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Supporting Rangers has never been quite so difficult. Doesn’t matter if it’s new beneficial club owners from one year to the next, executive directors that are replaced quarter by quarter or turgid on-the-field performances which would struggle to excite the most positive of football fans, it’s not easy to find a bear without a sore head nowadays. This headache soon becomes even worse when you try to examine the minefield that forms our supporter group landscape.

 

Let’s go through them for clarity – take a deep breath:

 

a) The Rangers Supporters Association – the oldest group which represent a range of RSCs all over the world. Nowadays, pretty small, perhaps old fashioned and primarily scoped to deal with ticketing issues you’ll nevertheless find their latest secretary Drew Roberton commenting in the media on a regular basis.

 

b) The Rangers Supporters Trust – an independent group formed in 2003 mainly working towards fan ownership via share purchasing; the RST account for up to 2000 members. Their chair Gordon Dinnie is also often credited in the media on their behalf.

 

c) NARSA and ORSA – two foreign associations which look after the interests of the North American and Oceanic RSCs respectively. It’s not often they’ll be quoted in the media but they do have lots of members with a fair amount of clout behind the scenes. NARSA especially have a solid historic relationship with the club.

 

d) The Rangers Supporters Assembly – the original umbrella group which encompasses all of the above (and more) and was setup around ten years ago. Since then they’ve really struggled to capture the imagination of those they insist they represent (including season book holders). President Andy Kerr remains vocal in the media and usually aligned with a) and b) above. The future of the organisation within the club since the 2012 administration is unclear.

 

e) Sons of Struth (SoS) – a more recent phenomenon is two fans that have been at the forefront of various protests against figures at the club. Most controversially, their spokesperson Craig Houston was threatened with legal action by club director Sandy Easdale for defamatory comments on a social network page. This has prompted much comment which we’ll explore further below.

 

f) Union of Fans – even more recent is this new umbrella group which is made up of a), b), d), e) and the two Ibrox singing sections. Again, this group appear most concerned with the short-term future of club and their statements are geared towards this political aim. Spokesman Chris Graham is a keen blogger on the club and is featured regularly on two popular websites.

 

g) Buy Rangers and Rangers First – not to be outdone, we now have two share vehicles specifically interested in achieving fan ownership via the purchase of shares as part of government backed schemes. The former is organised by the RST while the latter is a new development also promoted by Supporters Direct. At first glance both appear attractive to the interested supporter.

 

h) Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (RFFF) – set up in 2012 this fund was put together to raise money for the club post-administration. Despite having Assembly and official club connotations, the Fund has been blighted by a lack of communication and transparency. Indeed, its website is no longer available and uncertainty remains with respect to the £500,000 surplus in its account.

 

i) The Rest – as well as the TEN groups above, there are a variety of other clusters of fans which one may or may not perceive as ‘formal’ groups. These are often backed up with websites/blogs and can be made up of thousands of shared members; though usually these can be concentrated down into smaller lobbies of key opinion formers from group to group. It’s difficult to recognise all such bodies in a formal sense but there’s no doubting their contribution can be worthy.

 

The above really is quite incredible when put down on paper – even with what I’d concede is a very superficial outline of each group. Quite simply, there’s no wonder confusion and division exists when we have so many groups all competing against each other. Despite regular assurances to the contrary (and so-called umbrella groups speaking for all), the chances of genuine fan unity and convincing representation remain as far away as ever. This is confirmed by the most recent issue which has caused further splits in the support.

 

As touched on above, the Sons of Struth has been one of the most prominent groups of late. Despite only being made up of two individual supporters with no formal constitution, their stadium protests and media profile have resulted in much debate over recent months. Undoubtedly in my view their lobbying of Rangers and its support has contributed to the decision-making of the club hierarchy – even if I may also disagree with their methods and words from time to time. This is especially disappointing when using (or allowing) derogatory language to make their point. As someone who has experienced legal contact in such matters previously, there’s a fine line between fair criticism, unfair falsehoods and petty name-calling. Therefore, it was no surprise to see the main SoS figure Craig Houston served with a legal notice by Sandy Easdale to desist from such alleged behaviour or face a £200,000 court action.

