Dave King / Laura Fawkes ‘Never Again’ interview, released as a podcast. Can be heard in full here 👉🏻 https://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/news-category/current-affairs/1267-4ladshadadream-the-podcast-with-dave-king-e29
Youtube link 👉🏻 https://youtu.be/b4yJocY0KKs
LF – Laura Fawkes
DK – David King
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THE ‘NEVER AGAIN’ CAMPAIGN IS AND WHAT IT MEANS?
LF: We are calling it the legacy campaign and one of the phrases that Dave coined in relation to it was ‘never again’. Those two things are symbolic and it means that we don’t want to go back and see a repeat of where we have been over the last few years as a club and a support. We don’t want the club to fall into the wrong hands, we want to put that protection in place. We are mindful, we remember where we have been and we don’t want to see our children and grandchildren experience what we did as Rangers fans and that is where the legacy part comes in. What we are asking people to do is make a £500 donation to Club 1872 and that can be made up front in one go or over a period of time and there are various options laid out on the website. In total, people will have donated £500 and they become a legacy member. What that allows us to do is purchase Dave King’s entire shareholding and become the single largest shareholder in Rangers. It is through that shareholding that we get the protection that I just mentioned there.
I was thinking about this podcast the other day and thinking about what could come up and explaining a bit about the legacy campaign. And I was remembering the day after the last game around the time we went into administration. The next day, a cousin of mine had a birthday party for his wee boy and I remember going and chit chat and ‘did you go to the game yesterday? How are you feeling about things?’ and I remember us saying to each other ‘this could be it’. Those were really scary times for Rangers fans and it was uneasy. I remember that and I think we all need to remember that. We have spoken to supporters about this before and asked if they had a time machine and go back to prior the club being sold to Craig Whyte, and everything that happened thereafter, and you could have put £10 per month into a vehicle that would give you the protection that Club 1872 can give you, would you have done it? I think for most of us the answer is yes. At this moment in time, we have a great board in place, we trust the board and the club is going in a great direction. But there are no guarantees and what this shareholding would bring us is a degree of control over the club so that we can prevent the events of 2012 ever happening again.
WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO SELL YOUR SHARES NOW AND WHY TO CLUB 1872?
DK: In terms of the ‘Never Again’, I have an insight that other supporters don’t into how this whole, sordid saga started, and it started at the time when I was on the board and when David Murray was the owner. At that time, I was a less than 25 per cent shareholder. I was the second largest shareholder, but I was substantially below 25 per cent. So effectively David Murray was running the company as he saw fit and some of the information coming before the board was inadequate in terms of understanding what David Murray was doing with the company. There is a single event that happened at that point in time, which is David Murray, having the full confidence of supporters, a very successful team on the pitch and everything looking as if it was going really well, borrowed money and gave up the club shares as security. If I had known that or supporters had known that at the time, then that would never have happened. I had discussions with David Murray at the time about the funding because I was putting in money, David was putting in money, and my understanding was always that the money we were putting in was our own money. I was not aware of the fact that David Murray was lending money that was not his and using the club shares as security. Everything that happened arose from that one single event because if David Murray hadn’t given the club shares as security, the bank would never have intervened at a later stage. As much as Alastair Johnston, who was chairman at the time, manfully defended the club as best he could against the bank, ultimately the single even that caused everything thereafter was David Murray using the club shares as security for debt and the board not being aware of that. My stake was so insignificant that I wasn’t able to really find out what was going on and I couldn’t have influenced it even if I was aware. That is why it is important for the supporters going forward and when times are good now to acquire the level of influence that allows a seat at the table. The supporters have gone through very difficult times and whatever has been achieved in the last couple of years could not have been achieved without the supporters. They have given everything, given money they have got and even money they don’t have. To use the term never again, I think this is the opportunity for the supporters to get a seat at the table, an influential stake in the club and to make sure that the supporters are involved in all aspects of the club that might put it at risk going forward. At the moment, we have got a board that we trust, that have been part of the recovery and it is fine at the moment. Where will we be in five or ten years time? That is what we are saying now, that for all the supporters going forward, to make sure that it never happens again. This is a one off opportunity to acquire a meaningful and influential stake, both in terms of relationships but legally at the right that they have as a major shareholder would be very significant.
YOU SAID LAST YEAR THAT YOU WOULDN’T BE SELLING BUT NOW YOU HAVE. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT?
DK: It is more really an extension of not having to sell them. I was asked the question when I stepped down if I would sell my shares and I said no I had no intention of doing that. Over the last eight months, in reflecting on that, I was saying I wouldn’t sell the shares, but what would happen if I wasn’t around? My family would be in control of that situation, not me. I have got a South African family and they don’t have my Scottish, Glasgow upbringing so wouldn’t have my commitment to the shareholding. I thought, in advance of that, what I could do was reengage Club 1872. We had discussions a couple of years ago when Club 1872 said to me ‘we know this is a project for you, what will happen at the end? Would you ever consider making the shares available to Club 1872 on some basis?’ We had an initial discussion but at the time I was very much mired in saving the club so it wasn’t something that I was reflecting on as I have been able to do over the last couple of months. Really it is about me saying ‘where is the right home for my shareholding going forward? Where is the safe pair of hands?’ I feel that has to be with the supporters and my dealings with Club 1872 over the years gives me confidence that they are the right vehicle to be a custodian of my shares going forward.
WHAT HAPPENS IF CLUB 1872 FAIL TO RAISE THE MONEY TO BUY YOUR SHARES? DO YOU HAVE A CONTIGENCY THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR THAT?
