RANGERS chairman Dave King has revealed his efforts to re-negotiate the club’s retail deal with Sports Direct will determine how much money he puts into their bid to win the Championship next season.
But the South Africa-based businessman has promised Rangers supporters that as much as £10 million will be invested in securing a new management team and rebuilding a first-team squad capable of returning to the top flight of Scottish football.
King made his pledge in a letter to season ticket holders which was also released on the Rangers website shortly after yesterday’s general meeting of shareholders at Ibrox to vote on resolutions concerning the controversial contract with Sports Direct.
Despite calling the meeting through his MASH Holdings company, Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley did not attend or send any of his representatives.
Around 500 shareholders did turn up for the meeting which was chaired by Rangers director Paul Murray, standing in for King who was in London on what was described as “club business”.
Voting took place on two resolutions. The first, proposed by Ashley, sought immediate repayment of Sports Direct’s £5m loan to the club which grants them security over several of Rangers’ properties and commercial rights.
The second resolution, a counter-proposal by King, sought approval for his board to re-negotiate the Sports Direct retail contract which currently gives Rangers just a 25 per cent share of the income. The result of both votes will be announced on Monday.
In his letter to supporters, King declared that the “wrong types” had been ousted from the club following his success in overthrowing Ashley’s colleagues Derek Llambias and Barry Leach to seize boardroom control at a previous general meeting in March.
King has previously declined to put any precise figure on his personal financial commitment to the club since taking charge. Earlier this week, he revealed a target of 45,000 season ticket which would take in around £12m for the club.
“I do not believe we should talk in exact numbers because we do not know precisely how much it will cost to rebuild and restore this wonderful club,” writes King in the season ticket renewal letter. “The required funding for this new season alone could change significantly depending on how discussions with our retail partners are concluded.
“We have to spend immediately to rebuild the football staff at all levels but we can’t say for certain how much it will cost to forge a team to win the Championship. What I can say, however, is that if I and other investors have to put in an extra £5m for this season that’s what we’ll do. If it requires more, for instance £10m, so be it.
“The wrong types have been removed from the club and for the first time in years there is hope. We can all be confident that there will be no more squandering of money. Hopefully we can share the vision to return Rangers to the pinnacle of the domestic game within two or three years and thus become European regulars again.
“Spending another season in the Championship is an undesirable reality and we have to start with rebuilding the footballing side so that we end this next season as champions of the Championship and ready to compete for the Premiership title.
“We must target players who have the quality and desire to play for Rangers. We must also ensure that the football structure we put in place provides a sustainable and successful future for the club. However, even with new investment your board cannot do this on its own. That is why I am asking you to take season ticket sales to a record level.
“The football you have watched over the last season does not justify the price you have paid but we want and need to do better. Our club cannot, and must not, get to the point where we celebrate mediocrity. The Rangers Football Club has, for over a century, been the biggest club in Scotland and will be again. That is a non-negotiable for me.
“Our club stands at a crossroads and the next season is critical to our future. This must be the last season we spend in the Championship and an intelligent and realistic strategy to drive Rangers back to the very top as quickly as possible is required.”
Shareholders at yesterday’s general meeting, which lasted just 35 minutes, were left frustrated by the failure of any of Ashley’s executives to attend.
“MASH was asked if it would send a representative to today’s meeting,” Murray told them. “No reply was has been received on that point.
“The board are surprised that having called a meeting, they have not seen fit to attend and explain themselves. It would appear MASH sees no reason to explain its conduct.”
Murray, his fellow director John Gilligan and Rangers secretary James Blair were also unable to reveal any details of the Sports Direct contract to the meeting, as they had originally intended.
Ashley prevented that by obtaining an injunction at the High Court in London on Thursday against revealing any confidential information in the deal. That was supported by an action in the Court of Session in Edinburgh which, Gilligan revealed, saw court officers personally serve the injunctions to the Rangers directors at their homes on Thursday evening.