 

At this point the debate became polarised with those generally supportive of the SoS eager to source funds from the hitherto inactive RFFF to help Mr Houston in his defence against Mr Easdale. However, this suggestion seemed at best unlikely and at worst flawed given the RFFF monies were primarily setup to be used for the club only (despite some cash being used to pay small oldco debts such as Dunfermline Football Club in 2012). With that in mind, even those who had sympathy with the SoS predicament felt it was best a separate fund was setup should legal action go ahead. Hence, it was a great surprise to many bears when the RFFF subsequently voted to put the decision to a general vote of fans rather than immediately reject the suggestion.

 

Despite this curiosity it could be argued this was perhaps the most reasonable course of action. After all, while many fans didn’t agree with this non-club appropriation of funds, what should happen if another more popular non-club opportunity arose: should it be declined automatically or debated by the fund contributors? Furthermore, the volunteer RFFF committee were put in place to act on our behalf so it’s difficult to argue with the democratic process being followed – even if the lack of clarity surrounding the decision (and RFFF work generally) is of valid concern. In any case, no matter our thoughts, the reaction has been furious from some quarters with one website and NARSA both calling for the resignation of those who voted for the issue to be decided via a ‘general meeting of fans’. Suffice to say the response to that has been equally negative with all sorts of insults permitted in some online communities. Once again the fan-base is split – often based on their website or group of choice rather than actually examining the issue without prejudice.

 

Indeed it’s this kind of division that is now becoming very difficult to ignore when looking at most issues related to the club. Rather than such subjects being analysed with balance and in unison, we have some coming to most debates with a pre-determined opinion already in place. Quite simply if person/site/group A says one thing, you can be sure person/site/group B will say another and vice-versa. Such disagreement may actually be healthy in some respects but when it is increasingly accompanied by the kind of nonsense we usually see for those hostile to our club then such puerile debate just becomes counter-productive. Is it any wonder our club and fan-base have been taken advantage of in recent years when we can’t agree on the most basic of issues?

 

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to this ongoing tribal warfare. Existing ‘umbrella’ groups have tried and failed for many years to capture the imagination of the widespread support while those not already interested in such ‘political’ matters won’t be swayed by a long list of fan organisations they may struggle to identify with. In addition, resignations, fall-outs and abuse appear to tarnish any good work such groups do. Meanwhile, a club fighting with itself on a month-to-month basis appears to have neither the will nor the way (not to mention the funds) to put in place a new scheme which can accommodate fans of every possible background. Yet, in my opinion, if such a group is to be successful, from the club it must come. It needs that formal official status, along with the backing of high-profile relevant figures, to take fan representation from social clubs and websites to the boardroom. However the only certainty is that when such a proposal does see the light of day, it may be strangled at birth by a minority of people who will always insist upon throwing out the baby with the bathwater for the most ridiculous of arguments.

 

In the meantime, the moderate (and usually silent) majority can only hope for better. And until we concentrate ten bizarrely disparate groups into one then that day may be a long time coming. What part will you play in achieving that positive change: are you part of the problem or the solution? Will the real Rangers support please stand up?

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One of the main reason for me posting on this forum is it's unbiased and moderate thinking. I can get my daily intake of staunchness and stronger opinionated from the likes of FF and RM, That's not to say we don't get opinionated threads or disagreements here, the Ally bashing is something i don't like, but appreciate other Bears have a different take on how to deal with our team management disputes.

 

I have not been happy the way the RFFF has been run after our initial administration event and our success of thwarting the "Titles thieves" agenda. I was hoping for instance we would take on some of our enemies who constantly lie about the club through the press, The lack of 'fight has been disappointing. Defending the SOS member against the claimant, who in my opinion bring the club into disrepute and should be challenged by the support. This was a way for the RFFF to challenge certain board members intimidation and threats for the good of the club and the wider support.

 

The RFFF have made some payments for other events outwith the strictly "administration event" so the precedent has been made for paying for 'anomalies' so i see nothing wrong in calling for a democratic vote for further payment outwith the "administration", which is in fact now not prevalent.

 

The money in the fund has been lying dormant for months, imo some of the money should be used on other events, such as buying shares in the club, other will disagree but that is democracy at work.

 

Great article Frankie, has no agenda and leaves it to the members on here to make their own mind up, something which is severely lacking in todays wider media and press.