LF: I think it is important to clarify, and we have put this information out publicly, it is on the website and we have been sharing this information on social media. For the benefit of anyone that has missed this, we will be buying the shares in tranches and that is part of the agreement that we have put in place. We are not going to be in a position where we are stockpiling all this money, fail to meet the required target and then find ourselves with millions of pounds in the bank and wondering what to do with it. We will be buying Dave’s shares as the three year period progresses and we can buy as many shares as the campaign is successful. The more people who sign up, the more shares we can buy over the time period.
DK: My attitude at the moment is that as long as Club 1872 is making progress and the supporters really want to be a significant owner of the club then I would extend the period. It is really more important for me, from a legacy point of view, that I deliver that shareholding to supporters and I will accommodate Club 1872 and be very flexible depending on the success of their campaign.
LF: I think it is important to remind people that the core purpose of the Club 1872 shares company is to purchase shares in Rangers Football Club. There may be a period where it looks like we haven’t met the target and we have some funds accumulated at that point but the purpose is always to buy shares. It is great that Dave is going to be flexible with us and the time period, although we are really pushing for people to do this as quickly as possible so that we can take advantage of the agreement that we have put in place whereby, for example, if we can buy all the shares in the first year we will get them at a reduced rate. Club 1872’s core function to buy shares in Rangers will exist beyond the period of this deal and will always be the priority for the shares company.
The contingency plan, as I said, is to carry on with the organisation’s core function. We would seek to purchased shares on an ongoing basis and we would have to renegotiate with Dave at that point. We would speak to Dave about what timescale he is looking at in terms of his flexibility. Beyond that, we would do what we have done previously. We spent £1million on Mike Ashley’s shares in 2017 and opportunities to buy shares outwith share issues have been few and far between. When they come up, we have certainly taken them and that was an important purchase for us because it helped rid the club of a very toxic influence. Over a period of 14 months, we took part in share issues and invested £1.4million into Rangers. That is something that Club 1872 has been doing before we even had these initial conversations that Dave mentioned. That is the core function of the organisation and there will be a point in the future where we have to see where we are and take stock and have further discussions with Dave. If we reach a point where the opportunity to buy Dave’s shareholding no longer exists for us, we will go back to doing what we have always done and that is look for opportunities to buy shares. It is a core function of the organisation and therefore it is always going to be our priority as a board.
DK: I think a nice way of looking at it is that the starting point is that one can look at myself and Club 1872 as being a combined supporters group. At the moment, I have got the largest influence in terms of the number of shares and as this campaign progresses, slowly that will move over to Club 1872 so ideally, at the end of the three years, it will be all Club 1872 and none me. If it turns out being half-half or two thirds-one third, I still see it as being a combined group of supporters with the level of influence changing as Club 1872 buy more.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER, IF THIS DOESN’T WORK OUT, SELLING TO ANYONE ELSE OR IS IT YOUR PRIORITY TO SELL TO THE FANS?
DK: My consideration of the issue was how can I take my shareholding and ensure, if I wasn’t around, that it would end up in safe hands? I think the safe hands should be the supporters and in my view Club 1872 is the right supporter group. They have got good representation, they are already the sixth largest shareholder, and I see it being right for the club going forward. I think it is right for the supporters to have a responsible group like Club 1872 representing them and certainly in my experience of dealing with them, it would be a strong preference for Club 1872 to be successful. I repeat, if for whatever reason we couldn’t do this deal at the end of the three years, I would keep it open for Club 1872 as long as they were making meaningful progress. I really believe this is the right thing for the club.
LF: On the point of what happens if this doesn’t work and there will be people that are naturally sceptical about this given where we have been as a club and a support, it is totally doable. I think as football fans, and I am not talking about Rangers fans but across the UK, we have this collective mindset that there will be this sugar daddy that will come along and fund our club. When I’m talking about Club 1872 and how it works, I always say to them ‘do you have £13million to buy out Dave King’s shareholding?’ And the answer with everyone that I know would be ‘no, of course I don’t’. But if you ask them ‘do you have £10 a month that you could spare to put towards this over a period of three years?’ then the answer for most is yes. We are understanding of the situation that people find themselves in. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people’s jobs have been affected. We know that they give so much already to the club. But what we are asking is if they can afford a little bit more, and if they can afford that £10 a month, and tens of thousands of other Rangers supporters say yes, then collectively it is absolutely doable to raise the funds required to raise Dave’s shareholding. We are confident about this. The Rangers support have stepped up in dark times. Things are doing well just now, the support are behind the club and the team and we came out in our numbers again and bought season tickets. This is totally doable and it is a scale thing. This only works if more people get involved. What I often hear from people that I speak to, and I see this on social media as well, is people saying that they will sit back and see how we do, sit back and see if this becomes successful and then join. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Club 1872 works, because it can only work if tens of thousands of Rangers fans get behind it. We have a core group of about 7,000 members who have been with Club 1872 either since it started or with previous fans groups and they have stepped up in recent years. Those are small shoulders carrying a huge responsibility, and what we want to do is say ‘come and join us and add your shoulders into the mix to take a collective responsibility for this’. This is not what can Club 1872 achieve, this is what we as a support can achieve because Club 1872 is a member-led organisation. Members take all the key decisions, there are no directors of Club 1872 that have more power than any member of Club 1872 and I think the important thing to stress is that we are all as responsible as each other for Club 1872 working or not. That is what I say to people. We believe this can work and what we are asking is to donate £500 over a period of time and take collective responsibility for this.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION ON RANGERS SOCIAL MEDIA REGARDING A FALL-OUT BETWEEN YOURSELF AND THE RANGERS BOARD. CAN YOU ADDRESS THOSE RUMOURS?
