyers. We know they lack the model or the backing to capture the imagination of the support at large.

All the above was information we had at our disposal before yesterday's meeting - hence the title of this equally morose article on it. As such, I urge everyone involved to take a breather and stand back for the moment until such time where we do have more precise information on the club's ownership future. In the short-term the most important thing is that the team remain successful on the pitch so it is vital we continue to support them as vocally as we can. Winning the SPL is imperative no matter who owns the club.

That is something we can all agree on. Let's build for the future on that positive note.

:)

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I think the last paragraph is really good mate. And, as I have said all along, its really hard to plan anything other than short term while the ownership issue isnt resolved. I would think that is why areas of improvement and focus were touched on, which in all honesty are aligned with most fans concerns, but, at the same time, nothing concrete can be done due to the uncertainty of the ownership.

Its basically saying we want to do x, y and z, but, we cant put it into practice until we have a new owner, which is hugely understandable. Its the same with Smiths contract.

For me, I enjoyed reading the statements, because, it was nice to see that the club as a whole, seems to have woken up to the fact that the things we as fans care/want/ar concerned about are also areas they are seeking to improve. So, while it was nothing new (as you say), it ALMOST feels like we have been listened to.

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So, while it was nothing new (as you say), it ALMOST feels like we have been listened to.

I'd agree with that actually.

I think the efforts of fans who have gone to the trouble of contacting the club with feedback was recognisable during the meeting. However, as always, the admission that certain areas need worked upon is nothing new and we still lack something of substance to buy into - be it the youth academy, scouting, match-day experience, PR etc etc....

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So, while it was nothing new (as you say), it ALMOST feels like we have been listened to.

I'd agree with that actually.

I think the efforts of fans who have gone to the trouble of contacting the club with feedback was recognisable during the meeting. However, as always, the admission that certain areas need worked upon is nothing new and we still lack something of substance to buy into - be it the youth academy, scouting, match-day experience, PR etc etc....

Indeed, I think thats the catch 22 we (and Johnston to be fair) are in. It seems to feel like things are just being kept ticking over, until the ownership situation is resolved. Good, and right as some of these areas are with regard to moving forward on, it costs money to impliment them, and, new owners may want it to be done in a different way. I would hazard a guess that plans like this are in the same state of Flux that Smiths contract is, and for the same reasons. I also think we are just going to be making sure we do just enough to win the league, until the "fresh start" happens.

Its far from ideal, but, at the same time, makes absolute perfect sense

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I liked the chairman’s statement, and I liked that both statements were released to the stock exchange.

It’s something I have been saying on here but all this depends on if you take what the board say at face value as to how much you will or won’t get out of an occasion like yesterday. Is Muir lying about his intentions ? Is the chairman lying about player sales ? Were they lying about administration? ? These are all topics that we have been told contradictory stories on by apparently impeccable sources

I was glad to hear what the chairman said about supporters ownership as it’s something I have said all along concerning this and It was nice to hear someone in a position of actual knowledge back this up. I was also glad to hear he was talking to the assembly about supporter’s representation, something I would support.

I wonder what Stories our legal and media department have blocked, as I think bain mentioned yesterday, sounds like there has been a lot more going on than any of us know at this point…….

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I liked the chairman’s statement, and I liked that both statements were released to the stock exchange.

It’s something I have been saying on here but all this depends on if you take what the board say at face value as to how much you will or won’t get out of an occasion like yesterday. Is Muir lying about his intentions ? Is the chairman lying about player sales ? Were they lying about administration? ? These are all topics that we have been told contradictory stories on by apparently impeccable sources

I was glad to hear what the chairman said about supporters ownership as it’s something I have said all along concerning this and It was nice to hear someone in a position of actual knowledge back this up. I was also glad to hear he was talking to the assembly about supporter’s representation, something I would support.

I wonder what Stories our legal and media department have blocked, as I think bain mentioned yesterday, sounds like there has been a lot more going on than any of us know at this point…….

