In which I comment on the meeting of the Sevco Scotland Board and manager with the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund.
It is clear that the wagons are being circled at Ibrox. What is not clear is Mr Green’s funding and backers, but he has promised a reply to all questions only days from now!
It is not clear though how much money his company has just now and has access to, nor if the sums mentioned include the purchase price of the assets.
It is also unclear how the £30 million which would have been in the bank mid-July, if a CVA had succeeded has now vanished from the discussions unless it was to be the sale proceeds of the players.
And talking of the players, I wondered why Mr McCoist referred to only having six first team players. Maybe his definition of first team players differs from mine, and more importantly from the official Rangers website!
And finally, has there ever before been a league where a player for one team receives in wages almost 50% more than the entire turnover of a team in a higher division? (To which the answer is probably yes, but it will definitely happen should Sevco Scotland succeed in having a team in SFL3 in the coming season!)
The Rangers Fans Fighting Fund met with the Board of Sevco Scotland Ltd on 4th July. This followed the rejection by the SPL of the transfer of the registration of the SPL share transfer from Rangers Football Club PLC to Sevco Scotland Ltd.
The Vanguard Bears attended at the meeting and minuted it. The Vanguard Bears are a vocal group of Rangers fans, proud of “defending our traditions” according to its website.
The meeting was clearly an attempt by the Board to get out amongst the fans of Rangers, and to make at least some plans public. The fact that the meeting was not conducted under conditions of secrecy bodes well for “transparency and clarity”.
I have some comments re the matters noted, and my comments are in bold. For brevity and clarity, I refer in my comments to Sevco Scotland’s team as RFC, that being the abbreviated trading name of the company.
And now to the minutes:-
Sandy Jardine welcomed all to the meeting and introduced the top table.
The results of the RFFF poll showed an overwhelming desire (76%) from the fans out of almost 20,000 polled to play in Division 3. A straw poll was taken in the room; the result again reflected an overwhelming support for Division 3.
It is clear that, with the SPL option off the table, most fans of RFC have decided that SFL3 would be the best place to start. Some view this as a punishment to the SFA and SPL, as the horror stories about financial losses pour out of Hampden. Others see it as the best place to re-group for the challenge of moving RFC up the divisions.
The entire Rangers board then entered the meeting, introduced themselves and explained roughly what they had done in the past.
Malcolm Murray wants to rebuild the club. All assets are owned by Sevco Scotland. Craig Whyte is definitely not involved, sworn statements have been lodged with relevant bodies including the SFA regarding this.
“All assets are owned by Sevco Scotland”. A couple of questions arise. First of all, why after Duff + Phelps insisted they had a binding legal contract to sell the assets to Sevco 5088 Ltd did they do so to Sevco Scotland Ltd? The nominee process of shuffling assets about is not uncommon, but in the circumstances here, especially with the TUPE consequences, surely some transparancy and clarity was required?
Secondly, do the assets bought by Sevco include (1) the rights to pursue court actions against Collyer Bristow and Craig Whyte’s company, and (2) the rights to receive transfer fees due to Rangers FC PLC, especially the funds due for Mr Jelavic?
If Mr Whyte was still involved, I would be astonished. For all of the man’s brazen business tactics, I cannot see him as still having any role, for reasons too numerous and obvious to mention. There have been so many twists and turns in this bizarre story though, that if it turned out that Mr Green was actually Mr Whyte’s long lost father, I would not be surprised. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am casting no doubt on the paternity or legitimacy of Mr Whyte.)
Charles Green talked about ‘balanced shareholding’ – no individual person would have control of the club again. He then said that he believed “everyone outside of this room and the people we represent” is Anti-Rangers.
“No one likes us, we don’t care”. Or “circling the wagons”. Both are well-known slogans or tactics designed to rally the troops. As I touched on in an earlier post, Mr Green might not be too far wrong. When it comes to RFC, there are very few neutrals. Perhaps an issue to be addressed by Sevco is why this seems to be the case. One view is that it is jealousy. Most non-RFC fans would deny that.
The board stated that £11 million has been raised so far and injected into the club. They reckon there is roughly £3 million working capital, with more money coming in over the next couple of weeks.
£11 million “into the club”. Does this include the £5.5 million purchase price? If so, that means that Sevco have spent £2.5 million in under 4 weeks. If not, as the purchase price was not “injected into the club” Sevco have spent £8 million in under 4 weeks. At the latter rate how long will the funding last?
John Brown asked the panel if they were still going to have £30 million available by mid-July. Charles Green said that figure was expected given while they expected a CVA to be agreed. The board were confident that more money and more investment was coming into the club and that the targets would be met.
