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Thinking the Unthinkable: Is the Time Right for Protest?

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Superb article from Big Spliff as part of the 'Setting the Standard' project.


Lengthy read (make a brew and grab a biscuit) but well worth it. Might be better to read it via the following link as to avoid hurting your eyes on here...





Edited by Frankie
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For those who prefer to have the content on the forum as well:


Part One


Let’s assume for a moment that Rangers is for sale at, say, Ã?£50m. We have debts rumoured to be approaching Ã?£30m and we need to offload Ã?£3-4m of talent from a small group of our ‘top’ players before the end of a month we’re already more than half-way through. The reason? It has been suggested by the Chairman (“if we didn’t sell Boyd then things could have been “bad” – and this was before the deal fell through, as it has at the time of writing) that we cannot continue to function as a business past January due to our debt obligations.


These obligations are thought to include a substantial transfer fee to Burnley for Kyle Lafferty but we have run out of cash at the same time as being confronted with a sobering and sudden inability to increase our borrowing. We intend to cut our wage bill by up to one-third. There is a global financial crisis, we are at the beginning of a deep recession, our biggest asset has been a victim of property price deflation and credit markets have dried up. Our Edinburgh-based bank has collapsed, was rescued by the government and is in the process of being taken over by an English-based rival. No more Moet on The Mound for the Chairman then.


As we get into the full swing of 2009, Celtic have dominated the SPL for the past 8 years, winning 6 times and (on the basis that we fully intend to weaken our squad shortly) are looking at a very realistic/possible 4-in-a-row – an achievement they have managed only once since 1916/17 incidentally, nearly 100 years. They have only Ã?£3.5m of debts (maybe zero by now), 10,000 more season ticket holders than us and can strengthen their team significantly immediately if they choose.


Were it not for us winning the league in the last 10 minutes of 2 different seasons by 1 point and 1 goal respectively, they would be looking at 9-in-a-row now - NOW! We have won 3 out of the last 10 domestic cup competitions (2 last season). We have been out of Europe for about 6 months. I won’t get into the quality of player we have, tactics, formations, players out of position, entertainment value etc as these are subjective issues and this piece makes an attempt to deal in facts as much as possible.


As 1994 reached the end of its first quarter, those of us who can remember will easily recall the hilarity as we eagerly watched Celtic FC’s almost fatal implosion. If anybody ever WANTED to watch a car crash, then this was it! They had won the league only once in 8 years, Rangers were looking at 6-in-a-row. They had debts rumoured to be an eye-watering Ã?£7m and were busy trying to build a smokescreen by announcing fake plans to build a new Ã?£50m stadium in Cambuslang. Their attendances were regularly below 20,000. They had had a series of useless managers and an almost endless steam of equally useless players. Quite simply, their inept board had been running the club for their own self-interest for far too many years to be healthy.


‘Celts for Change’, an organisation made up of ordinary fans backed by a small band of unhappy but very wealthy supporters had been active for some time; agitating against what they saw as the corruption of the board of directors and their mismanagement of the club. Whilst Rangers were in a position where their clear dominance looked set to continue on the park, the Celts for Change group realised that the investment required and leadership Celtic needing to become a force again was simply not going to happen under the self-serving, closed-shop incumbent regime. It had all gone on too long and it was all going absolutely nowhere. They wanted change and they wanted it badly enough to organise meetings and protests, once of which was a staged walk-out after 60 minutes vs. Kilmarnock in March 1994. Only 300 fans (out of a Celtic support of only 8,000, but still nearly 5%) walked out, to jeers from their fellow fans. But they went anyway. They knew time was right for a change. They didn’t necessarily have all the details nor access to every movement behind the scenes, but they knew – they KNEW that things simply had to change .They truly were a shambles of a club. And how we laughed!


The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Bank of Scotland declined to write a cheque to Middlesbrough for an outstanding transfer fee, insisting Celtic had to deposit more funds. They didn’t because they couldn’t. They had run out of cash. The bank declared itself ready to call in the receivers. Waiting in the wings many thousands of miles away was Fergus McCann, a reasonably wealthy fan, working in concert with the local and vocal leaders of Celts for Change. Wee Fergus said he would provide Ã?£2m immediately – insisting a deal be done and the board deposed, which it duly was. Job done. And for our part, we laughed even more, and kept laughing for several years!


Of course, one could write an entirely different version of that story (and there may be the odd fact which needs slight adjustment) and one could pick holes in the implied comparison. Nobody knows if Rangers are that close to the bank pulling the plug in 2009, maybe it’s doubtful. But to repeat the Chairman’s statement that things will be “bad” if we don’t pull in Ã?£3-4m in the next 2 weeks, the questions are clearly; what exactly could this mean?; how “bad” is “bad”?; what happens if we don’t sell anyone? are we really that close to the edge?