In regards to what mate?

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I liked the chairman’s statement, and I liked that both statements were released to the stock exchange.

It’s something I have been saying on here but all this depends on if you take what the board say at face value as to how much you will or won’t get out of an occasion like yesterday. Is Muir lying about his intentions ? Is the chairman lying about player sales ? Were they lying about administration? ? These are all topics that we have been told contradictory stories on by apparently impeccable sources

I was glad to hear what the chairman said about supporters ownership as it’s something I have said all along concerning this and It was nice to hear someone in a position of actual knowledge back this up. I was also glad to hear he was talking to the assembly about supporter’s representation, something I would support.

I wonder what Stories our legal and media department have blocked, as I think bain mentioned yesterday, sounds like there has been a lot more going on than any of us know at this point…….

I don't think it may be as black and white as you may think but legally speaking the club won't be lying that's for sure.

With regard to supporters ownership, I don't actually see too much for the Trust/Assembly to be downbeat about today though as some are suggesting. The club doubting the support is old news and Johnston did form part of SDM's board so will probably share Murray's existing cynicism. However, if I were in a fan group involved in discussions with whatever buyer there may be, I'd be re-evaluating my approach to maximise the impact of anything they do have to offer in the coming weeks.

No more tid-bits in the press, no more part-interviews/feeding of information to journalists and no more 'in-the-know' posts on forums. Until such time the sound-bites match the reality, silence is more professional and attractive in this bear's humble opinion.

As for the club/MediaHouse fire-fighting the media in the background, again such comments are nothing new and without specific examples I couldn't say if it is true or not.

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There is ambiguity in the statements, as bluedell always points out to me, and I do agree with that but I guess what I am saying about these “in the know” type posts is that I have very little faith in them, even less than I had at this time last month. It’s one thing to do a bit of spin in the Scotland on Sunday and another to stand up at an AGM and be economical with the truth.

I think the people in the know are restricted to the people involved, the press haven’t had a proper whiff of what the real story is, as far as I can tell, hence them making a bigger deal out of stories like last weeks effort.

Me and you disagree on the whole concept of supporters ownership, and that is not an RST thing ,as I said last week I have always been against it, even when I was a member of the RST (which is a bit of a contradiction I know but it was a different animal then). I did see yesterday as a blow to the idea as it exposed the weaknesses of attempting it in this country and that will stick in the minds of people more than the press the scheme received last week

Although I agree no more jumping in with both feet I think it would have done them some good to be seen asking a question at the AGM concerning supporters ownership or at least releasing something yesterday talking up the idea.

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I liked the chairman’s statement, and I liked that both statements were released to the stock exchange.

It’s something I have been saying on here but all this depends on if you take what the board say at face value as to how much you will or won’t get out of an occasion like yesterday. Is Muir lying about his intentions ? Is the chairman lying about player sales ? Were they lying about administration? ? These are all topics that we have been told contradictory stories on by apparently impeccable sources

I was glad to hear what the chairman said about supporters ownership as it’s something I have said all along concerning this and It was nice to hear someone in a position of actual knowledge back this up. I was also glad to hear he was talking to the assembly about supporter’s representation, something I would support.

I wonder what Stories our legal and media department have blocked, as I think bain mentioned yesterday, sounds like there has been a lot more going on than any of us know at this point…….

In regards to what mate?

The takeover I believe……

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The problem with the AGM and utterings from the club is you can take comments in various ways. On the one hand they presents a negative view of supporter ownership but on the other hand they praise the fans for being the prime income source. Given the money we invest surely we should have a significant say in things? Lets not kid ourselves as all the Club has done for the last twenty years is pay lip service to us.

One of the points was that fan investment would be a one-off and would not be able to sustain cash injections as and when needed on an ongoing basis. Following that to its logical conclusion then the Board think we will, for the forseeable future, need a benevolent benefactor to bail us out of a crisis every few years by digging into his own pockets.