This point is not 100% clear, but I take it that the £30 million investment was predicated on the CVA succeeding. That can only have arisen, as far as I can see, from a fire sale of players during July. Sales of McGregor, Davis, Lafferty and the rest might not have raised £30 million, but the figure would keep the team going for some time, especially as the wage bill would have plummeted.
As far as investment is concerned though, if I was being asked to put money into RFC as a business proposition, it cannot possibly be safe to do so until there is a decision about whether or not RFC will play next season, and if so, where.
It would be a gambler who would put money in till these issues are known.
A representative from Rangers Unite asked the board “What would you see as an exit price?” Imran replied that he believed on a bad day the club was worth £50 million.
There is currently £3 million in the bank account and an expected £2.6 million coming in over the next two weeks. This further investment is guaranteed and they have legal documents to prove so.
From whom is the investment coming? £2.6 million plus £11 million = £13.6 million. That is some way short of the £30 million expected under the CVA scenario. Where did the difference come from?
A Rangers Standard representative asked Charles Green to read out the names of the current shareholders. A number of names were read out and it was revealed that the major shareholder is Blue Pitch Holdings with 23%, which would be getting diluted to between 10 and 15% when the other investors come on board. Ian Hart was discussed as the questioner stated that he previously said he wasn’t an investor – the reasons for this were explained by CG.
Blue Pitch Holdings. 23% owner of Sevco Scotland Ltd. Not registered in the UK. Who are they? Where are they from? Who is behind them? These are all questions which apparently Sevco Scotland has answered to the SFA. The previous owner had issues raised about non-UK registered businesses owning the company, indirectly. Surely they are not heading down the same road again!
CG stated the club would be floated on the Stock Market giving fans the chance to own shares in the club.
I am in the midst of writing a piece regarding Mr Green’s history of involvements with floated companies. This is entirely consistent with his MO. Of course he would want to float the company. After all, if Sevco Scotland Ltd could sell 50% of the shares for £25 million, on a bad day, then that would be nearly £20 million profit for the investors whilst still owning one half of the business.
If Mr Green can do that, and have a sustainable business left behind him, then, in the same way as Fergus McCann, he would deserve whatever profit he could make for himself and his backers.
Of course there were over 25,000 individual shareholders in Rangers Football Club PLC, whose shares were worthless even before Craig Whyte’s purchase.
Vanguard Bears member and representative from RTID NI asked how CG feels about the fans overwhelming wishes to go to Division 3. Charles Green responded with “I have publicly said that I would accept that.”
Mr Green could be a politician. He did not answer the question fully. He could have said if he is asking for RFC to be admitted to SFL1. In fact, he could make things simple and follow his customers’ wishes by telling the SFL that he only wants admission to SFL3. Economically he cannot do so. Sevco might struggle in SFL1. If it wants to retain some of the top players, and high earners, left, then it will have grave problems in SFL3.
Charles Green referred to the players that had left as turncoats. Alan McGregor was the only one to call Sandy Jardine afterwards, with Jardine also mentioning ex Celtic PR man Peter McLean as being Steven Naismith’s agent.
“Turncoats”. Nothing like being considerate towards the former Rangers players, though he would say they were not considerate of him. However, as Mr McCoist commented below, the American players have not yet returned, but not yet objected. Does this talk help persuade them to come back to Ibrox, or instead to object top the transfer and head off to pastures new? I think there is only one answer to that.
Why mention Peter McLean’s connection in the past to Celtic? Was Mr Jardine suggesting that Mr Naismith decided, or was persuaded, to leave as part of a Celtic plot? When we had reached the happy stage where ex-Celtic players could play for Rangers, and vice-versa, what relevance does the former employer of a PR man have, unless to feed the feeling of the world being against Sevco.
CG expects criminal charges to be brought to the previous regime.
Is this simply a crowd pleaser, or has Mr Green evidence to justify the statement. We shall see.
CG was asked if the possibility of playing in England exists and if he made an attempt at buying Bury FC. He responded that he was attracted by Bury and hoped to mention the club along with Rangers. Unfortunately distance was going to be a problem, as after Wimbledon became MK Dons the football league changed its rules to state that any merger between two clubs could only happen if the clubs were within roughly 60 miles of each other.
He also looked at the possibility of buying Carlisle, but believes we cannot merge with an English club. We would have to start at the bottom of the conference if we were to go to England.
