The Club1872 Crossroads

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Despite justified misgivings around the merger of existing Rangers supporters groups it was blatantly obvious to the vast majority of fans that Club1872 had undoubted potential and could become a great asset for our support. Pooling the resources and memberships of Rangers First, the Rangers Supporters Trust and others should certainly have been a springboard to greater success. Unfortunately however even Stevie Wonder can see that Club1872 hasn’t lived up to its billing, to be rather blunt.

The problems have been numerous since its inception – from failings in basic communication levels to a general lack of meaningful activity – and as a result the organisation is now very much facing a period where, quite simply, it will either sink or swim. Nothing that’s worth doing is ever easy however and so perhaps now at this crucial period it is time to stop simply criticising the problems and start looking at how we can fix them.

The many groups that formed Club1872 each had their own board, working groups and dedicated network of helpers. We now have one board essentially fulfilling all these commitments, a board which was recently depleted by three resignations and which has seemingly been buried under the growing workload ever since.

While we can evaluate performance and criticise where required it should be remembered that these individuals have put their head above the parapet, stepped forward and provided their spare time, free of charge, to help benefit our support and the members of the organisation. As such, any debate should be free of the insults and abuse we often see from a minority. But the incumbent board simply must acknowledge the reality of their situation and step out from under the mountain of work and begin moving Club1872 forward once again. Anything less is negligent.

To progress the organisation needs people to step forward. Club1872 after all belongs to its members, it is our organisation and it is our duty to help make it work. Not everyone needs to have a fancy degree, run a large company or be a chartered accountant. Not everyone even has to sit on the board. Every member can help the organisation improve, whether it is helping to hand out leaflets on a match-day or simply telling a friend about Club1872 and its many benefits.

One issue that I think is worthy of discussion before looking at how Club1872 can improve is the constant and unnecessary barrage of criticism which quite often takes the form of personal abuse. For all the many highly qualified and talented individuals within our support only a select few ever applied to stand for election to the board. And it’s hard to discount the incessant levels of criticism and daily hassles as being a factor in that low number. If we spent anywhere near as much time helping as we did criticising then the organisation would be in a much stronger position. We’ve been guilty of it ourselves. It’s now time to look beyond the personalities, provide constructive criticism where required and help find solutions to make our group a success.

If Club1872 can function to its potential then the goal of owning 25%+1 needs can be more than just a pipe dream. It can still be a realistic ambition. And all along the way Rangers could be benefiting from the money used to buy newly issued shares, providing things can be sorted out at their end. It’s a win-win.

Supporters could fund projects to benefit ourselves and the club, and hold the Rangers board to account as any major shareholder should. With a significant percentage held and representing thousands of key stakeholders, our voice simply couldn’t be ignored. That however is a long way off. So let’s discuss Club1872 and how it can quickly improve.

Board

The next elections are going to be absolutely vital to the success of Club1872. It is very much make or break time for the organisation. If it cannot be fixed then in our opinion we can forget meaningful fan ownership or representation at Rangers for years, maybe decades, to come.

The elected board has faced three resignations, the reasons for which are a discussion for another time, and are now undermanned and suffering from the perception of being too close to the club. Three of the remaining four directors are, arguably, too friendly and close to the Rangers board or its directors. One of them is the club secretary. Independence, and the perception of independence, is an important factor that can’t be ignored when the elected directors are there to hold the club board to account.

The elections later in the year need to bring a strong, talented and independent board that can not only handle the workload but also work together constructively. The resignations this year were most unfortunate and make the organisation look bad to any potential member. Rangers First was launched on the premise of always putting the club first, as the name suggests, and leaving egos and anything else very much the door. It’s time to get back to that ethos.

As stated above Club1872 belongs to us, the members. If people are reading this and think they could assist or serve the organisation, and I know many can, then hopefully they can be persuaded to put themselves forward and ensure that we make this the success we deserve it to be. With the right people involved and working together Club1872 could be a phenomenal success, so let’s hope the next elections bring about the change required.

Managing the Workload

Initially it was always going to be challenging for the board to undertake all the group’s activities with just seven directors. That became impossible when three of the board resigned.

It is also questionable whether the incumbent board have the ability to commit the time required. Laura, Joanne and Iain did, by all accounts, dedicate a tremendous amount of time and can only be applauded for that. They are also trusted by many. Therefore, their loss was always going to result in a gap that quite simply couldn’t be filled by those remaining alone. With snap-elections unlikely, and with at least two of the directors offering to rejoin the board, the best solution under those circumstances may be for that offer to be accepted and for the board to work together for the greater good again to create a strong foundation that can be built upon up to and beyond the September elections this autumn.