DK: I certainly haven’t heard any rumours in that regard and there has been no fall-out between myself and the board. I stepped down at the end of March, which was consistent with the statement that I made at the AGM to step down once we had the funding secured so that the legacy of the financial deficit that I had been party to incurring was properly squared away. At the time when I stepped down, I did say that Douglas did ask me at the end of March if I would consider extending my stay on the board to see the club through the Covid crisis. I said ‘Douglas, I just can’t do that’. There was an intention, from a board point of view, to keep me on the board a little bit longer. But I felt that the Covid crisis was a new crisis and probably best dealt with by those on the ground in Scotland given the travel restrictions. It was an issue that the people in Scotland should deal with. Plus, from my own perspective, I had some very challenging, and continue to do, times for my business in South Africa. I was not able to agree to the request of the board to extend beyond March. I think they were looking at it saying ‘it is another crisis, Dave, can you come and help us out with this?’ I just couldn’t do it, but I don’t think there was any falling out with that. It was just a request from the board that I was unable to comply with.
IS THERE ANY ISSUE WITH YOU AND THE BOARD AT THE MOMENT?
DK: Not at all. Absolutely not. The board members… it is the same board that I chaired, the same individuals who were part of the recovery process and, as I see it, they have continued with that process and certainly, for my part, I am delighted with the way that the board has continued. The board are safe pair of hands for the club right now. But this is something for the future. We thought we had a safe pair of hands when David Murray was in charge and it didn’t turn out that way. So we have got to make sure that the supporters have a level of influence that is independent of the board at any given time.
DID YOU DISCUSS YOUR PLANS WITH THE BOARD?
DK: No. This is a shareholder issue. From the time that I left the board, I have just been another shareholder, I have not had access to any information from any director given the affairs of the club. I am just another shareholder and this was a confidential discussion between myself and Club 1872. It was very tightly managed in terms of confidentiality because one knows in all things Rangers that these things can leak and develop a life of their own We maintained very strong confidentiality between ourselves up until the time we reached agreement and were going to make the announcement. In advance of that, I let the board know as a courtesy that I was going to make an announcement. There was no discussion with the board and there was no reason to discuss it with the board. It is a shareholder issue, not a board issue.
YOU ARE HAPPY WITH BOARD? HAPPY WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PARKS AND THERE ARE NO ISSUES?
DK: Not only is there not a problem, but I would be very surprised if the Rangers board weren’t delighted at this development. I guess they would have some concern over what was going to happen with my shareholding some time in the future if I wasn’t around. I think what this has done is take away a lot of uncertainty and at least the board can now look forward and say ‘well, we now know where Dave’s shares are going to end u’. They are going to end up with the supporters. This board certainly is very alert to the fact that supporters have been key in getting the club back to where it is at the moment and very alert to the need to retain a close relationship with supporters and avoid the disconnect we saw from the Ashley/Easdale era. So I would be very surprised if any of the board members were not happy and didn’t welcome this initiative from me.
CAN YOU ADDRESS WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS ANOTHER SHARE ISSUE AND DAVE’S HOLDING IS DILUTED? COULD THAT AFFECT THE MONEY NEEDED TO BEYOND £13MILLION?
LF: One of the things I see on social media is people saying ‘I would rather see that £13million go into the club’. I think there is a misunderstanding here and a bit of confusion. This is not a straight choice between shall we put £13million into the club or shall we buy Dave’s shares for £13million? The way the club has been funded over the last few years has been extraordinary. There were share issues and we did have the option to take part in those share issues. Those share issues were planned because the club needed the money and the board, under Dave’s chairmanship, were very clear with supporters over that period that they were running at a deficit while building a team that would become competitive. That plan was not an indefinite plan, it is not the way we expected and it is not the way we continue to expect things to work at Rangers. There may be share issues over the next few years at Rangers, but what we expect and what we have been told at previous AGMs and in all our discussions with the club, is that it is now approaching that period of self-sufficiency where that funding model that we have had in place for the last few years won’t be necessary anymore. One of things that we felt was important, we have seen the accounts and we know there is a funding gap, was that Club 1872 would be able to step up and financially support the club by buying shares if that was required. An agreement was reached with the Rangers board that should it require funding that we would be allowed to participate, if Resolution 8 passes at the upcoming AGM. That is something that we will always be keen to look at and discuss with the board. We never want to be in a position where the club is struggling financially, meanwhile we are giving money to Dave King. I know Dave wouldn’t want that to be the position either. At this moment in time, what we know for sure is that we have the opportunity to buy 66million shares from Dave King. What we don’t know is whether there will be share issues that allow us to invest directly in the club. I think that we have to be realistic, but also flexible. We are committed to the legacy campaign that we have launched, but we also have to be flexible, maintain communication with the board and keep an eye what is happening at the club and the financial plans. We will keep those options open as to whether or not we will be required to invest further.
DK: Regarding the comment about whether the money should go into the club or not. At the last board meeting that I chaired earlier this year, which was at the end of March, the position of the board, and I believe remains, that after the current share conversion that is being finalised at the moment is completed, that there is not the intention for further share issues. If such is required in the future, it will certainly not be at 20p. Therefore, to my knowledge, the opportunity for Club 1872 to acquire the shares at this level is not going to exist. I would go a step further and say, for example, that if the club decide they would like access to the £13million, I would be happy that if the club gave an unconditional undertaking to Club 1872, that over the next three years it would allow it to acquire shares directly in the club and the money goes into the club. I would be willing to delay this deal with Club 1872 for another three or four years because I have no intention to sell. All it would take is the Club to turn round to Club 1872 and say ‘we will issue you shares over the next three years for all the money you raise’ and that could solve it from that point of view. My understanding is that the club is not going to do that, does not want to do that and that the club, in future share issues, will be looking to do it at levels far higher than 20p.
