Beating Heart-But Vibrant Soul?

At the heart of Rangers Football Club is the crucial matter of financial strength. Central to prospects of success on the football pitch and a return to former glory, is the health of the soul of the Club, that feel-good factor flowing through the entire Rangers community; players, management, fans, sponsors, fellow competitors.

The success of the share issue and the health of season ticket sales have restored the ailing heart of Rangers as a football club to real health and strength. The financial benefits of property developments around Ibrox Stadium have yet to come to fruition. The prospect of maximising income from television rights rather than surrender a proportion to SPL clubs under a Sky deal or to SFL clubs under any other arrangement adds power to the financial position. Sale of naming rights to Ibrox Stadium is controversial but lucrative. The emergence of Murray Park graduates avoids the need to acquire players on over-priced contracts, although wise management of playing resources will blend a backbone of experience with the energy of young talent.

It’s fair to say that the Rangers heart is beating strongly.

What then of the soul of the Club? That is an altogether more challenging question. The events of 2012 could have been fatally dispiriting, but were resisted by such a great show of loyalty and real affection for the Club from a variety of sources. The efforts of the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund and the Red and Black initiative strongly bonded fan sentiment. The persistence of bloggers, including television appearances, by such as John DC Gow and Chris Graham, countered the relentless toxic media flow form journalists whose respect for truth was scant and whose dislike of Rangers was clear. The supporters rallied to buy season tickets and have rallied to set attendance records wherever the Satnav has taken them including Annan, Berwick, Peterhead and points in-between. Should there then be any concern that the vibrancy of the Club’s soul is at risk?

Perhaps I am over-cautious when I say that I believe the answer to be yes. Here are my reasons – please feel free to disagree, to modify or to add to these thoughts.

Division is the enemy of the vibrant soul. Agreement upon the values which are Rangers values, the values which helped to restore the beating heart, is essential. Integrity, respect and justice for others, fairness in competition and sheer commitment are values which Mr Struth would recognise. Arrogance, defiance and hostility are not qualities worth having in my opinion. Let Rangers fans say We Are The People for reasons positively respected by others, and not merely as a hallmark of defiance.

Division may come from the number of fans groups in existence, where inactive groups are more concerned with their own interests and are insufficiently forward looking in the overall interests of the Club. It also comes from unsavoury incidents on which an unfriendly media seeks to capitalise, such as the alleged Union Bears incident at the recent home game against Annan. Groups numbering in tens ought not to overshadow the reputation of the group numbering in tens of thousands. It comes from a creeping return to unhealthy practices eradicated in response to UEFA punishments, such as the singing of songs with derogatory references to the Pope or containing offensive words.

Division comes too from perceptions of injustice either at the hands of enemies or at the hands of those we believed to be friends. SPL clubs, spearheaded by Dundee United’s attitudes, are not on the whole friends, but persistent enmity will reap a harvest of relentless bitterness. David Longmuir of the SFL has joined forces with Stewart Regan of the SFA and Neil Doncaster of the SPL to push through league reconstruction which was not open to full consultation with all SFL member clubs and which will result in Rangers playing in the bottom tier next season, still two seasons at best from participation at the top level. Is this altogether a bad thing? Charles Green has talked of a pointless end to the season and in a competitive sense he is right. But does this not allow time and space to continue to develop the group of emerging players and to see them tested next season in a challenging but more varied environment? Is it responsible or wise to utter threats about leaving Scottish football when there is absolutely no viable way of doing so?

Division also comes from permitting past failures in stewardship to rake up the embers of history in a self-justifying way. Chief culprit here is Alistair Johnston, whose utter failure to find a buyer plus the apparent inability combat the wiles of Donald Muir as a director appointed by the Bank resulted in the catastrophic decision of Sir David Murray to sell his controlling interest to Craig Whyte. Second in line here is the decent and amiable Paul Murray, whose failure to marshal the undoubted financial capability of the Blue Knights prevented him from becoming that buyer. At the risk of provoking the very division which I deplore, I suggest that we need no lectures from either of these gentlemen on the future running of the Club.

Finally, division is fostered by the barbs and insults of those whose hatred of Rangers pours from the written and spoken media as well as from social networking sites. It would be helpful if certain broadcasters showed proper responsibility in football satire and phone-in programmes, or for certain newspapers to present the facts of the big tax case rather than harp on about alleged wrongdoing which the First Tier Tribunal did not endorse in its decision.

So is the soul of Rangers Football Club vibrant? Yes it is. Will it continue to be so? Yes, if the Rangers community reacts with sense to the efforts of those bent on damage to the Club, and with a constructive approach rather than emotional rabble-rousing to every decision which is perceived to be unfavourable.

Keep calm and follow follow!

Professor David Kinnon is a Scots Chartered Accountant and licensed insolvency practitioner. Views expressed are entirely his own.

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