Moreover, while the next elections need to bring a strong, talented and independent board of directors – and it must if Club1872 is to succeed – it also needs those that can dedicate time and energy to cope with the demands of the role. A seven-man board alone however cannot do it all. Working-groups and sub-groups will likely become essential to the group’s success going forward. Duties could be delegated for specific purposes with the sub-groups doing the groundwork and reporting back to the main board for consideration and approval. This allows the directors to oversee and implement the overall strategy of the organisation, liaise when required with Rangers Football Club and focus on growing the membership.

This set-up would be the norm for any professional business of this size and there is no reason that Club1872, with shares and cash worth in excess of £2.5m, should be any different. We know already from conversations we’ve had that there are many highly qualified members who are willing to help and advise behind the scenes and, while they don’t want to stand for the board, often for professional reasons, it would be foolish not to make the most of their expertise and assistance in any way we can.

Communication and Transparency

Communication is one of the fundamental areas that we need for Club1872 to succeed but unfortunately it has been one of the most under-performing aspects and therefore one of the most heavily criticised.

The social media accounts are, for all intents and purposes, completely dormant which is completely unacceptable. It takes next to no time to post a few tweets each day and reply to some genuine queries that members regularly have. It’s the minimum requirement really. This, sadly, is indicative of the overall lack of communication that has been witnessed since the merger was completed.

So how can Club1872 improve?

  • Members should be informed when board meetings are schedules and when new minutes are added to the website
  • These minutes should be public, not private, as we cannot hope to attract new members if they cannot see what is being done
  • Questions should be invited before each meeting with Stewart Robertson or any club representative
  • The board should commit to quarterly reports detailing matters like membership levels, financial report, share and project activity in the quarter and plans for the next quarter (this would provide welcome transparency and allow the board to be more accountable)
  • Social media accounts should be kept active and monthly online Q&A’s with directors could be hosted via Twitter and/or Facebook

One small note however that should be raised is that members cannot expect Club1872 to comment on every individual thing that happens at Ibrox. It’s an unrealistic expectation that cannot be reasonably achieved with only one full-time employee. The organisation is also a major shareholder and has to conduct itself as such.

The above caveat aside the rest is simply about getting back to basics. Communication is absolutely key to the organisation and doing the simple things well would see a marked improvement on the current state of affairs.

Activity

One of the issues faced post-EGM when control of the club was wrestled from Mike Ashley was the threat of growing apathy, especially where fans’ groups were concerned. It’s difficult to sell the need to buy shares when the ‘good guys’ are already in control and the club is stable. Crisis is always a far better motivator.

That factor however was unfortunately aided by a rather disappointing level of activity where Club1872 is concerned. Share purchases slowed down, nothing happened with projects and money was simply being stockpiled with no short-term purpose. So, again, what can be done to improve this?

Share purchases, even although the club is no longer listed, should be continuous. As well as the small shareholdings that still become available, more ambitious options should always be explored.

There are shareholders like Ally McCoist and Felix McGath who could be approached to seek what could be a mutually beneficial situation for all concerned. They get money for their shares, Club1872 increases its shareholding and both benefit from the positive PR that results. And have we even attempted to approach some of the perhaps presumably disgruntled Easdale bloc?

The same applies for projects. One of the key changes going into the merger is that significant funds, now over 40% of the organisation’s monthly income, would be reserved for projects of our choosing. As yet however not a single project has been completed or even proposed.

Members, and potential members, need to see what their money is achieving. They need to be able to look at what has been done and say ‘I was part of that’. Offering the club funds in the shape of a loan that could later be converted to equity for example would also be a welcome move that would create positive news and grab people’s attention, especially if timed correctly and promoted as required.

There are significant funds held by Club1872 – currently over £1.2m – and it is important that these funds are not simply stockpiled but instead used for the purposes intended.

Conclusion

In conclusion it must be acknowledged that Club1872 has simply not performed to anywhere near its undoubtedly huge potential. Fundamental issues require to be addressed in the very near future if things are to turn around and prevent the organisation from stagnating and slowly sliding into moderate irrelevance.

But the good news is that so many of the fixes are quick and simple. Things could quickly improve with basic communication, the provision of transparency and the use of funds for the purposes intended.

It is time for us, as a collective membership, to support the organisation we all believe in and do our utmost to make it a success. It’s time to focus on solutions, not problems and make Club1872 as great as we know it can be.

If you want some inspiration you need only look across the country at the Foundation of Hearts. If they can achieve that with their smaller fan-base, just imagine the potential we have at Rangers. If Club1872 can unlock even a percentage of that then we will have something truly special to call our own.

Let’s work together to make it happen!

Relevant to the above article (published 15/05/2017), Club1872 has since announced the resignation of board member Craig Houston.

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