LF: It is not something that we would expect the club to require. It is great to know that Dave has made that offer that if the club allow us to participate at that level that he would be comfortable with that. But we are looking at a period of self-sufficiency and there are other ways for the club to fund the gap. We would be looking at player trading, increased commercial income and I know you, Stevie, have written blogs about the deal with Castore and how that is going to radically change the club’s financial position. That was a good deal that was struck and we expect commercial income to increase as a result of that. Income from European competition, for example. These are ways that a healthy, normal business would plug any gap that exists. It has always been the plan, as I understand it, that the club would move to that position where that income was funding any gap that would exist and we have had no indication from the board that that has changed. There might have been some impact from Covid, we don’t know the details of that yet, but we do know that there are other means available to the Rangers board to plug the gap. We wouldn’t expect a healthy, normally functioning business to be relying on its customers, which in some ways is what supporters are, to continually plug that gap.
YOU HAVE A £5MILLION LOAN THAT IS DUE TO BE REPAID BY OCTOBER 2021. CAN YOU CLARIFY THE SITUATION WITH THAT?
DK; That is correct and it is as I stated at the AGM last November, with me living in South Africa with exchange control restrictions, the exchange control authorities would not allow me to make any further direct investment into Rangers, who needed money at the time. The only way for me to advance money was on a loan basis, just because of the circumstances. I agreed to do that, it was a two-year loan and I think you are right, it is probably due around October 2021. It is within the club’s current cash requirements to repay that loan so I would expect it to be repaid on time.
IS THERE INTEREST ON THAT LOAN OR IS IT INTEREST FREE?
DK: There is interest on that loan. Again, I as announced at the AGM, it was one of the points that I made at the AGM in terms of me reaching my useful life for the club. With my increasing restrictions and exchange control, it had become increasingly difficult to make interest free loans because they weren’t being approved by exchange control. I pointed out that I was a market interest rate, I think it was eight per cent, and that really reinforced to me, to some extent, the end of my time at Rangers. We had got into a stage where my money had helped get the club out of intensive care to a fairly robust and healthy patient. My time was up and it was time to pass it on to other people.
DO YOU SEE A POINT WHERE IF THE CLUB REQUIRE EXTERNAL INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE YOU COULD COME BACK IN? OR IS THAT YOU DONE AND THAT TIME IS OVER?
DK: I think it is over and I have said it is over. You don’t know what is going to happen in five or ten years time, but certainly if you were to ask me at the moment I think it is over and it is over in the sense that the club just don’t require it any more. If I look at the financial statements that were released to the end of June, it was nice to see that the club is in such a strong financial position that it was able to incur further investments. It does require some short term loans and Douglas and John have kindly stepped in to fill the role that I was doing previously by advancing that money. But they could have done the alternative and sold Alfredo Morelos. They have now got that level of financial flexibility where they can decide whether to trade players or not. I think over a long period of time player trading will be part of the business model and it has to be part of the business model. It is nice to know that from season to season, the board is in a position to say ‘we are actually going to bring in two strikers and not sell Alfredo, although we might sell him next year’. That indicates the level of financial stability that the club has gone and is part of the ongoing recovery as we have built up the balance sheet. It is partly the impact of the decision to bring in Steven Gerrard, who we have seen not only improve financial metrics in terms of performance in Europe, but also showcase the talent that has boosted the value of the players and allowed them to bring in players of a better quality and higher value. I really think that the club, cash flow wise, balance sheet wise, is a very, very, very strong position. Which is another reason why I am absolutely certain that there will be no share issues at 20p and certainly if I was chairing the board, I wouldn’t be issuing shares at 20p again. I think that time is over.
FANS ALWAYS WANT THEIR CLUB TO HAVE A BENEFACTOR THAT PUTS MONEY IN YEAR AFTER YEAR. COULD THAT BE THE FANS AND THE SUPPORTERS COULD BE THAT FIGURE?
DK: If you look at how we have done with benefactors, we had David Murray, who had 19 fantastic years to be fair to David but it all fell apart. We thought we had a benefactor and that benefactor put the club into trouble. The next benefactor was Craig Whyte, the next benefactors were Mike Ashley and the Easdales. So we have not done very well over the last ten years with benefactors. I repeat: Never again. We are in a situation here where we can make sure that never happens again and I think we should take advantage of this opportunity.
LF: Just on that point, I think Dave is absolutely right. We had that for a long time and it worked and we were successful under David Murray. We were winning titles and things were looking great, up until it didn’t. That is the risk that always exists unless we, as a fan base, step up and take responsibility for the club and the protection for the club. There is that risk that it just won’t work at some point in the future. In terms of an income stream for the club, the Club 1872 model as it exists allows for it to create and maintain additional revenue streams for the club. We don’t that to be required, we don’t expect the club to require that funding through share issues. But Club 1872 Shares and Projects CICs, the way they are structured means that the funds that are ring-fenced. So any money that is donated for shares can only be spent on shares in RIFC. Club 1872 is independently regulated and highly regulated and we have had a high level of interaction with the CIC Regulator. There is an asset lock in place so that legally we cannot sell those shares and we have a Projects aspect of Club 1872 as well and funds that are donated there can only be spent on projects for the benefit of the Rangers community. Going forward, once we have completed this deal with Dave, if we require funds to maintain our shareholding or the membership decides it wants to increase the shareholding then we will have that revenue stream. We will have people donating on a monthly basis and tens of thousands of Rangers fans donating on a monthly basis can be a hefty revenue stream for the club. If the membership decides they want to increase the shareholding or maintain it, we will have the funds to do that. But we will also have significant funds available to spend on projects for the benefit of the Rangers community. One of the things we have mentioned is that the 150th anniversary is coming up and there are huge opportunities for us to make a symbolic gesture and create an additional revenue stream that can be spent benefitting the Rangers community and the club.
