It would be fair to say that Rangers supporters have been clamouring to hear something from the custodians of our club following an underwhelming start to the season and major question marks over their ambition to build on the success of ’55’ and a Europa League Final. So it was with some interest that I noticed what appeared to be an in depth interview with Vice Chairman, John Bennett appear on Facebook.
I have enjoyed hearing from Mr Bennett on previous occasions. He has spoken fairly well at AGMs and it is apparent that he is one of the few individuals at Rangers who can sound coherent on camera.
Things did not start well, presumably through no fault of Mr Bennett. In his wisdom, Communications ‘Chief’ David Graham decided to release the interview behind a paywall. This was instantly irritating to supporters who feel they are already being squeezed for every penny by the club they love. It took two hours to remedy this ridiculous gaffe and release the interview on YouTube. Unfortunately, things did not improve once the interview got under way.
Bennett’s delivery, which previously has seemed precise and confident took on a patronising tone almost immediately. His nods to social media jokes about Edmiston House and finances betrayed a board which is clearly very sensitive to even the most mild criticism but has absolutely no idea how to deal with it. Perhaps this is symptomatic of custodians who have grown more and more out of touch with the supporters of the club. Perhaps it is just that not even Bennett was convinced by his 33 minute monologue which said virtually nothing.
I have seldom heard someone talk for so long without a single, pertinent piece of information being imparted to the listener. If I had to sum it up, the overall message seemed to be “pipe down, you just don’t understand, we’ve got this”.
It is arguable whether an organisation has ever shot itself in the foot in terms of public relations quite like Rangers over the past two years. In the process of winning a historic 55th title and with a huge name in the management hot-seat we managed to somehow withdraw into ourselves to the point that supporters are sceptical of almost every utterance from the club – with good reason.
RTV interviewers are never going to ask good questions of a Vice Chairman – particularly one under pressure. The puff piece nature of the interview did not serve Mr Bennett well. He is clearly a very capable man and should be able to submit himself to proper questioning. Perhaps if he had then we would have learned something worthwhile. Fan media outlets, who themselves have had issues adjusting to their open access to Ibrox and regularly have to defend themselves against allegations of being too soft on the club, have apparently been asking for some time to sit down with the Rangers hierarchy. The choice of RTV was cowardly and smacked of a lack of confidence in the message – perhaps with some justification as there didn’t seem to be one.
The Stewart Robertson interview which followed, with Jonny McFarlane, the ex Daily Record videographer and now ‘Rangers Review’ Editor, also betrayed both the schizophrenic nature of the club’s communications policy and the refusal to submit to any kind of competent questioning. McFarlane, just a couple of days previously on his own podcast had declared himself completely unable to properly scrutinise Rangers’ finances. Who better then for Rangers Communications Director, David Graham to choose to sit down for an exclusive interview with the Rangers MD on…the club’s finances?
The Rangers Review is owned by The Herald. It is not fan media but rather a mainstream media outlet which passes itself off as fan media. On the one hand therefore we have official fan media partners of the club telling us the MSM can’t be trusted whilst on the other, David Graham hands a plum interview to the Herald newspaper. Without dwelling on McFarlane’s admission of financial and business illiteracy, that is an odd choice. They are clearly seen by Graham as an unstintingly friendly outlet who refuse to challenge the club when even official fan media partners are raising concerns.
In any case, the interviews with Robertson were so badly received that they appear to have been aborted half way through a two day release. On Wednesday, McFarlane announced that the 3 part interview with Robertson that day would be followed on Thursday with more from him on “recruitment, signings and why Rangers did their business the way they did in the transfer market.” As of today, Friday, none of that content has appeared and the tweets referencing it have been deleted by the ever accommodating McFarlane.
All in all it builds a picture of a Rangers Board who are either unwilling or unable to submit themselves to real scrutiny. As a Club 1872 member I was extremely disquieted by the Club 1872 Board’s statement earlier in the year which was so scathing of the Rangers Executive Team but it seems they have been proven to be correct. There is a clear level of contempt for supporters.
I have some sympathy with Mr Bennett. A Vice Chairman should not have to take on the responsibilities of Chairman simply because the man holding that position shirks them on such a regular basis. Douglas Park is conspicuous in his absence not only from these type of set piece interviews but also at AGMs where he has scarcely been heard from.
I also have some sympathy with Mr Bennett that the Managing Director of Rangers, who last year received a handsome sum of over £450k for his contribution, is unable to sit in front of a camera and appear in any way convincing. In Mr Bennett’s position, you would also expect your Communications Director to have the knowledge and awareness to spike a 33 minute interview which says nothing and from which the main takeaway is that the Vice Chairman of Rangers thinks being beaten 3-0 at home to the third seed in your Champions League group is a “real Rangers performance”.
However, then I remember that Mr Bennett sits as Vice Chair of the Rangers Board that employed David Graham, who as far as anyone can tell had no prior experience of either PR or business in general. He sits as Vice Chair of a board which appears happy to have a Chairman who won’t communicate with supporters. A Chairman who appears determined to ignore not only Club 1872, a major shareholder representing thousands of Rangers fans, but also the Rangers Supporters Association which represents over 100 Rangers Supporters Clubs. He also sits as Vice Chair of a board who wants supporters to believe they are striving for “best in class” but employ a Managing Director who can’t even deliver a tame interview without it having to be pulled halfway through.
So perhaps I shouldn’t feel sorry for John Bennett and should instead feel sorry for myself and my fellow supporters who have had to put up with two years and counting of this failure to communicate.
Views expressed in contributor blogs are those of the individuals who submit them and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Club 1872 or its representatives.< Back