Rangers in turmoil again as match abandoned

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 17, 2015, 09:29 AM IST
Rangers in turmoil again as match abandoned

Drama unfolded off the pitch on an emotionally-charged evening in Glasgow as the Scottish Championship match between Rangers and Hearts at Ibrox was abandoned after 24 minutes due to heavy snow.

The match, which only went ahead after a late pitch inspection by referee Bobby Madden following heavy blizzards in Glasgow, was played in crazy conditions with the players struggling to keep their feet on a snow covered pitch.

After consulting with both managers, the match was allowed to continue until the 24th minute before referee Madden made the decision to take the players off the pitch with the game goalless. 

The match had been keenly anticipated by supporters of both clubs, with Rangers desperate for a win that would help them chip away at the Jambos` 13 point lead at the top of the table.

However, the game kicked-off with a sparse crowd inside Ibrox as many fans opted to stay away from the ground in protest at the latest boardroom dramas at the club.

There had been heated scenes outside the stadium before the match with around 600 fans involved in a protest against the Rangers board after news broke this week that they were considering offering security over Ibrox Stadium and the club`s Murray Park training ground in exchange for a £10 million (13.1m euros, $15.2m) loan from Mike Ashley. 

The Newcastle United owner also has a 8.92 percent stake in the Glasgow giants.

The Rangers board had previously released a statement last year assuring fans that the club`s stadium would never be used as security. However, the club needs a major injection of cash within the next few weeks just to continue as a going concern.

Chants of "Sack the board" and "Ashley out" were heard as the fans congregated outside the main doors at Ibrox, with police on horses deployed to keep the mob at bay. 

The protest continued inside the stadium with much of the fans` venom directed at chairman David Somers, director James Easdale, chief executive Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach.

Llambias and Leach are both long-term associates of Ashley, having previously held positions at Newcastle and his Sports Direct empire respectively.

Rangers have lurched from one crisis to another since the club was liquidated in May 2012 and was forced to start life again in the country`s bottom tier.

However, this week seems to have been the last straw for many associated with the club. Hours before kick-off South Africa-based businessman Dave King, the club`s biggest single shareholder with nearly 16 percent of shares, lodged paperwork calling for a general meeting to remove all four directors from the Rangers board as he seeks to loosen Ashley`s grip on Rangers.

King, who was a director of the oldco Rangers board, wants to replace them with himself, fellow ex-director Paul Murray and John Gilligan, an ex-vice-chair of the Rangers Supporters Trust.

And King is confident he can pull together a majority coalition to force through his changes.

"I would not have called for a general meeting if I was not confident, from my review of the present shareholder register, that it will be supported by more than 50 percent of the total registered shareholders," King said in a statement.

"While many of the shareholders hold differing views as to what is right for the club, I believe that a clear majority are like-minded on one key point -- the need to remove the incumbent board and to replace it with individuals who can gain the trust of fans, sponsors and the shareholder community."

King is believed to have the backing of the so-called Three Bears consortium of Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, who own 20 percent of the club. They have already offered the club £5 million of funding without requiring security over the stadium.