SOME FANS HAVE CONCERNS OVER THE TIMING OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. THEY SEE THINGS GOING WELL ON THE PARK AND FEAR THAT WORK IS BEING OVERSHADOWED. WAS THAT A CONSIDERATION FOR YOU? OR IS THIS MORE GOOD NEWS TO GO ON TOP?
DK: I think the timing for this is when things are good and it is only because things are good that I can actually do this. If they weren’t good, I would still be considering the options and what happens regarding funding. It is only because the club is in a strong position. Anyone that knows football knows that it doesn’t begin at the end of the season, that begins the next season and there are always anxieties and concerns. I think in terms of football clubs, it is an ongoing situation in terms of mood. My thinking was not affected by the mood or the fact that the team is doing well and may or may not win the league. I was thinking I had my shareholding and what should happen and the timing, whatever month doesn’t matter, it is right because the club is healthy. This could only happen at a time when the club is healthy.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY OFFERS FOR YOUR SHARES IN THE PAST? HAS ANYONE COME TO TRY AND BUY YOU OUT?
DK: have probably had about five or six over the years, including while I was chairman. People would come from the Middle East and bits and pieces, but nothing that ever resulted in a conversation. My view was that I was not there to invest in the club as part of my wealth portfolio. It was very much a rescue operation from my point of view, it was not something that I wanted to be doing and I took money I would rather have invested elsewhere to put into the club. I am very happy get my money back, or close to my money back. I am hoping from a Club 1872 point of view that I lose money because I would like them to do this quickly. I really genuinely believe it is the right thing for the club and I am willing to be very patient as long as Club 1872 and supporters indicate there is an appetite for them to do this. It is one thing for me to want it, I know the Club 1872 executive want it, but we have got to make sure the support want it as well.
DID THOSE OFFERS EVER GET ANYWHERE BEYOND AN INITIAL EMAIL OR CALL? WAS THERE EVER ANYTHING THAT WOULD HAVE TEMPTED YOU?
DK: I am sure all owners and clubs get offers from time to time. But, I repeat, I never viewed it as an investment to sell. I could do that. If the board are going to issue shares at high levels, I could sit, take the higher level and sell my shares. I didn’t get involved in Rangers to make personal wealth out of it. I made my money available to the club at a time of need. I would like to get back as much as I can. But it was more about access to my capital and the time and effort I put in personally. None of this was done for profit, that is the further thing from my mind.
HOW WOULD YOU VIEW YOUR RANGERS LEGACY? IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
DK: I would like to think that there is recognition, and I have had recognition. When I stepped down there was a lot of recognition for the role that I played over the last number of years to recover the club. It was something I was able to do and I certainly couldn’t have done it without the support of the board and the supporters and Club 1872. To me it was a team effort. I was in a position to act as a catalyst, perhaps, to get the thing going but I am satisfied that I played my role and it is nice to see the club is where it is. I am very satisfied to move on. I have no legacy need to be the chairman of Rangers, for example, otherwise I would have stayed on and tried to milk the benefits and rewards of my effort. I am happy with what I did, I am happy it has ended. If in a hundred years time people look back and say there was a guy called Dave King that helped save the club, it is no more or no less than that. I really don’t regard myself as being much different from other supporters who sacrificed. When we were trying to get the Ashley/Easdale axis out of the club, I know how difficult it was for supporters not to support the club. I was making these pleas to supporters to do this. They have given so much to this so I regard myself as being one of many of them and I would be delighted, as my final legacy, to pass my shareholding on to them.
YOU HOPE THAT CLUB 1872 WOULD GET A BOARDROOM SEAT? WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE AND WHAT SAY CAN THE FANS HAVE GOING FORWARD?
DK: I had more of a say in the sense that I was chairman of the board, I was the largest shareholder and I was the one who, primarily, was putting in the money. I was putting in a larger share that others, therefore that gives me a level of influence. From a board point of view, I could have stepped down and asked for my son to be on the board, the same way that Douglas and Graeme are on the board. I chose not to do that because my children, they are involved in the businesses but they are not Scottish, don’t have that passion and it is a different environment for them. If I look at Club 1872, I would expect they would want a seat on the board but the challenge for them is to find an individual who can represent them on the board and make sure that their interests are looked after, but understand that the individual, because of confidentiality, will not be able to report back to Club 1872. It will be an awkward relationship because the director will have confidential information that they will not be able to share with the members. I would imagine that they would have to get an independent, professional person, or someone from Club 1872 who steps away from it to represent them. They are going to have to manage the exchange of information because the board level confidential information would not be able to be passed back to the supporters who make up Club 1872.
LF: From our point of view, I would encourage anyone who is curious or who has questions about Club 1872 and how it works to check out the website and we have an FAQ section. There are two that I think are relevant to this part of our discussion and one is ‘will Club 1872 be involved in the day-to-day running of the football club?’ There are people who think that is what fan ownership means and that is absolutely not the case. We go into that on the website. The other questions is ‘how will it work if we have a seat on the board?’ It is a stated aim and we polled members in 2017 or 2018 about whether we should have a seat on the board and we almost immediately opened discussions with Dave at that point. Those discussions were positive over a period of time and it has always been something that we feel we are working towards. We wouldn’t be putting forward anyone that sits on the Club 1872 board, just for the reasons that Dave has mentioned. I think it is important that we are clear about that and we would be looking for suitable candidates, someone who has the experience, the confidence, the gravitas, the knowledge, the skills, that would be appropriate to sit on the RIFC board. There are no current directors, I know I can speak for myself and the other directors, that at this stage are remotely interested in sitting on the RIFC board. We are very much a working board at Club 1872, we are hands on and involved in the day to day running of Club 1872. That is where we feel comfortable, where we feel our skillset likes. We would be looking at an appropriate candidate to sit on the board and it wouldn’t be someone that sits on the board of Club 1872 because that just wouldn’t work. It would be a process that we would look at very carefully. On a more general point, it is important to remind people that all key decisions are taken by Club 1872 members. So while the board will hold private discussions with suitable candidates, any major decisions about how it would work would be subject to a member board.
