Rangers lock out Dave King as James Bisgrove makes club Sideshow Bob in Celtic’s flying circus – Keith Jackson – Keith Jackson

James Bisgrove must be doing something right. No, seriously, hear me out here.

The man in charge of commercial and marketing strategies at Ibrox may seem like a snake oil salesman to those of us with an untrained eye but then we don’t drive a McLaren super-car to the office so it stands to reason Bisgrove can’t be half as daft as he looks.

And yet somehow this extravagant petrol-head has also managed to drive a wedge between his club and its supporters – or let’s call them customers – at a moment in time when the bond between the boardroom and the stands ought to be unbreakable given all they’ have been through together over these past 10 tumultuous years.

By secretly signing off on a controversial plan to take the Old Firm derby Down Under, Bisgrove has cemented his status as a man who would happily sell anything that’s not nailed down without stopping to consider the cost of any reputational damage which might be incurred along the way.

Not content with dressing players up like human billboards, having given away sponsorship packages for everything apart from the soles of their socks, Bisgrove is responsible for lumbering Rangers with more partners than Katie Price but, curiously, without making any kind of material dent in the club’s financial misfortunes.

It’s quite a trick to sell off so much and yet for the proceeds to remain almost completely unnoticed – especially when it’s being orchestrated by a man whose garish, bright blue motor costs more than the average Glasgow house.

If Bisgrove is really all about the bottom line then perhaps he ought to have given some consideration to the damage he might do with this latest sleight of hand. Selling a rivalry which is built on hatred and exporting it to the other side of the planet under the cover of darkness?

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Honestly, how did he think this one would play out, especially given that it’s all being packaged up and promoted as Ange Postecoglou’s grand homecoming tour?

Talk about tone deaf?

Rangers have flogged themselves off as Sideshow Bob to Big Ange’s flying circus and even if Bisgrove’s sums are correct – and they really do rake in more than the £3.2m earned from winning last season’s title – their own support has been left feeling duped, short changed and, worst of all, disconnected.

At least Bisgrove was smart enough to try to deflect the blame as soon as he was caught with his didgeridoo in his hands by blurting out that the deal had the ‘unanimous’ approval of the rest of the board.

But, while he was clearly unwilling to be left carrying the can, he was also quick to suggest that Rangers may have been the victim of some kind of stitch up where the leaking of the story of the Sydney Super Cup was concerned.

He smells a rat because word began to trickle out of Australia overnight before Celtic confirmed their intention to participate the following day, while Bisgrove and his buddies were caught in the headlights.

But rather than playing the old paranoia card, Rangers should be looking inhouse and asking exactly why it is that this whole fiasco was mishandled so spectacularly. And by whom.

It appears the Ibrox board haven’t realized what an almighty mess they are making of their own communications department but surely a red flag must have been raised inside the Blue Room after this mind-blowing botch job.

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Rather than claim ownership of the decision to cash in on the dingo dollar and present it as a hugely positive commercial venture as well as an emotional nod of the head to ex-pat Rangers supporters Down Under, they panicked and fluffed their own lines horribly.

This whole episode has been the very definition of a PR disaster and whoever it was who advised Bisgrove to then take it out on the fans – accusing them of overreacting – should be escorted off the premises as a matter of some urgency before any more carnage is caused.

It does feel as if, ultimately, managing director and willing Patsy Stewart Robertson will most probably be singled out as the fall-guy for this one which would be quite a stretch of the imagination given his complete lack of clout inside the boardroom.

DUNDEE, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson (centre) watches on during a Cinch Premiership match between Dundee United and Rangers at Tannadice Park, on February 20, 2022, in Dundee, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

In fact, it could be that someone on the inside already has one eye on Little Stewart’s lucrative job so it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out now that the club’s supporters are gathering at the door, baying for directorial blood.

Their mood may have been even darker had Giovanni van Bronckhorst not got away with a late winner at home to Aberdeen at the weekend and it’s credit to the manager that he’s just about keeping it all together on the park against such a calamitous backdrop of empire building and fighting.

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It’s actually quite remarkable former chairman Dave King – the man who led the revolution that ensured the club’s 150th birthday party went ahead at the weekend – is also now an outcast and viewed as persona non grata by those now in charge of decision making.

Dave King at Ibrox for Rangers vs Motherwell

Intriguingly, King was back in the country to rally some of his old troops just the other week having been informed his request for a return to the board has been officially declined by his estranged former colleagues.

That he was not even invited to take a seat in the directors’ box for the 2-2 draw with Motherwell – he watched that match from a hospitality suite in the opposite stand – just goes to show how hostile and fractured relations have become.

A PR man worth his salt would have been all over this visit from South Africa, seizing it as an opportunity to present a picture of unified and stable leadership even if some of the smiles might have been more like gritted teeth.

Instead, the image being projected is one of a club riddled with division and bloated by serial underperformers.

They had better hope it’s not contagious now Van Bronckhorst and his players are swerving into this season’s final stretch like Bisgrove’s McLaren on a skid pan. The last thing they need is another car crash on their hands.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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