Round and round the garden: Supporters representation games continue...

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Perhaps it's my own lack of quality reading material recently but after referencing one nursery rhyme in relation to the phoney sectarianism war in Scotland a couple of weeks back, it seems convenient - if rather disheartening - to quote another today.

The most common modern form of the poem in the article title is as follows:

Round and round the garden
Went a teddy bear.
One step, two step,
Tickle you under there.

This originates from The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes and is accompanied by various actions, by the adult on the child or the child on the adult. Ultimately after a short pause before the final line, they launch a (not altogether unexpected) tickle under the arm. Simple fun and I'd be surprised if any of us hadn't played one of the parts over the years.

Why the relevance you ask? Well, the obvious teddy bear analogy aside, it seems every single year the Rangers support seems to enjoy dancing in circles when it comes to the progress of its representative groups. And, just as you think we may be getting somewhere, the 'tickle' arrives - though in our case it's definitely expected and certainly more unpleasant in nature.

To bring everyone up to speed, we're now into 2016 and the club is currently six months into facilitating negotiations between the various existing fan groups “to create one overarching organisation/body that would encompass all the positive aspects within the various supporters groups.” Further they state such a body would be “made up of democratically elected representatives” and “would operate independently of the Club whilst working collaboratively with it.” This all seems sensible on the face of it and members of each existing group involved in the discussions voted overwhelming for such dialogue - though any final agreement would clearly need to come with the acceptance of a proposal that is still a few months away it seems. Round and round the garden we go...

In the interim, one of the main groups, Rangers First (a popular share purchase vehicle with substantial holdings in the club) is currently holding board member elections with over 20 candidates displayed on their website for possible selection. Those applying have a varied background, include a former MP, a former Rangers captain and a former referee along with a solicitor and Glasgow University chaplain both already closely associated with the club. There are also at least three applicants who've previously been involved with other supporters groups. Ergo, it's safe to say the expertise in the candidate list is wide-ranging and of an impressive enough quality. One step, two step...

Unfortunately, as is the way with elements of the Rangers support (online at least), the background of each nominee is soon pored over in great detail. That in itself is healthy enough - the organisation deals with huge sums of supporter cash - but if we delve that little bit deeper, the casual observer soon realises there's games being played. One candidate is questioning the conflict of interest of others while several more are looking for pledges to avoid such issues - calling for transparency, whilst failing at the same time to acknowledge their creation of another company which may challenge Rangers First (or indeed any new group) in the future. Disappointing and confusing doesn't quite begin to describe such revelations - not to mention the undisguised glee of some critics. A tickle under there...?

First things first, I think Rangers First have to deal with this promptly and with complete transparency. Not only do they need to be clear when it comes to conflicts of interest (this is a fair point, no matter how it is made), each board applicant needs to offer their own individual clarity when it comes to any possible fan group consolidation. Are they prepared to fall on their swords if/when this happens? No problem if not, but I think the voters should be aware of their opinion in advance.

Ultimately though the usual arguments above comes down to trust. Rangers supporters have been let down repeatedly by those involved with the club in recent years and it's hardly a surprise that we want to avoid similar problems in the future, especially if we're to be involved in the decision-making. Unfortunately, as much as board representation may help in that sense, it could also hinder us if the vehicle is badly thought out. In that sense, is it wise to have just one group? And, if there is, surely it makes sense to avoid allegations of cronyism - however undeserved they may be? When the plan for a single group is finally presented, it will have to do a lot to satisfy concerns in that respect.

In a general sense, I doubt many fans are against such consolidation but, as I remarked in WATP magazine last summer, if we’re to truly progress the idea, it will require a maturity and humility that is often difficult to find in a support that remains as volatile as ever. The events of the last few days suggests such qualities remain difficult to find and the Machiavellian-type problems promised board representation can bring will only increase as a new single group edges closer. With that in mind, we not only need to question the process, platform and candidates but our own contribution too. None of us are perfect and we should remember that when criticising others.

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