WOULD THE RANGERS BOARD BE OPEN TO A CLUB 1872 REPRESENTATIVE? WILL THAT SITUATION EVOLVE AS YOU HOPE?
DK: I would imagine that they would be delighted. One of the things that we did over the last couple of years was to try and bring Club 1872 and the supporters closer to the board because we were very conscious at the level of disconnect that the supporters had with the club for a number of years during the Craig Whyte and then Ashley/Easdale eras. One of the priorities for the board was to reintroduce regular contact with Club 1872 and bring supporters back into the fold to make sure that their voices were heard and that they were being taken very seriously, as the supporters deserve. I repeat, we wouldn’t be here today without the support of the supporters and you can’t just reverse that and say ‘well, things are good now, therefore we rely less on the supporters’. You might rely less on them funding the club, but they are still your customers, so from any point of view the board wants to be close to their customer.
IS CLUB 1872 EQUIPPED TO HANDLE A SHAREHOLDING OF 25 PER CENT AND SET UP TO HAVE THE KIND OF INFLUENCE THAT YOU HOPE FOR? WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN TO BE IN THE POSITION TO MAKE THE MOST OF THIS OPPORTUNITY, SHOULD IT ARRIVE?
LF: I am very confident that the structure and governance side of Club 1872 is taken care of. We have a robust set of Articles of Association that were drafted in collaboration with the membership during a consultation period and we worked very closely with the independent regulator of Community Interest Companies to create a constitution that was fit for purpose and that represents best what Club 1872 to trying to do and enshrines members’ rights. On the governance side of things, I think Club 1872 is in very good shape and I know we have had very in-depth conversations with Dave and he is aware of how that works and the process that we have been though. Dave was very humble when he talking about his legacy and how he will be remembered. I don’t want to embarrass you, Dave, but I know that you are a person that the Rangers support trusts so to have that endorsement from you is really nice. We also did all of that in conjunction with the CIC regulator so it is a highly regulated entity which has a robust constitution in place and we are well placed to take on this challenge and manage the shareholding.
Operationally, that is another matter. It should be fairly obvious and it is something that the board are aware of, that operationally we need to ramp things up. At the moment, we have one member of staff at Club 1872, one person who is paid for their involvement and that is the admin assistant that deals with account queries. While I am speaking I am going to give a shout out to that person, Lil. She has been an absolute trooper in the last few days. The level of interest we have had has been phenomenal and that is not just from people signing up, that is people emailing us or contacting us on social media and asking general or specific questions about how this works and how they can get involved. Every morning I wake up and there are emails or messages from Lil sent at one or two in the morning because she is putting in some shift helping us work our way through the backlog of emails from people that are keen to get involved. That is the only person that is paid to be involved at Club 1872. We obviously pay accountancy fees and things and all our accounts are filed by a chartered accountancy firm. There is a fee attached to the mass emails system that we use so there are costs attached to that. As the membership increases, there is no doubt that we will have to beef things up and strengthen the organisation. We will have to look at increased costs for marketing, advertising, executive support. If you compare Club 1872 to similar organisations, like the Rangers Charity Foundation or RYDC, those are organisations that have at the helm a chief executive that oversees several members of staff to process their admin and deal with queries. They pay for advertising, as any business or organisation would, and that is something we will have to look at for Club 1872. It is something we are looking at currently. The bottom line of this is that we don’t have the funds in place just now, we have a very limited admin budget and we have been very careful over the last few years to minimise those admin costs. If we want this to work we are going to have to invest in and increase our spending and we will be in a much better position to do that as the membership grows. The more money we have coming in, the more we can use to operationally support and promote the organisation and that is something we are looking at doing.
HOW BIG A MOMENT WAS THE CASTORE DEAL FOR RANGERS AND ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT PERIOD OF ASHLEY AND SPORTS DIRECT IS NOW FULLY BEHIND THE CLUB?
DK: I think it is important. As far as Sports Direct is concerned, even though we effectively had them commercially two years ago, there were still residual aspects of these contracts where they were quite relentless in dragging us before court. It was costing a lot of money. I don’t know what the final figure would be but we might have had to, for example, spend another £2million in legal fees. Just to have that wasted expenditure behind the club is fantastic and I am absolutely certain that Sports Direct is completely out of the club.
LOOKING BACK AT YOUR LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS, HOW BIG WAS THE SPORTS DIRECT FIGHT FOR YOU?
DK: Sports Direct was critical in the sense that the jaws of death that Mike Ashley had around the club were firmly locked through various legal relationships. If we were unable to unlock that, then the club could not have made the progress it has made over the last couple of years. The dealing with Mike Ashley and Sports Direct was absolutely vital to getting to the position that we have reached today. I think from Mike Ashley’s point of view as well, the extent to which a businessman of that immense wealth and capability invested in Rangers and got involved in this indicates just how important it was to him as well. It was a fight that he wanted to win. The absurdity of him trying to put me in jail over Christmas for Contempt of Court for looking after Rangers’ interests indicates the depths and levels of, quite frankly, disgusting behaviour that Sports Direct went to to try and retain their grip on Rangers. It is absolutely vital that we have been able to release that completely, definitely and absolutely.
NOW THAT THAT PERIOD IS BEHIND RANGERS, HOW BIG A HELP CAN IT BE TO MAKING THE CLUB GROW GOING FORWARD?
DK: It is significant. While we were spending time in the courts disputing with Sports Direct, it meant our ability to enter into a more lucrative retail detail was completely taken away from us. The whole Castore deal and the greatly enhanced commercial conditions that the club is enjoying right now, the success of James Bisgrove, he has been phenomenal for the club since he came on board, none of that would have been possible without getting rid of the anchor of Sports Direct. It has been absolutely vital.
