Ulster supporters rally round Rangers

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 14/3/2012: Former Glasgow Rangers player Sandy Jardine meets the DUP's Gregory Campbell at the Belfast Harland and Wolff Welders Clubl ast night where there was a meeting with Northern Ireland Rangers fans to discuss raising funds to save the club.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 14/3/2012: Former Glasgow Rangers player Sandy Jardine meets the DUP's Gregory Campbell at the Belfast Harland and Wolff Welders Clubl ast night where there was a meeting with Northern Ireland Rangers fans to discuss raising funds to save the club.'PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

HUNDREDS of Rangers fans — including a number of prominent politicians — gathered in east Belfast last night and vowed to save their team.

Representatives from suppo-rters’ clubs as far afield as Dublin packed into the Harland and Wolff Welders’ Club on the lower Newtownards Road to plan how to save Rangers from liquidation.

Among the local politicians were DUP MP and former Stormont sports minister Gregory Campbell, UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, East Belfast MLAs Sammy Douglas and Michael Copeland, as well as Belfast councillor Brian Kingston.

Rangers entered administration on February 14 after HMRC lodged a petition over non-payment of almost £9million in PAYE and VAT.

Under the banner of Rangers Til I Die, it was agreed a bank account would be set up for fans to donate money to rescue the troubled club.

Each supporters’ club was initially asked to donate £100 into a fighting fund.

Speaking for the Rangers Til I Die campaign, Jim Wilson said the message from the meeting was that the fans will never let their team die.

“It was a very positive meeting, moving forward we will be getting the funds together to start selling branded ribbons and rosettes at Windsor Park and Ibrox as well as online. All the proceeds will go towards the club,” he said.

Supporters were at the meeting from Scotland and Dublin, as well as from across Northern Ireland. There were around 300 fans, including representatives of 60 supporters’ clubs.

“Rangers will not die, the fans will never let that happen,” Jim added.

Rangers legend Sandy Jardine was also among the crowd.

Speaking to the News Letter before the meeting, Sandy revealed that there are currently three prospective buyers for the club.

He described the bank account as an interim measure to keep the Scottish side going until at least the end of the season.

“We’ll be meeting with the auditors weekly about the situation and see how the money goes,” he said.

“If there is surplus money left over, it will be up to the fans to decide what to do with it.

“This is to let fans who feel so strongly be able to do something.”

Clifford Healy — the father of Rangers and Northern Ireland striker David — was one of hundreds of loyal Rangers fans from across Ireland as far afield as Dublin who turned up to the Welders Club in east Belfast.

Two representatives from each supporters club were invited.

Clifford said David and the other players were “baffled” by what had happened to the club.

“We’ll do whatever it takes,” said Clifford, who said supporters were shocked by what had happened.

“There is a brave lot of money raised already and a lot of great ideas.”

Cecil Tumlinson from the Lagan Village Rangers Supporters in Belfast said the fans will never let the club go under.

“This whole thing came totally out of the blue,” he said. “But everyone is determined the club will never go down.”

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Rangers will play Linfield in a special fundraising initiative for the Ibrox club.

Linfield vice-chairman Billy Kennedy was present at the meeting as an invited representative of his club.

The Belfast blues have had a strong bond with Rangers over the past 100 years and they are preparing to host a game at Windsor Park before the season ends.

It is hoped up to 12,000 supporters will watch the clash of the blues at the international stadium, with the net gate receipts from the game going to the crisis-hit Scottish club.