THE CLUB AS A REAL CLUB
The distance between the functionaries was never more clearly demonstrated than when the latest Rangers catalogue dropped through the letterbox. In huge letters it announced "FEEL THE PASSION WEAR THE BRAND" - anyone reading this support a brand as opposed to a football club? People change brands, the sort of supporters I want to be surrounded with at Ibrox do not change their football clubs.
At the Rangers AGM in May 1899 - the members accepted the concept of limited liability - shares were then issued amongst the members of what up until then had been a private members club - essentially it was done to provide protection for the members in the event the club, by then a large commercial venture, went bankrupt and to allow the club to take advantage of loans, etc, only available on the scale required to redevelop Ibrox to a commercial company.
So, we can see that from the start the issue of capital and the formation of Rangers Ltd was simply a vehicle by which the club protected it's members homes from debtors and through which it could safely undertake the expansion of it's operations.
Until 1947 the club continued in many ways to continue to act as a sports club - other sports were accommodated depending on the interest of the membership - and season ticket holders were regarded as "members" and numbers limited. By the AGM of that year the three directors were all still former players and the Chairman, Jimmy Bowie, was the first player to become Chairman.
The AGM of 1947 marks a watershed - at the same time Bill Struth became director-manager of the club as part of a coup which saw him ally himself with prominent city business to gain control of the club and issue new share capital which allowed the club again to expand. We now look back at Struth as a gentleman of the Old School but he could be ruthless - it's said that Jimmy Bowie never forgave him for the way he was treated and the changes made at the club and never entered Ibrox again.
It is well nigh impossible to quantify Bill Struth's importance to Rangers FC. Even now 50 years down the line from his last great team, his legacy and mystique lives on. To this day he is probably the central figure in the Clubs history.
His discipline, his authority, his unshakeable belief that Rangers were not only the best, but also must be seen to be the best, lives on. Yes he has been described as a tyrant and a dictator. I believe there was much, much more to the man than that. Bill Struth was a man (despite the image) who most definitely had the human touch. From his background in professional athletics, which saw him apply scientific principles to his charges when appointed Trainer, to his 1947 coup Struth was a practical man with a strong emphasis on winning rather than daydreaming about the past.
CALL ME A ROMANTIC FOOL
It's easy to get misty-eyed about the past - Rangers have broken many hearts of fans who expected too much over the years. Yet, I believe in all of us their is a need to be part of a body which is bigger than each individual - and we're romantic about it - we might have our individual failings but we want the club to live up to standards and modes of behaviour we believe the founders, Jimmy Bowie and Bill Struth all epitomised. That's what being a club is all about.
The problem we have nowadays is that increasingly those in charge at Ibrox make little attempt, and certainly feel little need, to even pretend that the fans are part of the club. To many of them we are customers who buy into the brand. Loyalty, sacrifice, a sense of history - they laugh at those things. I don't.
I don't because I believe, in all walks of life that people only make great sacrifices if they believe in a cause. It makes good commercial sense too. There are plenty of ways in which the club could run better, have more communication with the fans, make more money in the long-term and have something really special to bring to their beloved brand if they would only look to the history of the club. There are ways to do things and there are the Rangers Way To Do Things.
WE'LL TAKE THEM AT THEIR WORD
The Chairman describes himself as as the custodian of the club. So we'll simply measure his actions by comparing what¹s good for David Murray and what's good for Rangers.
We'll measure the activities and pronouncements of club functionaries against our history and what is good for the long-term benefit of Rangers.
We'll start by expecting them to consult with fans on every major issue before making a public pronouncement.
There are very hopeful signs that the Registered clubs and the Association have woken up to the dire predicament which lies ahead for their members. With them and individual fans putting helpful, but unremitting, pressure on the club we can make the changes necessary.
WHO DO "THE CLUB" ACTUALLY SPEAK FOR?
I'm rather tired of hearing that "the club thinks" or "the club has decided" something or other when in fact a sticking plaster has been stuck over some problem with no consultation and no though for the ramifications.
For instance - who exactly decided that "the club" would stab the Supporters Association in the back?
Who decided to call Auchenhowie "Murray Park."
Who exactly was it who decided to introduce the Travel Club - again, without any prior consultation.
