Rangers: Towards A Constitution

The battle for control of the Ibrox boardroom has developed into a long war of attrition. Casualties have been too numerous to count, most of them succumbing to a lethal combination of serve boredom and frustration. It remains to be seen whether or not a ceasefire will prevail following the AGM next week but the level of antagonism suggests it will be seriously tested if it exists at all.

One of the more interesting developments was the publication of a Rangers Constitution by the groups of nominees hoping to be elected to the board. Most fans will surely be familiar with the eight principles in contains but for the purposes of the record they are as follows:

  • We will never sell the stadium. We will ring-fence the assets to ensure this can never happen again. This is our home and will always remain our home.
  • We are committed to fan representation on the board
  • No director (including his/her family members or close business associates) shall have any financial interest in any contract involving the club.
  • We will undertake to ensure that all executive directors’ salaries and bonuses are approved by the renumeration committee and subject to market benchmarking
  • We will undertake to ensure that all shareholders are treated equally
  • We will undertake to ensure that there is total transparency in all club affairs
  • There will be no long-term debt
  • All non-executive director fees are to be waived unless the club is in Europe

The publication of the constitution was a surprising development, with little indication that such a document was being prepared. It would be interesting to know more about how it was devised and who was responsible for drafting it. There is much in it that could be of use to the club and that I would like to see implemented. But arguably it is too narrow a document, too influenced by immediate preoccupations, to stand as a genuine constitution. With all the talk of fan representation it would be disappointing if the wider support weren’t consulted in some way about the contents of such a document if it were meant to be one for the ages. Constitutions, and we should be wary of delusions of grandeur here, should be more considered documents, even for football clubs.

In actual fact, it read like more of a political manifesto than a constitution. At the risk of pleasing no one, it bears some similarities (not length!) to the Scotland’s Future document published by the Scottish Government last month. This observation is supported by the timing of the unveiling of the constitution which took place in the final month of the long campaign preceding the AGM in December. To be more exact, it could be interpreted as being designed to woo fan shareholders with the vote seemingly balanced between the nominees and their foes. Pressing the current directors to agree to the principles was also a political move. It is debateable whether this was ever a completely realistic prospect given the poor relations which both sides have arguably played some part in creating, although Graham Wallace has indicated a degree of support. Some might be cynical about all this, seeing it as carrying little substance and likely to be quickly forgotten if the four are successfully elected to the board. This is obviously impossible to disprove at the moment but if they plan on having short memories then they will find the fans have short fuses.

There was also no mention in the constitution of what we call Rangers value or traditions. Surely there should be a place for them, however defined, in a Rangers constitution? It could be argued that some of the points are essentially the values in action but is this enough? It might be better to state them explicitly in an opening preamble. I’m sure we could even find a quote from Bill Struth to simultaneously give expression to them and give the constitution some historical grounding. The case for setting out these values in a document has been made on The Rangers Standard before so suffice to say that any constitution which didn’t make reference to them risks being overly technocratic and defined
in relation to the negatives in recent times as opposed to the positives in our long history.

There are also more basic considerations to contend with. How, for example, would compliance with the principles be monitored? Would failing to comply carry any meaningful sanction? How, in other words, would the document be binding on a board of directors that didn’t contain either some or all of the nominees? As an example, is it realistic to prevent a future board acquiring debt over a long period of time for any reason whatsoever? The sensitivity surrounding this issue is understandable and we certainly don’t want to return to the situation under Sir David Murray where huge debts were acquired for misguided reasons. But surely the more important points about debt are the reasons it was acquired and whether or not you have the means to service and eventually repay it? This is a matter of good corporate governance more than anything.

The above is intended as some constructive criticism of what is an otherwise welcome document. It is refreshing that the fans should be courted in this way and an indication that there might be better engagement between a board containing the nominees and support. There had been a level of dissatisfaction with the extent of their interaction until very recently and there is evidence to suggest that they themselves have belatedly come to this realisation. The fan meeting in Glasgow was supplemented by another in Belfast and it has been noticeable that Alex Wilson and Scott Murdoch, previously in the shadow of Malcolm and Paul Murray, have also taken a more prominent role of late. This has included giving exclusive interviews to this website and the Copland Road Organization, as well as talking to the conventional media. The challenge will be to maintain and even improve this level of engagement should they be successful in their quest for a place in the boardroom. The constitution produced by the nominees shouldn’t be considered definitive but it is as good a place as any to start properly discussing one that is.

If you’re interested in reading more about the idea of a Rangers Constitution then be sure to pick up issue two of WATP magazine where it is discussed by Chris Graham.