Rangers: Acrimony abounds during stormy AGM
The mood at Ibrox was immediately scathing as shareholders filed in for the annual general meeting. "So they've stuck us in the away end," one muttered. "Typical."
When legal representatives and other officials walked into the small gazebo placed a fair distance away from the corner of the Broomloan and Sandy Jardine stands, they were roundly booed, even though the shareholders would not have known who any of them were.
The disdain was a warm-up, though, because the three Rangers International Football Club directors - David Somers, Derek Llambias and James Easdale - accompanied by The Rangers Football Club chairman Sandy Easdale, received a terrible reception when they appeared.
The booing was only interrupted by chants of "Out. Out. Out". When the RIFC chairman Somers began to address the meeting, he had to stop several times because he was being drowned out by angry shareholders.
That sense of disaffection framed the entire event. It lasted almost two hours but the anger of shareholders never dissipated.
Somers occasionally attempted a light touch, but he misread the indignation of the crowd and appeared more at odds with them.
At one stage, having repeatedly rejected calls from shareholders to only ask and answer one question at a time, Somers said; "When you're chairman of Rangers, you can do it your way." The rowdiness abated at times, but it was never far from the surface. The occasion never had the chance of becoming sedate.
Having read out his prepared address, Somers handed the floor to Llambias, the newly-installed chief executive. Despite being the most recent appointment to the board, the former Newcastle United managing director wasn't spared. He kept his address brief and to the point, but he didn't try to sugar coat his message.
"Not everything I do will be popular, but it will be in the best interests of Rangers," he said. "I ask for your patience and open minds."
The formal business of the meeting was a series of votes, including the reappointment of RIFC directors - all three received enough votes, although Somers only managed 61%, suggesting at least one major shareholder did not vote in his favour - and on resolutions eight and nine, to provide the board with permission to hold a share issue.
The latter resolution was rejected, meaning that the board must provide existing shareholders with an opportunity to maintain the size of their stake. The board can now, though, seek to raise the money needed to keep the business operating - at least £8m by their own estimation - in the new year.
Yet the sense that the club can be repaired seemed a hopeless one at the AGM. The shareholders were most roused when there was an opportunity to boo Somers or the Easdales, and when the former Rangers player John Brown stood to ask questions.
Brown started by revealing that he had been refused a seat in the directors box for the game against Livingston, then he asked if Ticketus, Charles Green and Imran Ahmad are still involved. He described the Easdales as "the two stooges", then addressed Llambias, saying: "I hope you are of better quality than the rats at the table."
Brown received a standing ovation. The answers were that Somers was "adamant" that Ticketus are not involved and that Craig Whyte, Green and Ahmad "have no involvement to my knowledge".
Paul Murray, the former Rangers director who was involved in a consortium that made a £16m investment offer that was rejected by the board in favour of a £2m loan proposal from Mike Ashley, accused Somers of being "disingenuous" in repeating his assertion that the investment offer, which involved another former director in Dave King, was rejected due to lack of proof of funds.
"I get frustrated with King," Somers said. "I know some of you think he is the Messiah. I asked King simple questions: show me the money and give me the names of all eight people in the consortium. He didn't do that.
"He has got my email address, my mobile number. He doesn't need to talk to the media, he can give me a ring."
Many of the shareholders pre-empted their questions by saying that they had previously been season ticket holders but weren't now. The occasion reiterated the sense of divide between the board and many of the fans.
One shareholder asked Somers to walk away, another asked Llambias if he had any service contracts with Ashley companies - to which he replied "no" - and another asked about "onerous contracts". Somers' response revealed that some still exist and are legally "watertight".
The Easdale brothers were also the subject of questions, about which team they support and the shareholders that Sandy Easdale represents. James responded that "first and foremost I'm a Rangers fan. Morton is my hometown club. The decisions I make are always in the best interests of Rangers. I'm not a puppet or a rat."
Sandy Easdale was more bullish. "Settle down," he said as he addressed the crowd. "Blue Pitch and Margarita have nothing to do with Green and Ahmad. They are wealthy foreign entities.
"They've never caused a problem. What have they done wrong?"
A shareholder immediately shouted: "You", in response.
"I've never had a problem with King, Murray or (Brian) Kennedy," Easdale continued. "These guys might yet be part of the future of the club. I'm doing it for free, I pay my own expenses. Believe me and trust me."
Easdale was certainly passionate, and drew some applause. Somers then brought the meeting to a conclusion. One fan had to be restrained by stewards while yelling at the directors as they walked back into the stadium.
Nobody seemed satisfied by the events of the meeting. There is still no clarity - beyond the intention to issue new shares - about how the club will be funded. For the four directors, there must also have been the growing understanding from the ire of the crowd that the disenchantment of fans and shareholders will be difficult to appease in the current circumstances.
Rangers remain in a fragile state, financially and psychologically.