Did Sevco approach Bury? Again this is not clear. However, unless this is purely PR spin by Mr Green, he has been looking at a move to play in England. If so, it is ironic that the SFA and SPL have predicted a “slow lingering death” for Scottish football if Rangers go to SFL3. For all the talk about RFC taking steps for the good of Scottish football, these remarks emphasise that, for Mr Green, this is a business venture which needs to make a profit. The interests of Scottish football are very much secondary to those of Sevco Scotland Ltd. In a capitalist system there is nothing wrong with that. However it does make ridiculous the bending over backwards of Messrs Doncaster and Regan, if all the time RFC contemplate a move to England. It does not seem to be happening though.
A supporter asked when the current money in the club would run out without further investment. No answer was given. The same supporter was asked later to view the Club assets documents (the one’s Findlay wants to see), but declined the offer.
A representative from Denny then informed the panel that he had four reasons why we should go into Division 3. First he believed it would test Charles Green resolve; secondly he believed it would show the benefit of Auchenhowie and allow the management team to gain experience. Third, it would galvanise and unite the Rangers support, and lastly it would allow us to move on and concentrate on defeating the SNP’s fight for independence.
Malcolm Murray stated that the process for changing the name of Murray Park is underway.
What “process”? Of course the original incentive was that buying a season ticket got the purchaser a vote for the new name. The ballot process might be ongoing, but I can see no reason why, if Sevco, the apparent owner, wanted to change the name right now, it could not do so. I do not think that there could, for example, be a valid condition in the title requiring that it stay “Murray Park” in perpetuity.
John Brown and Andy Goram both asked if Donald Findlay QC could see the title deeds of the club, Brian Stockbridge, the club accountant, told John Brown to give him a call and they would set up a meeting where Donald Findlay could see the title deeds. This didn’t seem enough for Brown; he believed that a secure location had to be set up because Donald Findlay didn’t want people to know that his name had been mentioned, even though John Brown mentioned it on numerous occasions.
If Mr Brown is correct, then sadly Mr Findlay’s efforts to keep his involvement quiet have failed. One gets the impression he is not being consulted formally, but rather as a concerned man with a Rangers background. Mr Brown has been wise to enrol Mr Findlay in his camp, if indeed he has, as the mutton-chopped QC is the nest known “Rangers” lawyer in the land. However, it seems odd that Mr Brown announced at a public meeting that Mr Findlay, who as the minutes record has been publicly mentioned already on a number of occasions by Mr Brown, wants his involvement to remain out of the picture. From what has been made public, if I was Mr Findlay, I might regret Mr Brown making it clear I had hitched my wagon to his.
Donald Findlay though is a very wise and experienced man who would not need advice from me. Some have queried whether his role as Cowdenbeath chairman means that he is compromised in being involved with this matter, or whether, to use the phrase of the week, a “conflict of interest” arises. I do not see it, and more importantly Mr Findlay would not put himself into a position where such accusations could be made with foundation.
John Brown then claimed that a friend of his offered £11 million for the club before Charles Green’s consortium and that Duff and Phelps had rejected it or ignored it. This was debunked and denied by the board.
Reading the minutes, it is clear that the minute taker at least is not a fan of Mr Brown.
Brian Stockbridge twice explained the financial situation to Brown which appeared to go in one ear and out the other….
As above …
Charles Green left the meeting to attend another meeting with our enemies.
And we are back to circling the wagons. I assume that Mr Green did not refer to “enemies” and that this is the minute taker’s view. If that though is the perception held by a significant section of the Rangers supporters, then it helps explain what I discussed in my piece mentioned earlier.
Various supporters took to the floor offering best wishes to Ally McCoist, stating they would be renewing their Season Tickets as there was no alternative.
Questions to Ally McCoist :
Q – Will you be asking the fans to renew their ST’s?
A – Ally said he couldn’t ask the fans to renew ST’s as he didn’t know which players would be there or where we would be playing and he wouldn’t want it on his conscience that our hard-earned cash was being spent on something he couldn’t guarantee. Also, he didn’t have full trust in the current board for two reasons; he hasn’t known them long enough yet and because of the actions of the previous incumbents.
For the manager of the football team, having sat with the Board, his employers, and then, on their departure to say (a) that he could not ask fans to renew Season Tickets and (b) that he did not have full trust in the new board, is remarkable. If that is what he believes, and I have no reason to doubt it, his frankness is to be commended. However, a man as experienced in media and interviews as Mr McCoist could have found a way to fudge his answers. As it stands, the anti-Green faction, which is sizeable, can now say that the manager does not trust Mr Green nor does he recommend Season Ticket renewal!
