The outbreak of internecine warfare at RIFC is being acted out through a real pea-soup fog right now. The war is being fought on so many fronts that it is difficult to see just exactly how many armies are involved, and how the alliances are shaping up.
Craig Mather would appear to be in the Charles Green camp, but it is difficult to imagine that he would be happy to hear old blunderbuss-mouth peppering Ally McCoist with shot. McCoist’s in-character but inelegant riposte, whilst a valiant attempt at deflection and self-preservation, put his mentor and chairman, Walter Smith in a rather awkward position. It gives Mather a double headache as he tries to head off Clyde Blowers boss Jim McColl – and his blowhard ally Paul Murray – at the EGM-pass.
If Mather stands by Green, and Smith does the same for McCoist, then the two main officers of the company will be in opposite, and hostile, camps.
As I say, making sense of it is difficult, but one thing is as clear as an empty window frame: the acrimony, which has been in existence for months, is only now being aired in public because the season ticket drive is over. The one policy that the warring factions have been in agreement with is “Not in Front of the Children”.
Now that the fans have been compelled to buy season tickets in substantial numbers through a mixture of fear, loyalty and a never-ending stream of press spin telling them that “Rangers are on the cusp of greatness if only the supporters cough up”, it seems acceptable that the real war can begin – but what is the prize?
There can be little doubt that all of the factions are aware that a conservative business model is necessary if Rangers are to establish themselves in Scottish football – certainly a more conservative one than that followed by RFC (IL). I infer therefore that the war is not over a Murray vs McCann approach. My best guess is that the war is one of ideals – between one faction which aims to make as much money in the short term as possible, and another which, whilst not averse to a bit of nest-feathering, sees the health of the club and the notion of a continuity Rangers as paramount.
The trouble for Rangers fans is that it is the former faction which holds all the cards – all the shares in fact. I think that all fans of the game of football would hope that people with football at heart would win out here, irrespective of what their partisan loyalties dictate on a day to day basis.
The problem for either warring faction is that the loyalty of the Rangers fans is finite. The “long road (back)” to the top is one which might engage them for while. It is a great journey which is not without its rewards and adventure, but expectations will be massive if and when they get to the top league. When the acceleration of progress meets the buffers of premier championship aspiration, gate money will be in the front passenger seat. Managing unrealistic expectations is extremely difficult, and evidenced by the use of McCoist’s recruitment sledgehammer to crack the nut of the bottom two divisions.
But here are some questions to which I honestly do not know the answer;
- How does the Rangersness faction wrest control away from these spivs?
- How will the spivs attempt to ensure that the Rangersness faction fails in their objective?
- Can the people in the Rangersness camp REALLY be trusted to act in the best interests of the club even if it is at odds with their own? This, given the close association with the terminal decline of the club they all profess to love.
- Is there any realistic scenario which allows this club to prosper and challenge for honours within a ten to fifteen year period?
My belief is that the key to the new club being able to establish itself is managing the expectations of the fans. Despite the MSM willingness to cut and paste RFC and RIFC press releases unadulterated, the ability of that same MSM to impress a message of realism into Rangers fans is zero. Not in front of the children in fact.
Is it really a sociological bridge too far to expect Rangers fans to turn down the expectation-ometer? I don’t believe it is. In the eighties, if I recall correctly, a seriously underachieving Rangers team were not met with demands for big spending. There was pressure on them to get better managers who could pick better players, but no demands for Fort Knox to be breached. If Rangers fans really want a club called Rangers playing in blue at Ibrox, and competing fully in the game, they need to find leaders who can sell the long-termism of such an aspiration. Many will hope, including the spivs and the MSM, that no such leader emerges.