Supporters are the lifeblood of any football club. The bonds formed between person and club are strong, built in the solid foundations of tribalry, loyalty and tradition. That is especially true for clubs in the British Isles. There is nothing more natural than a supporter having and expressing an opinion on the way their team is being managed, ran or coached. It is having these opinions that demonstrate the strength and depth of feeling held for these instutitions so close to the heart.
What’s more so, when a supporter is angry or upset at the way their team is being run and demonstrates their opposition, it is an example of how much they care for their side. Just as the highs are met with enthusiastic and occasionally irrational celebration, the lows are met with a furious anger and a stiff resolve to see their side reach the glories, standards and achievements of the past. For the many clubs who don’t rely on television income or rich benefactors, supporters are what funds these institutions, and it is a financial burden that they obligingly share in these harsh financial climates without a grudge.
Taking these points into consideration only makes the recent attitude of the Rangers board towards its own support even more astounding. In particular, the executive members who have taken inflated salaries paid for exclusively by the supporters and investors have much to answer for. This week, a fans protest group set up to demand change via peaceful protests at games was reported to Police Scotland by the Rangers board for ‘inciting unruly behaviour.’ Quite what is unruly about demanding better corporate governance and a tighter control of expenditure from those paid very handsomely to run the club is a mystery.
Continuing from that, individual fans and a fans forum have received letters from Rangers’ solicitors threatening legal action unless dissenting voices are silenced. Wednesdays newspapers contained further bile being spewed at the direction of the supporters by CEO Craig Mather, who accused protesting fans of ‘driving away families due to the protests.’ Given that junior ticket sales have risen recently and the family section is fuller than it has ever been, Mather’s desperate attempt to spin a negative light on the dissenters holds no water.
It is a very sad, very thought-provoking day when your own club starts to issue legal threats to supporters in a desperate and vain attempt to stop them from democratically voicing their opinion. For some, it is a reminder of just how far Rangers standards have fallen in recent years. Let us not forget that it is the supporters that funded the club through a fans fighting fund and match ticket sales during administration. It is the supporters that financed the club in the Third Division with season tickets, match tickets and by purchasing a considerable amount of shares during the stock market flotation. It is the supporters who continue to fund the club this season too. To then try and suppress the voice and opinions of these people shows a complete lack of respect for those who care far more about the club than the businessmen currently running the show
With the Rangers board now declaring war on the hand that feeds it, and the investors already lining up replacements for the incumbent board members, one would imagine the removal of this disasterous regime come the AGM on the 24th October will be a formality. For those whose passion in life is Rangers, they certainly hope so.