Who decided that supporters clubs (whether in the Association or Registered) were to have their ticket allocations slashed? - see the article in this edition which details the (what I consider) the long-term stupidity of this - I might be wrong - but we got the decision before we got the consultation about it.
With examples like these I think it is obvious that at least some of them on the Board have no idea what life is like for us as fans and seem intent on killing the goose that lays the golden egg - Rangers fans as a coherent identity.
A FEW THINGS THAT HAVE TO CHANGE
Praxis is that art of matching principles with everyday activity.
For instance - Rangers have been represented on the Scottish Parliament's Working Group on Sectarianism at times by Mr. Campbell - our trademark and copyright enforcer (his wages shared with Celtic). What qualifications, experience, knowledge of football history, sociology, etc, does Mr. Campbell have to represent Rangers FC and Rangers fans? or was he just asked to toddle along to fill in his spare time between raids? Is he even a Rangers supporter. (BTW, he's usually known as Mr X in the newspapers to maintain his identity but sadly when he was first appointed they printed his name a photograph, oohps!)
In whose name are Rangers signing up to what in this domain? Are we, as fans, happy to sign up to whatever fantasy list the collection of former student radicals who inhabit the Scottish Parliament dream up?
Another item - away tickets. Periodically we hear bleatings from paid employees in the Ticket Office what a dreadful time and how expensive it is for them to actually deign to supply tickets for away games to fans. Deary me, what a tough life you have. I suppose it never occurs to these people that the primary function of a club is to enable it's supporters to actually see the games the team is playing in? Do your job and shut up - it¹s not a favour you¹re doing us.
HOW DID IT GET THIS BAD?
We now got the situation where the club discriminates against it's own supporters when they apply for jobs at Ibrox.
For any post paying more than £30,000 the recruitment companies briefed to fill the posts have to obtain a report from the ticket office detailing if the applicant is a season ticket holder or has bought match tickets. If they have it is weighted AGAINST them. It's a shocking situation.
But it's hardly surprising when you consider this statement made by Director Martin Bain to a journalist in The Herald in 2001 -
"I went to a rugby-playing school and I think I have a balance. I have seen people come into this business before who are staunch supporters and it doesn't always work. The coach and the team are the product, the people who work on the fringes are the accountants, the PRs, the business people; there's a very distinct divide. You do deal with folk who prefer to be players than to do the day-to-day business. But there's not too many of them now." He adds, almost as an afterthought: "People can get so passionate."
The message is clear - be passionate about ³the brand² and you can buy as much merchandise as you want but don¹t get carried away and think you're good enough to work for the club. Of course, Martin¹s a Rangers fan but he isn't thinking of resigning any time soon.
OUR HISTORY AND ETHOS
We should never be embarrassed by the club¹s humble origins. Rangers were founded by a group of kids playing the game with the enthusiasm for all sports which the Victorians had.
It is that enthusiasm, sense of sportsmanship and love for the game that we should nurture - every young player who goes through the doors should be imbued with the Rangers spirit - so that even if he was not a supporter before he was invited in; even if he never makes it to the first team - he should remain a friend of the club throughout his life.
"THE LIGHT AND SPEEDY BLUES"
As the original Rangers team was filled with youngsters who competed against teams usually filled with older players they had to find a way to compete.
Accounts which have survived show that the club¹s members took part in more training sessions than was usual in those days so that they developed the speed, skill and strength to compete.
Hence, they became known as "The Light and Speedy Blues."
More than words those roots have practical expression - if your tell the people about their history then they naturally pressure the club to look after, for instance, development work and playing the game in the correct spirit.
It's a sad day when there is more of a club spirit amongst the Reserve Team Loyal who follow the fortunes of the U21 and U18 teams than there is at Ibrox Stadium.
In a large organisation like Rangers there will of course be difficulties in ensuring that the fans' voices are heard - there will of course be opposition from the functionaries whose little empires will be shrunk and ultimately destroyed - but that is no matter - it is what we want that matters and we have to begin to roll back the frontier.
I wrote a few years ago, after we threw away Ten In A Row, that Rangers stood at the crossroads. We've stuttered about a bit since then and fumbled the ball. Now's the time to pick it up again. This time we won't rely on David Murray to do it on our behalf, we'll have to do it ourselves.