Rangers continue to face an uncertain future
22 April ~ Rangers fans are in danger of suffering from D-Day fatigue. Since the club entered administration in February, endless now-or-never deadlines have been mooted, but the spectre of liquidation refuses to be exorcised. Two weeks ago four "best and final offers" to take over the club were registered with the administrators. Now just one bid remains, and it's waiting until Monday to become formal. This follows players taking wage cuts, the club failing to submit accounts in time to play in Europe next season, court rulings on who owns future season ticket revenue, and HMRC's judgement on the potentially fatal tax case being "just days away" for six months. Eventually your emotions flatline.
Everything is uncertain. We have not been asked to renew our season tickets yet. Just at the very moment when everything seemed to be resolving itself – in March, when multiple bidders were lining up, liquidation was laughed off as a near impossibility – in comes the news that American investors Club 9 Sports, who were front-runners to take over the club, saw liquidation as the only way forward.
There was a mass demonstration by the Rangers support, who held up over 40,000 red cards to liquidation at the following week's home game. Trying to "send off" the winding-up of a company's affairs sounds rather abstract but, despite potential debt totalling £134 million, Rangers fans had to communicate that what most businessmen would deem the only option we regard as the nuclear option.
Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy continued to mill around, despite having an initial bid rejected as desultory. He maintained he would intervene again if liquidation became imminent. Last week he failed with another bid, made after the deadline and not in writing.
Initially four consortiums from three different continents were in the frame. The administrators intended to choose their favourite within a week. Just for luck, they extended the deadline for completely exiting administration to the end of the season.
They claimed to have the backing of Ticketus, the investment company that financed Craig Whyte's dodgy buy-out of the club last May. The administrators claim the Ticketus deal can be ripped up if needs be and have condemned the Blue Knights for making public pronouncements about Whyte.
The police have warned Whyte about returning to Ibrox but he still needs to be negotiated with. One minute he claims he will hand over his shares to fan groups, the next he is playing hardball again. The Blue Knights stepped away from the bidding process last Monday, claiming the Singaporean party had made a better offer to Ticketus.
The Singapore bid came from the appositely named Bill Ng, who has been involved in Asian football but claims to be a lifelong Rangers fan. He withdrew his bid on Friday, saying: "Recent developments in the bidding process, with unwarranted and unexplained delays, have prompted our withdrawal from the process."
Club 9 Sports had also walked away but one of their number, tow-truck tycoon Bill Miller, made his own bid. Miller quickly made noises about doing all he could to stop the club going under. Neither his track record in American sport nor his blustering, rambling statements on Friday inspire much belief.
Not that liquidation will prevent Rangers from playing in the SPL next season. The small print of the club name may have to be altered but it has always been clear that the very avarice that may have got Rangers into this mess is also guaranteeing their retention in Scotland's top flight.
Never has the gap between what fans and their club owners want seemed more chasmic. Sky want four Old Firm derbies a season. The SPL want to keep Sky happy. Non-Rangers punters want to see Rangers hit with every punishment possible and hope that whatever entity resides at Ibrox is penalised for years to come. Not all Rangers fans would disagree.
A new Rangers, shorn of all debt, lets every fan carry on supporting the club with a fresh optimism borne of surviving the current travails. Or it is the death of the entity you have loved for most of your life. The idea that "the fans are the club" and that liquidation would be little more than a cosmetic change, has been pushed only by those who would see their own role increased by the diminishment of Rangers.
The club I support was born in 1872, not 2012. I have spent decades trying to convince rival fans we are neither glory hunters nor wannabe Ulster paramilitaries. This becomes difficult to reconcile with the fact your place in the top half of the top league is guaranteed simply because Celtic fans need someone to make them feel Irish.
When you regularly bemoan Celtic's persecution of referees as the antithesis of sporting behaviour, it is a dialectical pratfall to see your own club publicly excused from the possibility of relegation. If we go into liquidation the SPL dies financially; with our new company replacement it dies morally.
The family feeling in Govan has not been this intense since the Ibrox Disaster over 40 years ago. In a matter of weeks the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund raised over £300,000. The resounding defiance that united a frazzled support and an unfit, unfocused team at last month's Old Firm derby characterised the singular most emotional day of my footballing life.
In 140 years, Rangers have never flirted with relegation, never finished below sixth. Preventing Celtic from winning the title at our ground was the closest any Rangers fan would expect to come to that otherwise universal football emotion.
Yet many of us would rather we suffered serial relegations than have our 54 league titles and myriad other honours dragged into the recycle bin of history. It is not a straight choice between going down or going under, but all these Ibrox deadline days are, for many Rangers fans, about only one thing: allowing the club we know to continue playing in a competition we respect. Alex Anderson
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