What I want is a vision of a long term sustainable business model, not something reliant on the caprices of a mega rich businessman or businessmen.

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I think the main point about the fan ownership model is this. Would they keep it up, or not bother? Especially if things werent going well! You see the attitudes on forums all over the place, and, transpose that into actual ownership, and its a bad bad thing.

The other part being, it HAS to be ongoing. That is how the model works. You dont just pay a one off fee then thats it. There are ongoing costs, along with actual responsibilities. I wouldnt trust any of the "fans" organisations at the moment with that in any way.

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What I want is a vision of a long term sustainable business model, not something reliant on the caprices of a mega rich businessman or businessmen.

Be prepared to downsize ambitions then as unless Rangers win the league every year we would independently struggle to match a level of investment that would keep the supporters happy...

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I'm not sure about fan ownership myself but I think it should be explored.

My understanding is we would elect people to run the club. That being the case and being a believer that democracy ultimately works then I believe we could have a quality board.

In our numbers we have many highly intelligent people, top QCs, top lawyers, top marketing men, successful businessmen. I believe these people would win elections rather than wee Billy from the Orange Lodge down the road or some pinko Commie.

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What I want is a vision of a long term sustainable business model, not something reliant on the caprices of a mega rich businessman or businessmen.

Be prepared to downsize ambitions then as unless Rangers win the league every year we would independently struggle to match a level of investment that would keep the supporters happy...

I guess it's about the bang you get from your buck. Will we beat the top teams from England, Spain, Germany and Italy? Not all the time but if we're well run and have a good manager then we'll give them a game of it. We should be competing and winning our share against teams from the all the other leagues. I don't have a great knowledge of turnovers for clubs from Portugal, Holland, Romania etc but I doubt they are that much bigger than us.

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The problem with the AGM and utterings from the club is you can take comments in various ways. On the one hand they presents a negative view of supporter ownership but on the other hand they praise the fans for being the prime income source. Given the money we invest surely we should have a significant say in things? Lets not kid ourselves as all the Club has done for the last twenty years is pay lip service to us.

One of the points was that fan investment would be a one-off and would not be able to sustain cash injections as and when needed on an ongoing basis. Following that to its logical conclusion then the Board think we will, for the forseeable future, need a benevolent benefactor to bail us out of a crisis every few years by digging into his own pockets.

What I want is a vision of a long term sustainable business model, not something reliant on the caprices of a mega rich businessman or businessmen.

There's no doubt many of the comments were open to conjecture which is exactly why I made this post. Nothing new was said and even the controversial stuff wasn't much of a surprise.

It was all very balanced and conservative which probably describes how the club is being run at the moment - boring if you like. However, sometimes one needs something a little bit different to catalyse change. Restricted business plans or not, the club can still investigate improvement.

The club chairman saying he doesn't believe the fans can own/maintain the club is fair enough - he's entitled to his opinion. However, he could use the commitment he mentions in other ways either to invite genuine participation into the club by way of varying financial investment in a members scheme. That way the MIH/Lloyds influence is diluted and he retains the aspects of single-ownership that he seems to prefer but also involves the fans to a manageable degree. Not sure how a new owner using the fans in a similar fashion isn't to his taste but I guess that is dependent on who that person is and what they have to offer.

What is for certain is that (as is the case with the Duffys and the fan groups) the club need to put some more meat on the bones of what they talk about. Without that their words are as irrelevant as what we've read in the media and elsewhere about new ownership.

We can't sit in stasis forever. We're either for sale or we're not. This middle-ground is only creating further division and uncertainty.

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there costs would certainly be far lower.......

I assume you mean "their" costs? Why would they be so much lower? Is it purely a wage issue? If it is mainly on wages then surely we're not getting value for money from our players?

I'd be interested to know what positive view you could offer for the long term sustainability of the running of the club.

