Remarkably almost three years on from entering administration, Glasgow Rangers remain in tatters. Financial mismanagement, greed and self preservation on behalf of certain individuals has tarnished this once iconic football club and turned it into the laughing stock of world football. Ripped of its soul and starved of those who hold the club close to their hearts, Rangers are fading fast into the abyss with the threat of another administration or worse becoming a real possibility. They have already lost faithful manager Ally McCoist who quit after enduring years of torture at the hands of others seemingly hell bent on destroying the club he loves. And now its star players are heading for the exit with Lewis McLeod already sold to Brentford in order to bring in much needed funds to keep the club on life support for a few more months. Left back Lee Wallace could be next to depart with several interested parties watching the ongoing developments at Ibrox with interest. Each day is like a new nightmare for the passionate fans who only want to see Rangers regain its financial footing and challenge once more for honours both at home and abroad.
The fans are quite rightly demanding answers but as yet are unable to get a clear picture of what is happening behind the closed doors at Ibrox. Drip fed information by non executive Chairman David Somers, the fans are struggling to understand who exactly owns what at Rangers and how a club that has consistently cut back on costs can still be hemorrhaging money to such an extent that majority shareholder and Chairman Sandy Easdale had to loan the club £500,000 recently to avoid it from being wound up by HM Revenue and Customs. Struggling to balance its books, Rangers are at real risk of financial suicide before the end of the season unless significant investment can be found. Step forward three unlikely characters who have added more complexity to the story. In the first surprise move, the Douglas Park Group consisting of wealthy fans and established businessmen Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor swooped in to buy 16% of the club from investment firm Laxey Partners. Their purchase was made as a tactical move to stop Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley from his planned takeover, a move that many see as problematic for the club. Ashley’s involvement at the club is under scrutiny from various parties including the SFA, English FA and UEFA as its breaches dual interest rules and has now been blocked by the SFA in his attempt to increase his ownership to 30%.
Currently Ashley controls 8.9% of the club but has greater influence on its day to day running after persuading the club to hire close acquaintances Derek Llambias and Barry Leach to the key roles of Chief Executive and Finance Director respectively. Ashley also loaned the club £3million in November to help with running costs but in exchange landed the naming rights to Ibrox as well as an extremely lucrative merchandising deal. The Douglas Park Group believes that Ashley is not acting in the clubs best interest and has offered a further investment of £6.5million in exchange for seats on Rangers board. In a similar move, South African based businessman Dave King has snapped up a 15% stake in the club by purchasing the shares once held by Artemis and Miton. The move was made after King’s original offer of £15million for a controlling stake was rejected by the board in favour of Ashley’s loan previously mentioned. King, a lifelong Rangers fan has been wrestling with the Rangers board for years now with the intent to gain control and stabilize the club. But with the Easdales unwilling to budge, King has had to be creative to get his foot into the door with a coup his likely next move. Before that is possible, King will have to convince the Financial Conduct Authority that he is not working in unison with the Douglas Park group as that would require additional steps to be followed.
The final twist in the saga is the appearance of US businessman Robert Sarver who has expressed an interest in acquiring the club. The owner of NBA team Phoenix Suns made a formal bid of £18million for controlling interest with another £15million to be invested only for it to be rejected by the board for undervaluation of the club. Sarver has until February 2nd to increase his bid and make it formal if he is keen to proceed. His interest in Rangers was peaked after discussions with former Rangers left back David Robertson who is now working in Phoenix as a youth soccer coach. The two became close after Robertson coached Sarver’s three sons and when he found out that Sarver had ambitions to invest in a European based football team, he urged him to look at Rangers. After carrying out a detailed review, Sarver made his move just after Christmas informing the board and WH Ireland which manages RIFC’s listing on the Alternative Investment Market. Whilst his initial bid has been rejected, it is unlikely to deter Sarver from proceeding. However the moves made by King and the Douglas Park group may have complicated things but the American is happy to work with fellow like minded individuals in order to restore the club to its former glory.
The next few weeks and months will be interesting viewing for Rangers fans as the story unfolds. The battle for ownership at Ibrox will be messy, with four player’s jocking for position. In one corner, Mike Ashley plots his next move, likely in collaboration with the Easdale brothers and Somers who many now see as Ashley’s mouthpiece. Robert Sarver will review the response from the board and react accordingly within the month before his February deadline. King and the Douglas Park Group will also watch with interest to see what the American financier does next. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the trio could join forces to oust the existing board and seize control of Rangers once and for all. It is rumoured that conversations have already taken place and that plans are being developed. This would be the best scenario for the Rangers fans that are being urged to back the trio in any way that they can. A return to normality for Rangers is on the horizon but time will tell if it’s the path that this once great club travels down or whether they will remain in their current descent into the abyss.