Q – If you were at our (the supporters) side of the table would you buy a ST?
A – Ally responded, “In a heartbeat…..”
I do not think this answer negates the import of the one above.
Q – Would the manager prefer Division I or Division 3?
A – Ally replied that he felt his duty as the manager was to carry out the fans wishes, if 80% of them wanted Division 3 then he would be 100% behind that. He said that only six first-team players turned up for training plus all the kids. He was unsure if Edu, Bocanegra and Goian would return from their extended break.
When first team training started, Rangers.co.uk reported that 13 players turned up. Looking at the players listed by Rangers on its website as first team players, together with players listed as reserves who played for the first team last year, I count 16 players. Of these, 6 are full internationals; 6 are under-21 internationals; 1 has played at under-19 level internationally; and finally one id capped at under-17 level.
In addition the Rangers website lists 29 reserve and under-19 players, excluding those I have counted above, and those known to have left the club. I have not included the Academy players. In addition, I am sure that some of the reserves and under-19 players will have international experience at some level, but I have not searched through each one.
Those figures suggest a squad of 41 players, at most, to choose from. I have not checked through the SFL clubs, but I would be surprised if many have six full internationals on their books, or a squad of 41 to pick from.
Maybe the difference between the figures is that Mr McCoist only counts full internationals as first team players? Maybe he should speak to whoever runs the official website, as their figures do not agree with his.
Has Mr McCoist lost a lot of first choice players? Of course he has. Does he have a squad which, without addition, could have competed or at worst survived in the SPL? Probably. Is he in position where he and the myriad of ex-players who form the back room staff might have to pull on jerseys to make up numbers? No. Is it realistic to expect a squad of players including 6 full internationals, at least 6 undr-21 caps, and a number of under-19 and under-17 internationals to compete in the SFL? Of course!
Q – It was reported in the rags that you were resigning from the club, was that the case?
A – It was explained by Ally that he had a fall out with CG – things like that happen, but never at any time was he for walking away.
John Brown was then asked to take the microphone for 10 mins – which turned into almost 30. Virtually nothing of the way forward for Rangers was discussed. He was prompted to come to the top table by RFFF Chairman to view the relevant documentation to satisfy his demands, which he declined. The meeting was then informed by Chairman McCormick that he was Brown’s accountant, which brought about many wry smiles from those assembled.
As I said, I suspect the writer is not a fan of Mr Brown!
Sandy Jardine then informed the meeting before closing that there will be another RFFF meeting convened soon to discuss the position of the RFFF and funds within it.
What do we learn from this view inside the Ibrox Board and management?
At least for the fans, the view is being put across that everyone is against them. The creation of siege mentality is a tactic used in business and sport to rally the troops. As I said above, there might be a lot of truth in that suggestion, or at least in the premise that few neutrals are for “Rangers”.
Resentment and anger are still directed at Mr Whyte, not surprisingly.
The financial information disclosed in these minutes seems lacking in detail and clarity. How much has been put in? Does this include the purchase price? Where is the rest of the money coming from, and from whom?
Who or what is Blue Pitch Holdings? Where is it incorporated?
Maybe some of these questions will be answered in a few days when Mr Green’s seven-day period for answering all questions, as he said he would, expires.
It would also be useful if someone could ask Mr McCoist about his squad. By my reckoning the following players have returned to training, and indeed some have signed new contracts:- Alexander and Gallacher; Broadfoot, Wallace, Perry and Hegarty; McCulloch, Bedoya, Hutton and Mitchell; Kerkar and Hemmings; and Little, Cole, McKay and K Naismith. There are also another 29 reserves and under-19 players.
It is also clear that Mr Brown does not have the full backing of the support, as he might have thought he would receive as a “Rangers legend”.
It is also clear that, for all the stated desire of the fans to have a team play in SFL3 rather than SFL1, that is not Sevco’s preferred option. Quite how financially Sevco would survive in SFL3 without drastic cost-cutting is not clear.
To use one example, Neil Alexander, the perennial back up to Alan McGregor, is apparently on a contract paying him £8,000 per week. Over a year this is roughly £400,000.
Albion Rovers, in the season they were promoted from SFL3 to SFL2 had an annual turnover of just over £257,000. Stenhousemuir’s turnover for the year ending 31 May 2011 was just under £500,000.
One player for RFC, who will be the first choice goalkeeper if he remains, will be paid a wage which will exceed the turnover of a number of Scottish teams.
If Mr Green can make a football team financially viable in SFL3, or even SFL1 on that basis, then he should be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer!
Posted by Paul McConville