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However the only certainty is that when such a proposal does see the light of day, it may be strangled at birth by a minority of people who will always insist upon throwing out the baby with the bathwater for the most ridiculous of arguments.

 

Excellent article Frankie. Very useful as, not being affiliated to any faction, I was getting completely lost (and bored) by the list of acronyms and disagreements. Unfortunately I feel that the comment in bold above is even more regular now and it's getting worse.

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For the last few years, people have been calling for one single fan group.

 

Merge the Assembly, Association and Trust, they said, which wasn't really possible, but it showed that the punters wanted the simplicity of one size fits all.

 

Now we have a multitude of groups creating division when the main body of the kirk wants togetherness and a semblance of unity.

 

A club 'membership' scheme is proposed on top of all this, but while the club belongs to the few and not the many, an in-house group, effectively a discount card dressed up as democracy, has about as much appeal as a day out at Parkhead.

 

We are a mess - the Omnishambles Loyal.

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For the last few years, people have been calling for one single fan group.

 

Merge the Assembly, Association and Trust, they said, which wasn't really possible, but it showed that the punters wanted the simplicity of one size fits all.

 

Now we have a multitude of groups creating division when the main body of the kirk wants togetherness and a semblance of unity.

 

A club 'membership' scheme is proposed on top of all this, but while the club belongs to the few and not the many, an in-house group, effectively a discount card dressed up as democracy, has about as much appeal as a day out at Parkhead.

 

We are a mess - the Omnishambles Loyal.

 

I don't think a membership scheme is ultimately the answer as the cost (no matter how small) may prove problematic for some.

 

However, I do think there is scope for one single 'official' group and one single 'independent' group. As much as competition can be healthy, anything else is just superfluous, confusing and perhaps self-indulgent.

 

Unfortunately, I have no answer in how to achieve this so perhaps my article is as unhelpful as anything else... :(

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What you're talking about, Frankie, is about 200 or so fans out of the Rangers fan base of about 2,000,000 or so in Scotland alone. I think we do get het up about very little sometimes.

 

There's no doubt a minority of people control the 'political' Rangers fan debate. You can find the same people throughout the different organisations after all. In some ways that can be useful but in others, when relationships break down, it just causes deeper problems.

 

I really don't know how we address the overall problem as I find the constant negative 'he-said, she-said' stuff self-defeating and depressing.

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I don't think a membership scheme is ultimately the answer as the cost (no matter how small) may prove problematic for some.

 

However, I do think there is scope for one single 'official' group and one single 'independent' group. As much as competition can be healthy, anything else is just superfluous, confusing and perhaps self-indulgent.

 

Unfortunately, I have no answer in how to achieve this so perhaps my article is as unhelpful as anything else... :(

 

Competition is healthy but is it healthy when different groups are competing against one another to achieve, supposedly, the same goal?

 

Is it healthy for the Rangers support to be fracturing and dividing rather than cooperating and being constructive?

 

Some of the groups serve no real purpose, but their existence muddies the waters. Would anyone miss the Assembly if it disappeared? If it had already disappeared, would anyone have noticed?

 

A club 'membership' scheme will probably have an ex-player involved - possibly Mark Hateley if rumours are true - to keep dissent to a minimum and make sure the group stays tame.

 

Groups of this type are for people who want to play at fan representation rather than catering for those who will read the riot act when it needs to be read.

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Competition is healthy but is it healthy when different groups are competing against one another to achieve, supposedly, the same goal?

 

Is it healthy for the Rangers support to be fracturing and dividing rather than cooperating and being constructive?

 

Some of the groups serve no real purpose, but their existence muddies the waters. Would anyone miss the Assembly if it disappeared? If it had already disappeared, would anyone have noticed?

 

A club 'membership' scheme will probably have an ex-player involved - possibly Mark Hateley if rumours are true - to keep dissent to a minimum and make sure the group stays tame.

 

Groups of this type are for people who want to play at fan representation rather than catering for those who will read the riot act when it needs to be read.

 

Like I say, one or two groups is all we need. But, in the absence of well-performing existing groups, it's not a surprise others crop up.

 

If and when this happens they'll be debated just like their predecessors - that's the only way for them to improve. Preferably those involved will plan ahead to avoid the usual contentious stuff.

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