Whether the situation is the same as Celtic’s was is probably a moot point, but interesting parallels are easy to find. Of those parallels which DO NOT remain, here are a few more points to consider.


Celtic was a sleeping giant, playing to meagre crowds and embarrassingly scrimping on everything. There was plenty of unlocked potential, but it needed a fresh start, a new vision, a new strategy, energised leadership – a complete change. Rangers in 2009 is, by contrast, an ailing giant. We play to a near-packed Ibrox every week and have outsourced almost everything we possibly can, including merchandising and catering. We will probably never sell more tops, t-shirts and scarves than we did last year.


Back in 1994, Celtic had value to unlock. It was worth Wee Fergus investing millions to get it. It could be turned into a profitable business, facilities could improve – replace their large, old rickety ground with a large, new rickety ground; build it and, and the people will come. Rangers in 2009, is a busted business. It frequently makes losses (sometimes very large losses) and it is laden with debt. We cannot increase our crowds by even 10% never mind by 250%. Nobody but nobody is going to buy our club for its book value. There is simply no point. Of course if a hotel or a leisure complex was involved then maybe that’s different but is there anybody left who believes in that anymore? All that doesn’t mean we have no potential to grow; quite the opposite. But the current regime at Rangers has clearly, very clearly taken us as far as they can. The talk is once again of downsizing, cut-backs and regression. It’s hard to see exactly which direction we are going in, but we’re most certainly not on the happy path.



Edited by Frankie
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Part 2


For Sir David Murray, it’s been a game of 2 very long and contrasting halves. The first half was 1988-1998. 10 championships out of 11; a famous 9 in a row. Great times, great players, great memories! As many a great leader will testify, sometimes it’s best to go out on top. Sir David should have done exactly that. In fact I’d bet he wishes he had as 1999-2008 has been a disaster. The final years of the last millennium were successful on the park but the cost was ridiculous - Ã?£74m of disclosed debt (rumoured to be as high as Ã?£86m) and we know what happened next. From 1998-2000, it was spend spend spend. From 2000-2006 it was cut cut cut. From 2006-2008 it was spend spend spend. From 2009 to god knows when, it’s going to be cut cut cut. We lurch from one extreme to the other and back again in the most bizarre fashion. And this from a club which said it learnt its lessons from past extravagance, and would never again operate beyond its means.


Interesting to note is this; it took Celtic nearly 6 years from their darkest days in 1994 to get on top again. And most galling of all, the catalyst for their return was the repositioning of Rangers following the ridiculous escalation in our debt. We let them back in.


If you believe Rangers are (or could be) in serious financial trouble then consider this; if things get any worse it could be a long, long, long road back. Sir David Murray’s model for running Rangers has failed. Not just once – it has failed for a second time. We don’t know how “bad” it really is, but the tell-tale signs are all there. This point is worth repeating; if it all blew up tomorrow could you honestly say that the signs weren’t there? If so, you’re not looking hard enough at what’s right in front of you. We simply can’t wait for the unthinkable to happen before we awaken from our malaise. Which is why the time for the Gers to change is now. Right Now!


Sir David Murray is a proud man of considerable personal courage. He does not concede easily and is a sore loser. And brace yourself for something which might come across as ridiculous to many Rangers fans – I contend that he even has important sections of the media in his pocket – otherwise he would be castigated left, right and centre for the debacle that we find ourselves in. Perhaps his inaction on various other fronts is the quid pro quo for a silence within the ranks of the wee pet lambs in the press?


The arguments that the supporters should do nothing are weak. They are arguments for more of the same – and as we’ve seen, more of the same clearly means more of the second half, not the first. We really need to put pressure on Sir David Murray, the self-styled Custodian of our great club. He might own the shop and nearly everything in it but that doesn’t mean he should have a free ride when the club’s underlying business has clearly failed yet again. Even if Boyd or someone else goes, the underlying issues do not just go away.


This is Sir David Murray’s responsibility. Name him. He took all the plaudits when we achieved 9-in-a-row. He must now take the criticism. Keep it simple. State the facts. Be constructive. Be positive. Don’t make it personal – it’s not. Keep it free from abuse. Asking him respond now, after 20 years to many-pointed plans might be a nice tactic, but ultimately it’s futile. It’s like going to the hairdresser and asking if they’ll paint your head to cover your bald patch.


The Chairman has failed. Twice. He needs to move on and if that means cutting his losses and accepting a vastly reduced offer then so be it. Yes, he has put in a pretty penny but he owes us the chance to get on with a new future. He needs to go not because he wants to – he needs to go because he needs to. It’s not about him – it’s about Rangers. Sir David Murray is only important to Sir David Murray, his family, his friends, and some of those he employs. Rangers FC is important to hundreds of thousands of people – maybe even a million or two - across the globe.


