Rangers have announced that former manager Walter Smith has been appointed non-executive chairman of the Ibrox club’s board. Smith replaces Malcolm Murray who stepped aside from the role after two votes of no confidence following a board room split.
In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, it read: “The Rangers International Football Club plc today announced that Walter Smith has been appointed Non-Executive Chairman of the Board. Walter Smith is widely acknowledged as the Club’s most successful manager. Under his leadership, the Club enjoyed two immensely productive spells and he is one of the most highly regarded figures in British football.
“He succeeds Malcolm Murray, who agreed to step down as chairman, and Walter Smith’s appointment was a unanimous decision of the Board. The Board believes that the new chairman will bring stability, experience and a wealth of knowledge to the Club.”
Following that announcement, Smith was rolled out by the club in what can only be deemed as a show of unity within the club’s board – which is still fragmented behind closed doors.
Smith said: “Malcolm stepped forward at a time when the Club needed direction and I will always be grateful to him for that,’ said Walter. But we move on now and face up to the many challenges ahead as we try to rebuild and strengthen this Club. Rangers should always be at the pinnacle of the game and the fans deserve nothing less.
“Although I have been on the Board for some months this will be another departure for me but there are enough directors around to make sure we will make the kind of progress necessary and which our fans want.
“Unity among the directors is vital. We must all be on the same page as often as possible. We won’t always agree but Rangers, this Club and our fans must always come first. It is a great honour to be asked to take up this position and it goes without saying that I feel proud as well as humble. However, no one should believe that I see my role as a passive one. That hasn’t been my way in the past and it won’t be my way in the future.”
Craig Mather, who took over the role of chief executive following Charles Green’s departure under a cloud, added: “The Board believes the change will help drive the Club forward and we could not have a better man at the helm than Walter Smith.”
It is self-evident that Smith is being used as the face of the Rangers board. He has no business acumen, but he doesn’t need it in his role of non-executive chairman. His role can be compared to the honorary chairmanships given out to long serving board members by new owners looking to appease the fans.
And that is the crux of the issue, Smith is there to appease the fans, he is there to give the board credibility after the Green fiasco which was overshadowed by bold claims that were exaggerated, rhetoric that turned out to be lies and comments which showed Green up more as a joker than as the chief executive of a major company.
But above all, Smith’s promotion to chairman is to boost the upcoming sales of season tickets with renewal forms sent out earlier this month until the deadline of 28th June.
It is also interesting to note that Smith’s appointment came AFTER the Rangers Supporters Trust, the Union Bears and the Rangers Supporters Association issued statements demanding an end to the civil war inside Ibrox.
Not only did they tell the board to all get along, they also threatened that if they didn’t then season ticket sales would be hit if Walter Smith was not on the board – following reports that he could walk if Murray was forced out.
The joint statement read: “In view of the impending season ticket renewals and the launch of the new strip we urge the board to stabilise executive control and work in the best interest of our beloved football club so that we can all dig deep and support our return to our rightful place at the helm of Scottish football.
“We are reassured by Walter’s continued presence in the boardroom and I am sure the wider Rangers Family are too, this is undoubtedly a time for boardroom stability, continuity and strong leadership.”
A Union Bears statement read: “The Union Bears would like to make clear that we unequivocally back Walter Smith’s position on the club’s board of directors.
“Furthermore we will stand firmly behind anyone else that Walter Smith believes is working on the board in the best interests of our club. We’d also like to clarify that we would oppose the return of Charles Green to our club in any capacity.
“If Smith or any of the those referenced above are forcibly removed from the board of directors we will have no option but to consider our options for the season ahead.”
Strong words indeed from the three Rangers groups and you can understand the board’s decision to appoint Smith as their figurehead. Despite Smith’s rhetoric, he is not in charge, he does not have the casting vote and while he may influence the fans opinions, the board members are a totally different matter altogether as are the London Stock Exchange.
With Smith merely a puppet for those with the real power, who is the puppetmaster? Who is the person to hand Smith a statement and tell him to read it word for word?
And whatever Smith says, the fans believe and they will blindly follow. He is a powerful voice for Rangers and is an even more powerful tool for a splintered board room to use to not only paper over the cracks that have not gone away with Smith’s appointment, but also to give off an air of everything is A-okay at the Ibrox club.
Time will tell what Rangers will be like under Smith’s puppet rule, safe to say the headlines will still be awash with controversy, PR rhetoric and grandstanding from the Third Division champions.