LF: From a supporter point of view, I will never forget when we closed that deal to purchase Mike Ashley’s shares. It was just Joanne and I who were involved in those discussions and we knew what a significant marker in Club 1872’s history that was going to be and what it meant for the club. We were in contact, it is our colleague on the board, Euan McFarlane that deals with them, with fans groups at Newcastle and they had told us repeatedly that they would give anything to be in the position that Club 1872 were in that they could participate in removing that toxic influence from their club. That was a huge moment for Club 1872 and that point we became the second largest shareholder. That is an indication of what Club 1872 can achieve. Supporters backed the club in purchasing retail and kit and that has been emotional. I bought a strip for my son and we want to wear the kit because we have that emotional connection to the club and we are proud to wear it. It was more than that, there was a real sense of pride that we were able to buy kit again over the summer, a feeling of a real marker in the club’s history that we had moved beyond that toxic period. I think Dave is right, you can’t underplay the importance of that. We have had lots of dealings with James Bisgrove and almost always been very impressed by him. I think he has done a great job at the club and that we are in a good position and that fans are right to get behind the retail part of the club and feel good about it.
HOW WOULD YOU JUDGE HOW THE BOARD HAS GUIDED RANGERS THROUGH THE COVID PANDEMIC FROM A FINANCIAL POINT OF VIEW? AND WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THEIR FEELINGS TOWARDS THE SPFL AND SFA?
DK: As far as the board’s performance goes, I think they have done fantastically well. To be in the position that they are this year is partly the level of management team that we have got, but he needed the support of the board. The board were able to do that and show a level of financial flexibility that indicates that the club is back, is strong and we are there. As far as I am concerned, the recovery is effectively complete and the board have been fantastic in continuing what we started a few years ago. As for the SFA and SPFL, I haven’t followed that so I honestly can’t comment. I am distanced from it here in South Africa and not on social media to follow that. I have got no idea what is going on with the SFA, SPFL and the club.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO SUPPORTERS?
DK: We have got the club back to what we wanted to do, which is competing for titles in Scotland and competing in Europe. But let’s not be relaxed. Just remember that the good times are here now but it is very important that the supporters back the campaign by Club 1872 and we make sure that the club will never again go through what has happened over the last decade.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DUBIOUS ABOUT CLUB 1872. HOW DO YOU CHANGE THAT PERSPECTIVE?
LF: I think the first part of changing that perspective is to acknowledge that it is completely understandable that people are dubious about Club 1872. Given where we have been as a support, I think we are naturally cautious about pretty much anything to do with our club. So it is important for us that we understand that and that we are committed to engaging with people, to talking to them and answering their questions. It is also really important to talk about how we answer people’s questions and communication with the support is key. I mentioned in our chat there with Dave that we do have a very limited admin budget so that means things like marketing and advertising haven’t been anywhere near what we would have wanted it to be. We have done our best in terms of communication but there are always improvements to be made. What we can’t do is man social media 24/7 and answer the same questions all the time every day. We can make a big effort to engage and if you look at our Twitter feed you will see that we have been answering general questions and we have worked really hard on the website to produce a really good set of FAQs that we will update as more questions come in and we get a better feel of the areas or aspects that people are unsure of. We can do things like this pod, speak to you and other fan media, we have made efforts to engage with the mainstream media and those efforts will continue. When I say that communication is important, it is not just about what we tell supporters, it is about us listening to supporters and also reminding people that most of the information that they require is out there. If you are asking questions about governance, constitution, how Club 1872 is set up, that information is on Companies House and there is a link on our website. It is important for us to speak with the support. If you are a donating member, help us out. If you see things on social media that you think doesn’t sound right, like someone saying Club 1872 don’t communicate with their members, you know that you receive regular emails from us and quarterly updates that are very detailed. Feel free to share that, speak to your friends and family and develop a sense of collective responsibility. There is certainly a job to be done reaching bigger audiences and elements of the support we have never reached before. We did have some roadshows in the past with RSCs and we were just getting going when the situation changed with Covid. If you know someone that is in an RSC or are an RSC secretary, please feel free to get in touch and we will be looking at roadshows and various events when we are able to do it. We also have an office at Copland House and Club 1872 directors are always there before home games. That open door policy is there. Some of us go in during the week when we can, we are all volunteers and fit this around our jobs and family commitments. That open invitation is there before matches and if people want to make appointments to see us and meet, you don’t need to wait until a members’ meeting. This is a board that is very open to reaching the membership. We have had a really good initial response to this and we are hoping we will be able to look at advertising and marketing and professional support in that respect that we haven’t been able to rely on before.
PEOPLE ASK WHY THERE HAVE BEEN NO ELECTIONS RECENTLY?
LF: There have been elections recently. There was an election in February and myself and two other members were elected. There were three places available in February. We have had elections recently. In line with our constitution, which we drafted in collaboration with the membership, there is no requirement for us to hold elections as soon as a board position becomes available. We have to look at what we believe is the right time to hold elections. In recent months, and Dave touched on this, there was a lot of confidential work that went into getting the agreement in place where we were ready to present it to the support. There was a lot of work done to prepare the website and the new subscription system and we were heavily focused on this campaign. There will be elections in the future and no Club 1872 has ever been appointed without their being an election period. Directors are required to submit an application, that is shared with the membership and they are given opportunities to question potential candidates. It is a very open and transparent process and we have asked an independent adjudicator to come in and oversee the elections, and that is something that we will always do as it is written into the Club 1872 constitution. We will hold elections.
