D-Day is fast approaching Rangers Football Club, Charles Green and the Rangers fans as the deadline for the IPO share issue is at 1pm on Tuesday.
Green is looking to raise £10 million from the IPO share issue along with a further £17 million from private investors, however according to reports earlier today Green is looking at a massive £8 million shortfall from the fans uptake.
Is it a case of the fans boycotting their own share issue? Are they still wary of Charles Green’s intentions? Or is it just bad timing as it’s a mere seven days before Christmas?
It is reminiscent of David Murray’s failed share issue, when he tried to raise £57 million to help towards paying off the clubs debt, which then stood at around £80 million. That share issue saw Rangers fans amass just over £1 million and Murray, through one of his subsidiary’s, forked out £50 million after underwriting the share issue.
Green sauntered into Ibrox like a knight on a great white charger, but amidst all his gusto the Rangers fans did not take kindly to this Yorkshireman with big hands. They saw him as someone looking to profiteer from the misery that they and their club had suffered at the hands of Craig Whyte. They called on Rangers men to take over – a consortium led by Walter Smith was the preferred choice, then it was John Brown’s consortium as he amassed legions of Rangers fans on the steps of Ibrox calling for Green to sell his stake in the club.
These consortiums fell by the wayside and Green remained. With the fans still against him, he changed his approach and began a ‘hearts and minds’ operation to win over the fans.
His style went from potential saviour and jolly Yorkshireman, to an aggressive battler smashing his way through everything and anyone that dared challenge – not him – but Rangers Football Club. He took on the SPL, took on the Scottish FA and despite succumbing to rightful punishment, his ‘siege mentality’ approach saw the fans do a u-turn on their opinion of Green, dubbed by some as a Craig Whyte Mk2.
Green was now seen as that saviour on a great white charger, defending their club, defending the fans, defending their traditions.
A similar approach to what Craig Whyte did when he arrived on the scene. So you could understand Rangers fans reluctance to part with their hard-earned cash for a share in a company, rather than the club that they hold so dear to their heart.
Is that the problem? That they are investing in a company and not Rangers Football Club itself?
His charm offensive may have seen him worm himself into the hearts of the Rangers fans, but it will take a whole lot more to make them part with a significant amount of money.
A minimum of £500 for a share is a huge undertaking for any ordinary football fan, even more so at Christmas time. One successful undertaking from the Rangers fans though has been the BuyRangers.org scheme run by the Rangers Supporters Trust, which has raised over £100,000 to buy shares in the Ibrox club – and over the next few years they would be looking to add more shares to their portfolio.
While Green has stated that he has private investors that are ready to plough in £17 million, until the money is in the club’s coffers there will always be skepticism.
Maybe just maybe, he should have opened the buying of shares to his private investors first before the fans, so as to convince them to invest.
We can only take Green at his word, that he has £17 million worth of shares sold to private investors – time will tell if this is true or not.
Green stated only a few months ago that the fans had pledged around £22 million via an online sign up form. It made for great headlines for Green and Rangers at a time when on the field matters were proving far harder than anyone had anticipated.
That £22 million has not materialised and according to reports the share issue has only hit £2 million over the weekend with less than 12 hours remaining. At best the share issue which saw £10 million worth ringfenced for the fans will only hit half that target.
Unless the unthinkable happens and those 200,000 fans who descended on Manchester in 2008 scrape together all their pennies and ditch Christmas this year to hit the £10 million target, Green will be left with a shortfall to cover. A promise he made when he announced the IPO.
Now the Daily Record’s Keith Jackson, in his article stated that there are suspicions that many pledges had been made by rival fans as a wind-up. There is no suspicion about it, the forums were awash with fans of numerous clubs – including arch rivals Celtic – stating they pledged money ranging from £500 up to £10,000. Dirty tactics indeed, but one that these rivals will take great pleasure in lauding if their ‘plan’ of making Green think he had a fat cow to milk dry, comes back to bite the Yorkshireman on his derrier.
Of course they would be those genuine fans who would want to pledge as much money as they could afford, but when the payment methods were limited and with their families coming first they decided against it.
Jackson stated in his piece, and I agree with him, when he said: “Green may well be wishing now that he had not chosen to launch this issue in December, in the middle of a recession. He may also be thinking he was asking for too much when he set the minimum asking price at a monkey. Now I’m no Lord Sugar but wasn’t that all rather bleeding obvious?”
It was also pointed out in the Record’s piece and by those who donated money to Celtic’s call to arms in 1995, when £9 million was raised when Fergus ‘The Bunnet’ McCann stated that the club would die without the money.
As Jackson added: “If Rangers supporters fall way short of that kind of sum, they can expect to be told about it by their neighbours. Over and over. And no, Green won’t be there with his cheque book to make up the difference. He’s not here to spend his own money. He prefer others to spend for him.”
Time will tell, as I said previously, if Charles Green or his investors pick up the slack then that will be enough for the Rangers fans to stand side by side with Green. If the shortfall is not covered and his investors do not materialise in full, then the fans will start questioning Green, his statements and stand toe to toe with him to demand answers.
However, despite all these ifs and buts, Charles Green was still supremely confident that the share issue would be a success and even manager Ally McCoist has signed up to the share issue – above his own share intake previously.
Green said: “I am delighted we have been able to fulfil our promise to give fans the opportunity to once again hold shares in the club as that has been our stated aim from the beginning.
“Since the 140th anniversary game, the club has been inundated with best wishes from all over the world and the support that this club has received since I came to Ibrox has been outstanding and humbling for someone who had no previous connection to the club.
“Many fans lost their shareholding in the club previously and, I said from the start, no one person would again have control of Rangers.
“We said the fans would have the chance to be part of the club’s future and they have until 1pm tomorrow when the offer to the public closes.
“Ally McCoist, myself, Walter Smith and the rest of the board are pleased that we have been able to reach this stage in the process and give the fans the opportunity they deserve to own a stake in the club that means so much to them.
“This is a key moment in the rebuilding of Rangers and we are determined to get the club back to where it belongs and also prepare it well for the long-term challenges it will face as a great sporting institution.”
Many eyes will be on Rangers at 1pm. By 5pm the fans will either be celebrating a successful share issue or donning their pitch forks and torches demanding to know why it failed despite all of Green’s past rhetoric.
Kate Burgess of the Financial Times summed up the IPO share offer: “Rangers’ IPO has the characteristics of a turkey with a short sell-by date. It may look delicious on Christmas day but will not smell so good in a few months.”
That comment is from a journalist who knows what she is talking about in terms of business, finance and share issues. Unlike those we read in newspapers up here who are far from experts in this field – merely Sports journalists.