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Somers appeals for time

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19 Dec 2013 14:17:40

Somers appeals for time

Rangers chairman David Somers has appealed to the fans to give the board time to win their trust after being greeted by loud jeers when he opened the club's annual general meeting.

Somers and his four fellow PLC board members are up for re-election during an AGM which also includes a vote on the possible appointment of four potential directors - Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Scott Murdoch and Alex Wilson.

Reports claim the board have already secured enough proxy votes to maintain the status quo but it was announced at the meeting, which kicked off at 10.30 am on Thursday, that the results might not be announced until the afternoon.

The board also announced a 120-day business review which would include strengthening of the club's scouting network.

Chief executive Graham Wallace, who was appointed last month, admitted the Scottish League One club's running costs were too high even for a top-flight team and that extra funding would be required to allow Rangers to compete at the top level.

After an often bitter and public power struggle between directors and the 'requisitioners', which included a case in the Court of Session, signs at Ibrox which declared "ready for stability and success" appeared somewhat ambitious.

Finance director Brian Stockbridge has been under the most pressure to step down after reporting operating losses of £14.4million and he recently agreed to pay back his £200,000 bonus for the team's Third Division title win in return for the support of the club's biggest shareholder, Laxey Partners.

The board - Stockbridge, James Easdale and recently-appointed trio Somers, Wallace and Norman Crighton - were met with boos and shouts of "out, out, out", "asset strippers" and "Stockbridge out".

As the top table was introduced, Wallace received polite applause while manager Ally McCoist, who gifted his AGM vote to his home town supporters club in East Kilbride, received a big cheer.

Somers said: "I'm on the board of two banks and have been in business for 30 years but nothing has prepared for me for that welcome."

Somers stressed they expected "honesty and integrity" in terms of corporate governance and claimed the new-look board had made "significant strides forward".

He added: "In the three weeks I have been here I have learned that engagement with fans is the key area we need to focus on. Graham Wallace has already started work on this but we know we need to do more.

"I fully understand we don't have fans' trust. It will take time to build that.

"Despite what you read in the press I have no fundamental quarrel with requisitioners. They, like us, want what is best for the club.

"Once today's democratic process is over I hope shareholders and fans will get behind this club and board. Give us the time to win your trust."

Somers received polite applause before handing over to Wallace, whose appointment came after the Murray team had secured a court victory to have a vote on their admission included on the agenda.

Wallace said: "I can understand suspicion, scepticism or even worse about anyone accepting this position. I'm here to lead this club to best of my efforts. Nothing less."

Wallace added: "The current operating structure we have is too high, too high even for top division never mind the lower leagues."

The board announced a 120-day "business review", would coincide with a bid to re-engage with fans, revamp the player scouting network and re-focus "commercial growth".

The club raised £22 million from a share issue a year go but Wallace admitted they would need to raise more funds.

"It is reasonable to assume that in order to take the club back to competing at the top levels domestically and in Europe that this will be the case," he said.

"However, this funding will only be sought once we have completed a robust business planning process that will allow us to engage with shareholders and potential investors from the platform of a well thought out strategic plan."

The votes for each of the resolutions, which included the election of the board members, were held just before the meeting closed at 12.30pm. The results are expected to be announced on Thursday, but they could be released on Friday morning.

A stormy question-and-answer session was held beforehand where Stockbridge was heckled and quizzed on the costs of the share issue, his own share options and his bonus, which he said he had paid back.

Each director, along with football club board member Sandy Easdale, gave a personal guarantee that former chief executive Charles Green and former Rangers owner Craig Whyte were not currently involved in running the club.

Somers pledged to "protect and cherish" Ibrox and stated there would no sale and lease-back of the stadium.

The board refused to divulge any more details on who is behind the Blue Pitch and Margarita shareholdings, whose votes are controlled by Sandy Easdale. Both institutions were among the original investors when Green's consortium bought the assets and business of Rangers and set up the new company when the club were consigned to liquidation in June 2012.

Wallace also declined to give details of the club's cash situation following claims the club would run out of money in April. Wallace, who admitted season ticket prices would rise in the summer, would only state they had "sufficient cash to continue to trade in the short term".

The four requisitioners, some of whom were involved in the Blue Knights consortium which failed in a bid for Rangers before the club went into liquidation, were allowed time to speak ahead of the voting.

Wilson said: "The task we have started cannot finish until this board or another acts with trust and transparency."

Rangers said the results to the votes were expected on Thursday afternoon.


PA

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