We may suddenly be only 2 points behind a very weak Celtic team and still in the 2 domestic cups. But last week we were 7 points behind and the support was getting very frustrated. Next week we might be a point ahead and everyone will be getting very excited (me included). This piece is not about the last or the next 3 points. This is about the bigger, deeper, more fundamental, long-term issues surrounding the future of our club. We cannot afford to get sidetracked by the short-term dramas of the latest result or the form of an individual player.


Either way, Sir David’s time is up. He knows it. He and his off-field management team have failed yet again. Regardless of which individuals have made which mistakes, we need to be asking ourselves now; what would be enough for our 5% to stand up and walk out (literally or metaphorically)? Do we wait and hope it’ll somehow all get better? Do we really need to wait until Celtic win 4-in-a-row? Or do we stand up and get involved now?


Many of us can see that behind the facade, the club is already a shadow of its former self. A different future needs to start now, before the Rangers we love becomes a shadow of its current shadow, or quite literally, part of the past.


Here at Gersnet we’ve been doing a lot of thinking. We’re putting together constructive proposals for discussion so that we may invite everyone with Rangers’ interests at heart to get their ideas out in the open too. We ask you to get thinking, talk to your friends, get together, write a blog, pen a letter, write an article, print a leaflet – get involved!


In 1994 the aptly-named ‘Rebels’ won the future of their club. In 2009 the loyal Rangers fans need to rediscover how to ‘Protest’ for the future of ours.


Hardly any Rangers fan disputes that 'We Deserve Better'. I’ll go one step further;


“The time is now”.



Edited by Frankie
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I'd like to make a few points:


1. Firstly I disagree with any overly aggressive/negative protest. Banners and folk gathering outside the front door is premature IMO but I can understand why some may find such a reaction suitable.


2. It could be said we're only 2 or 3 bad results away from that happening anyway. But by the same token we're only 2 or 3 good results away from such protests being laughed at. Hence the utmost care is required in any campaign for improvement.


3. As such, I'd prefer more constructive, positive protest as we're doing via the 'Setting the Standard' project. Sure, we arguably have plenty to complain about but, since we have no Fergus McCann, we need to be more constructive and clever in our approach.


Looking forward to reading other people's opinions. Agree - say why and give examples in how direct protest can work and how it could be done. Disagree - say why and give evidence for your opinion.



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It really all depends where you are on the journey. Not everyone moves at the same speed and not everyone has the same distance to travel.


I've been ready for a long time. I've harboured deep suspicions about the way the club was being run as far back as 1998. That's a long tine to nurse your frustrations and a long time to watch the same mistakes being made by the same people. I've also seen and taken part in protests before at Ibrox so the idea of protest really doesn't phase me the ways it appears to do some more reluctant souls amongst us. I also admit to being fairly reactionary by nature, that's just part of everyday business life, where hesitation and self-doubt can be very dangerous luxuries.


Many keep going on about the time not yet being right for protest. Well guys, if it's not right with the mess this club is in right now, then you need to accept that it never will be for you and you should just watch the footy and leave the protests to others.


Actually, it should also be understood that protest is already happening all the time, and has been for some time. It's just on a lower level and not the mass protests that everyone has in mind. Perhaps it doesn't involve you, it may even be invisible, but there are people who are writing to the club weekly, forging relationships with the media, and so on. But mass protest is coming too. No doubt at all about that. We may win this league and we may not see mass protest this time around but the next crisis is just around the corner - this season, next season, the time isn't far away when the dam breaks. There are only so many moonbeams.

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There's no doubt about that MF, in my opinion...


That's why it's important people lead the way, shed some light and keep protest (no matter how direct or indirect) as positive and as constructive as possible. Doing so gives us credibility, increases momentum and opens peoples' eyes to things they may not have seen before.


Out of small acorns...

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It's certainly a well written peice and I agree with its core sentiments, i.e change is necessary, however, as is always my gripe with such peices, it offers no solutions except perhaps a hint that we sholud be staging walkouts in the near future. At least this peice admits as such and asks for ideas.


Frankie makes the crucial point above: we have no Fergus Mcann waiting in the wings. Murray has stated he wants out til he is blue in the face which makes protests aimed at bringing an end to his tenure futile and possibly even harmful. The fan ownership model has been suggested but would be almost impossible to organise/mobilise given the apathy of most fans nowadays. This brings us back to the "Knight in Shining Armour" new investors who Murray would welcome! As soon as they materialise SDM will be off. I could understand a walkout if Murray was resisting overtures from an attractive buyer, but the fact is there is noone out there.


I won't be walking out anytime soon.

Edited by Cotter
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All fair points mate...


It is an interesting dilemma and no-one knows the answers. All the more reason for people to take a step back, remove their blinkers and address the issue from a different angle.


That goes for all parties - the club and its critics; and the critics' critics as well! :D

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This seems to have been picked up on FF today and there's been quite a bit of interesting discussion, including "Gersnet calls for protest". I'm not sure how I feel about certain aspects of the discussion, although I'm pleased that it's happening.

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