Regular readers of Gersnet will know that I won’t be surprised by yesterday’s SFA ruling that majority Rangers shareholder Dave King has been passed as ‘fit and proper’ by the football authority. The fact the hugely successful South African is considered so domestically, across the business world and, most recently, by the Court of Session in Edinburgh meant the SFA decision was always going to be a formality.
Now, that’s fine but I can also understand why some people want to doubt the SFA's findings as King's historic tax issues should be discussed as part of his suitability to own and chair Rangers. In fact, it worries me that some people are prepared to dismiss his previous actions so easily. After all, if Rangers fans are (rightly) prepared to challenge the likes of Mike Ashley and (rightly) remain so unhappy about what happened under Craig Whyte and Charles Green then we should not be offering up blind faith in King.
For example, as much as we may wish to underplay his problems with the South African authorities, the facts tell us there were clear issues over his actions. Enough issues to cause him to settle for almost £50million. Similarly, while our unconscious bias may excuse him from the SDM and Whyte debacles (despite King sitting on both the boards right through until administration in 2012), King’s record therein has to be questioned. Yes, if we distill his contribution right down to funds invested, the £20million he put in 15 years ago speaks the kind of language Rangers fans want to hear now but that effective blank cheque ran out of credit a long time ago. And King’s actions since – both at Ibrox and away from it - mean ignoring his indiscretions just because some of his strongest critics may not share our general pro-Rangers outlook puts us on dangerous ground.
However, let's be abundantly clear. King would not have been approved by this footballing kangaroo court - led by the most powerful man in Scottish football, Peter Lawwell - if he hadn't been able to justify his past position and future intentions. That's why people like Spence, English and Spiers are so annoyed: not because they’re worried about the club’s well-being but because they know King's plans must be impressive enough to convince others Rangers will soon be improving the profile (and coefficient) of Scottish football. In the long run, despite all the myopic rhetoric of fans of other clubs (some journalists, some not) Scottish football needs a strong Rangers and it's in all our interests that King succeeds.
Bearing that in mind, the next few weeks are going to be massive for us all – in particular Rangers supporters. Firstly, by the end of this month (perhaps even the end of this week), we will know which division of the SPFL we’ll be playing in. Some suggest that doesn’t matter but anyone associated with the club will deep down know not being promoted is a failure and will set us back further. Of course King may invest x millions regardless of what league we’re in but we’ve seen in recent years how difficult it is to attract truly competent players to the club while we struggle in the lower divisions. Likewise, another year in the Championship will negatively affect sponsorship and other commercial opportunities. Moreover, delaying our chances of European football diminishes our efforts further of interesting the players we need to return Rangers to dominance. Not to mention the managers, coaches, scouts and directors we desperately and so obviously need.
Indeed, it’s the latter club foundations that represent the biggest challenge for Dave King as he becomes Rangers chairman. Paul Murray, Douglas Park and John Gilligan all deserve credit for their efforts in holding the Green/Ashley axis to account in recent years but is their love for Rangers enough to make it successful on and, just as crucially, off the park? I’m sure even they’d concede we’re short of enviable quality in the boardroom and that has to change at the earliest opportunity. Some may say operating without a CEO, Finance Director and the accountability a NOMAD or share-listing brings isn’t the end of the world but what these roles and platforms bring is prudence, governance and, most of all, delivers trust to shareholders and investors. As we most likely will enter a further period of share issues and/or open offers, that kind of legislative certitude should not be minimised.
In point of fact, it’s that level of trust and transparency that must be the bywords that the King era is built upon. It was no accident that King himself used similar phrases when ‘winning’ the EGM in March and it’s only by being open with fans – and by building new relationships with others – that the club will regain the kind of traction needed to become successful. Yes some bears may prefer keeping our distance from sections of the media, certain footballing authorities, other clubs and even one or two political parties but if we’re to truly influence others again then we must be prepared to work together and lead. Our recent dealings with the SFA and SPFL will have shown how much ground we need to make up in that sense. We ignore this at our peril.
Taking all the above into consideration, the sheer scale of the task should not be lost on any Rangers fan. Premiership or not, stock exchange listing or not, £30million investment or not; the board of the club have a huge job on their hands. Fortunately, more and more fans appreciate this and our increasing involvement with fan ownership vehicles in conjunction with communication with the club means we’ve never been in a better position to influence matters ourselves. This doesn’t mean we should demand a, b and c on a weekly basis but consolidate our position and show just how capable we are as a boardroom voice. Patience will be a virtue as we move forward.
Consequently, the true judge of Dave King’s tenure at Rangers will not be some irrelevant hypocrite in the media. Nor will it be a journeyman footballing executive. In fact, it will be you and I – the common, garden Rangers fan and shareholder. As much as some commentators have criticised the Rangers support for failing to halt Craig Whyte’s fraudulent intentions, we’ve shown in the last year we will not stand by and let others risk the club’s future. We do hold the power and must use it wisely.
In closing we don’t need conflicted media contributors to warn us about the suitability of people like Dave King. He must and will be challenged to deliver on his promises and we can only hope he's true to his word in bringing back the success we crave. In that sense, the jury is out when it comes to him. And we should be continually deliberating…
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