Rangers are off on a tour of North America this summer.
No, really. I'm not making this up.
According to Ally McCoist, it's a chance to connect with the enormous fanbase the club have in that part of the world. With opponents the calibre of Ventura County Fusion, Sacramento Republic and Victoria Highlanders, it's bound to generate huge excitement and act as a huge positive advertisement for the Rangers brand, right?
One can only assume and hope that the trip is being paid for by sponsors and well-wishers.
That's because Rangers are pretty much broke.
The club only crawled to the end of the season thanks to two seven-figure loans - one from supporter George Letham, and one from director Sandy Easdale. Both these loans are due to be paid back from season ticket monies, as soon as they are raised.
Which is a problem, what with the supporters largely refusing to buy season tickets. As of the end of the week, the club had sold less than ten thousand, thanks to the campaign led by fans group Union Of Fans, whose figurehead is South Africa-based businessman Dave King. That's the Dave King who was convicted of 42 accounts of tax evasion in South Africa.
By my estimates, though, 10,000 season tickets should be enough to pay back a total of £3million or so in loans. Which makes it curious that, apparently, the club have been evading Letham's attempts to find out how close they are to repaying him. Since the loan is lodged with the Stock Exchange, they won't be able to evade him for very long.
So, once those loans have been paid back, then what next?
The club has no credit line. In fact, it's credit rating is so poor that they aren't allowed to sell season tickets by credit card or direct debit. One wonders how many Rangers season ticket holders are unable to renew because, in the current financial climate, they can't afford to take £400 out of their bank account as a lump sum even if they wanted to (NB - that's not meant as a cheap shot at the income of the average Rangers fan, honestly - we're still in a recession, even if the Tories claim otherwise). So going cap in hand to the bank is out of the question.
Given that the club has blown more than £60million in two years - in order to win the two lowest tiers in Scottish league football and to reach a Challenge Cup final - then you'd think there would be some pretty savage cost-cutting going on. The obvious target would be the playing staff, who cost somewhere in the region of £6million annually. That's easily higher than every other Scottish club except Celtic.
The trouble is, nearly all the players are under contract for next year. If attempts have been made to move them on, then these have been resisted. I imagine that there are a few who feel that they are unlikely to be paid several thousand pounds per week if they were to agree to leave Ibrox. So far this summer the only players to move on are forward Andy Little and defender Chris Hegarty. The phrase 'drop in the ocean' comes to mind.
So the players are still being paid. Money is still leaking out of Rangers like water out of the Titanic. And yet it feels like very little is being done about it. There is a taste of Nero and his fiddle to it all.
Another share issue is an option - the board have the ability to create and sell more shares to current shareholders. That would raise some capital, but how much? Certainly nowhere near the £20million-plus that the club's share issue eighteen months ago produced. And it wouldn't entice the supporters back. An EGM could be called in order to organize a wider share issue; that would be entertaining. And would any investor be willing to risk putting their cash into this shambles of an organization?
So at the moment it feels like the folk in charge of the club are just muddling on, hoping all the problems will go away. How they're going to meet payroll over the summer period remains unclear though. So King and his supporters appear to be succeeding in destablizing the club. But to what end?
If Rangers run out of money, they will need to go into administration; if they can't make an agreement with their creditors - and it's difficult to make an agreement with them when you have absolutely no cash - they would be liquidated again. (Maybe King intends to buy them on the cheap? That would be an interesting move, since, under it's current wording, there is no way in hell that he would pass the SFA's Fit and Proper Person test).
So Rangers fans are, to an extent, between a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids and a place that isn't very easy. A work colleague of mine who supports the club has joined the Union Of Fans. His reasoning? He doesn't trust the folk currently in charge of the club, and he doesn't trust Dave King either. But he thinks Dave King is going to win.
On the field of play, 2014-15 is likely to be a challenge as well. While the Scottish Championship was bound to be a step up, one assumed that the Gers would still steamroller the likes of Falkirk and Queen of the South over an entire season, even if they dropped a few points here and there.
But now they face a season in the same division as Hearts and Hibs. Three of Scottish football's biggest clubs are competing for one automatic promotion spot, and one possible promotion spot via playoffs. If you've watched a few of Rangers' performances over the last two seasons, you'll agree that the current odds of 1/5 that they'll win that division are rather too short. I had wondered if the club might gamble on going into administration and scraping into the playoffs with a huge points deduction - that now seems much too risky given the presence of the Edinburgh clubs.
There is at least one thing we can all be certain of - Rangers cannot afford to miss out on promotion. If that happens, then the midden really will hit the windmill.