Most years that I have been on the board we have had several member’s meetings throughout the period of any given year. Under normal circumstances, you can meet the Club 1872 board any time you like if you pop in before a matchday. In terms of more formal meetings, it is something we have done in the past, we haven’t been able to do it in recent months and it is something that we will pick up again as soon as we are able to do it.
WHY DIDN’T YOU GO TO YOUR MEMBERS TO ASK THEM REGARDING DAVE KING’S SHARES?
LF: It is the core function of the organisation, to buy shares. Anyone who has signed up to Club 1872 has already, in the act of signing up, agreed that they are in favour of us purchasing shares in RIFC. It is the core function of the Club 1872 shares company so it is something that we never need to go to members about. We talk about members leading the organisation leading the organisation and taking key decisions. Buying shares is not listen. That constitution was drawn up in close collaboration with the CIC regulator and a decision was made that buying shares would not be a key decision because it is part of our core functions of the organisations. A lot of share purchases we have made in the past and that we will continue to make, certainly with Dave, are confidential in nature and there are various reasons why we wouldn’t want to share that with the membership until the deal is in place and made sure that this is a viable thing to present to the membership. Buying shares is a key function, a core function, of the organisation so it is not something that we poll members on.
PEOPLE ACCUSE YOU OF TAKING A SALARY OUT OF CLUB 1872. ARE YOU PAID? WHO ELSE IS INVOLVED IN CLUB 1872 AND DO THEY TAKE A SALARY?
LF: The only person that takes a salary is Lil, the admin assistant. We have been very open and clear and transparent about that since Lil was appointed, which was before my time on the board. Nobody else takes a salary from their involvement in Club 1872 and this was something that we wanted to give people assurances on when we were drafting the Articles. It is written into the constitution that directors will not receive any financial benefit from being involved with Club 1872. No director has even claimed expenses in relation to the work of Club 1872. For myself, I am very involved in the admin and we do that from the office so I am back and forth. I have never claimed travel expenses. I am not involved for financial benefit. Someone sent me a screenshot, it looked like from a Facebook page, and it talked about the admin budget and what that might be if we raise the funds to buy Dave’s shareholding. It said if we raise the required amount that Laura Fawkes, Joanne Percival and Euan McFarlane will each receive £200k. Now, that would make for a cracking Christmas night out, no doubt about it. But it is just not true. Even if we wanted to, even if we had a board in place thinking ‘how can I benefit from this?’, we are prevented as per the constitution from benefitting financially from Club 1872.
We have covered that it is a member organisation so if you are asking ‘who has the power at Club 1872?’ then that would be the membership. All key decisions are taken by the Club 1872 membership. There is a board in place – myself, Joanne and Euan – at the moment and the board’s role is to oversee the governance of it. We also have a really strong group of volunteers that sit on working groups and we have a number of working groups in place. Anyone from the membership can volunteer from a working group. In fact, one of the things that has been really nice to see from the last few days is that people who have just signed up have also emailed in to say they are really excited and if there is anything more they can do? The answer is yes. You can come and meet with the board, have a chat about how the organisation functions and if it is something you are interested in and you have the skills to bring to the table you can become involved in a working group. Club 1872 is effectively managed on a day-to-day basis by myself and the other directors, we are very much a working board, but we are assisted by working group members. All of them are volunteers and none of them are paid for their involvement. That is not to say that at some point we might not have to professionalise the organisation and, in fact, we almost certainly will. We will look at executive support, we will look at increasing our spend on accounting, for example, on advertising and marketing professionals. Those are all things that will be done while we communicate with the membership and they will be the first to know if we are making any changes in terms of how we operationally run Club 1872.
FANS SAY THEY ARE PART OF THE ‘RANGERS FAMILY’ BUT THERE ARE VARIOUS FACTIONS AND VARIOUS OPINIONS. HOW DO YOU BRING A SOMETIMES DISPIRATE GROUP TOGETHER?
LF: It is certainly true that there are disagreements within the Rangers support. Everyone will have heard the line about if there were three Rangers supporters on a desert island there would be four supporters clubs by the end of the day. I think we are quite hard on ourselves in that respect. There are disagreements within the Rangers support, but within any significant group of people there are going to be differences of opinion. The Rangers board wont always agree on things at board level at Club 1872 we don’t always agree on things. If you accept there are going to be people within the support that are not quite onboard with this yet, or that might never be onboard with it, I think we have to listen to people and do our best to manage everyone’s needs and expectations. Club 1872 is a one member, one vote and everyone gets a vote. We accept the will of the majority and members are voting as we speak as to how we vote our shares at the upcoming AGM. It is democracy in action. It is a democratic, member-led organisation and we will always do our best to meet everyone’s needs and as many as possible are happy with what we are doing. But we can’t please everyone and I think it is important that we are honest about that.
If you are a Club 1872 member, we are not saying you should just suck it up and if we are doing something that you don’t like that is tough and you should keep your eye on the bigger picture and ignore everything else. That is absolutely not what I am saying. We are engaging with supporters, through email and social media. We have directors answering emails that come in from supporters so we are engaging and we will listen to criticisms, complaints and concerns. What we won’t do, I have to be honest, is respond to personal abuse and we do get some of that. But in terms of engaging with genuine concern and criticism, absolutely happy to do that. I would urge everyone to keep an eye on the bigger picture. We are never going to please everyone, never going to get the situation where every Rangers fan who believes in fan representation is completely happy with what we are doing at Club 1872. It is about that bigger picture and where we have been.
We are enjoying where we are now and absolutely we should be. The club is in great shape, I really liked the way Dave described as he took it when it was in intensive care and it is now a healthy patient. We should feel good about that and the part we played in it and should have gratitude towards the current Rangers board and have faith in the Rangers board. But we should also be mindful about where we have been. In terms of how we bring the support together, I think it is about managing expectations and keeping an eye on the bigger picture.