Further turmoil looms for Rangers in 2015

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Rangers fans will hope that 2015 is a happier year for them in their support of the club

Rangers can find no respite. Nobody presumed that a new era was beginning when Kenny McDowall changed from assistant to caretaker manager in the wake of but the manner of the team's suggests that a malaise is now deep-rooted.

Disillusioned and fraught, the away support chanted "sack the board" at Easter Road, and anger remains raw.

Both on and off the field, this is a club that is fundamentally broken. The frustration for disgruntled fans is that in their view the repair process has not yet even begun.

The situation is always fluid at Ibrox, but fundamental issues cannot be ignored. The most pressing is financial, since the club does not currently have the funds to pay January's wages. Disaffection is also entrenched, though.

The reaction of shareholders at was a clear indication of the lack of faith in the board of directors, and those shareholders who currently hold power at Ibrox: Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, Sandy Easdale and the 21% of shareholders who have empowered Easdale with their proxy vote.

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David Somers, the chairman, was castigated at the AGM, and he sent to an associate of Ashley in which he expresses concern for his board position should a consortium including Dave King see their funding offer accepted only further undermined Somers' position in the eyes of fans.

Rangers, again, are on the brink. Ever since he found himself thrust into the role of caretaker manager, McDowall has looked as though he considers the circumstances as a blight on the role.

He was a strong influence on McCoist, so there was little prospect of a sudden shift in tactical or selection decisions.

The squad, for all that there is undoubted individual ability, appears drained of confidence and self-belief. Hearts stand 15 points clear at the top of the Championship and the concern for Rangers now is trying to find the form and momentum to make it through the play-offs.

In normal circumstances, this state of affairs would be at the forefront of supporters' discontent, but it is only one aspect of it. Before the football side of the business can be repaired, the financial side needs to be addressed.

The anger at the AGM seemed so pronounced that the three Rangers International Football Club directors - Somers, Derek Llambias and James Easdale - and Sandy Easdale, the chairman of The Rangers Football Club board, must have been left with the acknowledgement that there is little chance of them turning round public opinion.

With Ashley's application to the Scottish Football Association to raise his RIFC stake from 8.92% up to 29.9% having been rejected, and a funding offer made by a consortium of Rangers-supporting businessmen comprising Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, the board has an option that would go some way to appeasing fans.

It would, though, also lessen their control of the club, and weaken their own positions. The £6.5m offer - based upon buying the 40m shares on offer in a forthcoming share issue at 16p per share, at a small discount on the current market price of 18p and the norm for such issues - would only be the initial stage of fundraising that Rangers need over the coming months.

Rangers suffer at Easter Road
Rangers suffered a 4-0 defeat in the Scottish Championship on Saturday at Easter Road

The board estimated in the annual accounts that at least £8m is required to keep the business functioning for 12 months, but that was based on season ticket sales returning to normal and other assumptions. The reality is that more than £10m is likely to be needed just to keep the business going, and significantly more to invest enough to allow it to grow and be restored.

Park, Letham and Taylor know the reality of Rangers' financial situation and the problems that need to be addressed. To fully recover, fans and directors need to be working in tandem, so that revenue streams are restored at the same time as fresh investment is sought.

That means that trust is as precious a commodity at Ibrox as finance. It remains in short supply.

Resolution nine was rejected at the AGM by shareholders - including, it seems, some represented on the very board that proposed it - so that existing shareholders now need to be offered enough shares to maintain their stakes in the share issue, before non-shareholders can participate.

Rangers fans at Ibrox
After two years of tremendous backing in Scottish football's bottom two tiers, Rangers fans are now staying away amid the Ibrox turmoil

Park, Letham and Taylor can still provide funding, since the latter holds a 3.2% stake and so can also apply to buy the rump of shares left behind by existing shareholders. When the board attempted to raise funds last September, the majority of existing shareholders declined to invest further.

The Rangers Supporters Trust has, meanwhile, sent a series of questions to Somers in an email, including asking him to "outline the terms of the recently announced new commercial arrangements with Sports Direct" and if Sports Direct "have the right to choose a shirt sponsor at the end of the 32 Red three-year sponsor period".

The situation is clear yet complicated.

Rangers need money urgently and the fans want to see change in the boardroom.

Ashley effectively controls the club, but cannot invest further in return for shares without attracting SFA sanctions - although he can try to legally challenge the ruling.

A group of Rangers fans want to invest, but that would lessen the control of those currently in the boardroom.

The stage is set for further turmoil.

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