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There's no doubt many of the comments were open to conjecture which is exactly why I made this post. Nothing new was said and even the controversial stuff wasn't much of a surprise.

It was all very balanced and conservative which probably describes how the club is being run at the moment - boring if you like. However, sometimes one needs something a little bit different to catalyse change. Restricted business plans or not, the club can still investigate improvement.

The club chairman saying he doesn't believe the fans can own/maintain the club is fair enough - he's entitled to his opinion. However, he could use the commitment he mentions in other ways either to invite genuine participation into the club by way of varying financial investment in a members scheme. That way the MIH/Lloyds influence is diluted and he retains the aspects of single-ownership that he seems to prefer but also involves the fans to a manageable degree. Not sure how a new owner using the fans in a similar fashion isn't to his taste but I guess that is dependent on who that person is and what they have to offer.

What is for certain is that (as is the case with the Duffys and the fan groups) the club need to put some more meat on the bones of what they talk about. Without that their words are as irrelevant as what we've read in the media and elsewhere about new ownership.

We can't sit in stasis forever. We're either for sale or we're not. This middle-ground is only creating further division and uncertainty.

In many ways who owns us is irrelevant - within reason.

The important issue is we are run well on and off the park. It is all about the owner or owners putting in place the right management team for each part of the club and having an organisation that pays for itself. It might not be fashionable in this day and age of oligarchs and the like but for us it is the only long term model.

I don't expect us to win the Champions League but I expect us to be well run from top to bottom so we can be the best we can be. If we are and we have a good day we might give someone a bloody nose. That's the beauty of football.

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there costs would certainly be far lower.......

I assume you mean "their" costs? Why would they be so much lower? Is it purely a wage issue? If it is mainly on wages then surely we're not getting value for money from our players?

I'd be interested to know what positive view you could offer for the long term sustainability of the running of the club.

Do you really need this explained to you, it’s surely quite obvious why wages and expenses are higher in this country…… <cr>

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Do you really need this explained to you, it’s surely quite obvious why wages and expenses are higher in this country…… <cr>

It's quite an experience trying to discuss issues with you. I have no idea what the costs and turnovers are like outside of Scotland and the big four leagues. Perhaps you have a more intimate knowledge of these facts that you can enlighten the board with and "back up" your points. Then we can enjoy some more of your "cut and thrust" later.

I also note you choose not to offer up a vision of how you'd like to see the club run. But hey, as long as your post count is high...

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In many ways who owns us is irrelevant - within reason.

The important issue is we are run well on and off the park. It is all about the owner or owners putting in place the right management team for each part of the club and having an organisation that pays for itself. It might not be fashionable in this day and age of oligarchs and the like but for us it is the only long term model.

I don't expect us to win the Champions League but I expect us to be well run from top to bottom so we can be the best we can be. if we are and we have a good day we might give someone a bloody nose. That's the beauty of football.

Don't disagree with any of that.

The SPL is limiting our financial competitiveness that much is sure and anyone who refuses to acknowledge that is deluded. However, by the same token, it could be argued that club doesn't make the most out of its potential and is inefficient. Ergo, we should be examining all the best small clubs who are able to compete strongly as well as the big clubs for where we can match their operations - either increasing or reducing the model depending on our exposure.

This is the bare minimum and, like you say, should be explored no matter who owns it under what system.

Of course, I don't doubt the club have done all of this to a degree but for whatever reason we've not seen a great deal of success from it. I don't know who to blame in that regard but someone has to take responsibility while someone else assumes leadership. We're not seeing much of either at the club currently.

Alistair Johnston is in somewhat of a honeymoon position himself at the moment. Criticism of him is light and tempered with his 'caretaker' role. Even Bain is free from the usual abuse for the moment. The next 4 weeks sees some difficult matches so I hope they are both ready for the onslaught that will come their way if we're not within easy reach of Celtic come the night of 3rd January.

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