17 Apr 2012

Rangers fans’ decency not matched by the fat cats

It was certainly a big day for Rangers FC – a great send-off for a fine player and former captain David Weir. Photographers on hand to record the occasion on the Ibrox turf as club chairman Craig Whyte presented Weir with a premium Glencairn glass decanter and blue glass trophy with the Rangers crest and players’ signatures beautifully engraved upon it.

Weir received the souvenir to mark his five years at the club at half-time in a match against Aberdeen on 21 January this year.

No doubt the glassware’s been well used chez Wier since then. The only blot on the celebration being that Glencairn were not paid the £354 that Rangers owed for the glassware.

Week after week it went on.

“I wasn’t that bothered,” says Managing Director Paul Davidson. “They’ve been customers for years – like Celtic – and you don’t kick a customer when they’re down. They’ll be back.”

And then came the call, on Easter Monday.

A Rangers fan. Turned out they’d seen from the published creditors’ list that the company hasn’t been paid and the indignity was just too much. The fans got together and held a Northern Soul evening fundraiser.

A few days later they were at Glencairn’s East Kilbride factory south of Glasgow. With the £354 in cash.

“Well,” says Paul, “I couldn’t take it. We had a half hour’s spirited discussion. In the end he just sort of threw the money down and said take it – it’s yours – we’re leaving.”

He picked it up. But when Rangers eventually pay – as he still feels they will one day – he’ll donate the cash to a fans’ charity.

Across Glasgow and beyond, many have similar stories to tell. It speaks well of the ingenuity and commendable sense of honour many Rangers fans feel. Embarrassment even, that things should have come to this.

Across Glasgow the long creditors list is a painful footprint of bad business and debt across a city. The roots of a long-established FC cruelly laid bare in its community.

The newsagent up the road from Ibrox… a picture-framer here… a cab firm there. Individuals without the large bank balances of the men in suits inside Rangers, who ran a once-proud football club and global brand into the ground.

Susan Thomson has a surprise caller as well. She talks about it, as she completes a bright pink butterfly on the face of a toddler at a Southside Glasgow playgroup.

Her company – Your Sonsie Face – was owed £40 by Rangers, who’d hired her in-demand face-painting skills. Of course, Rangers hit the buffers and she never saw her invoice paid. But she too got the visit – another Rangers fan appearing on her doorstep one day with another envelope full of cash.

Not everyone’s so lucky. In the fabulous new building which is North Glasgow FE College in Springburn, Principal Ronnie Knox looks out over the spectacular atrium.

He’ll happily explain how this sector of education’s been hit hard by government funding cuts. This is the bit of planet education which turns out things we need – plumbers, engineers, technicians, designers – and they come from all over the world.

So he needs his invoice paying please – £11,000 or so owed by Rangers. They could pay players thousands a week but not a premier league city college which – irony of ironies – often helps young footballers who don’t quite make it find another path in life.

The money was owed for a variety of training programmes run here for Rangers. And at this figure, you won’t find groups of even the most well-intentioned fans turning up with envelopes.

Nor, though, are we seeing all those wealthy men who put Rangers into this mess helping out. I could be mistaken but the former directors have not been sending cheques to the college to help the debt.

Men, already well-off and many on fat salaries, who we know have yet to pay back any of the loans they received whilst Rangers went to the wall.

It would be good to report that these men are inspired by the fans of the club they love, to open their chequebooks to needy creditors across Glasgow.

But sadly, as yet, little sign of it happening.

Tweets by @alextomo