MIKE Ashley and Rangers seem to have shelved the contentious plan which could have seen Ibrox Stadium used as security on further loans to the financially-stricken club.
Sources close to the current Rangers board last night indicated that Ibrox will no longer be considered for part of any funding agreements reached with Ashley.
The Newcastle United owner, who this week added to his fortune by earning £117 million from the sale of a percentage of his stake in his Sports Direct business, still remains in pole position to strike an agreement to provide Rangers with desperately needed cash next week.
A furious reaction was provoked among Rangers supporters last week when it was revealed Sports Direct had lodged advance notices of security for both Ibrox and the Murray Park training complex with the Land Register of Scotland. The notices are due to expire on 17 February and have not yet been removed.
Around 600 Rangers fans protested outside Ibrox before and after the abandoned league game against Hearts eight days ago, with much of their anger directed towards Ashley and his boardroom representatives at Rangers, chief executive Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach.
Ashley, who holds a stake of just under nine per cent in Rangers, has previously loaned the club £3m this season. Their January wage bill is due to be paid next week and, in a recent statement to the stock exchange, the board admitted they needed “urgent short term financing”.
The “Three Bears’”consortium of businessmen Douglas Park, George Taylor and George Letham are still waiting for a formal response to their £6.5m offer to underwrite a fresh share issue, while former Rangers director Dave King has requisitioned a general meeting of shareholders calling for the removal of the current board.
On the field, Steve Simonsen is poised to retain his place in goal ahead of next weekend’s Old Firm showdown at Hampden, despite facing gambling charges from the SFA.
The 35-year-old Englishman is accused of placing bets on 55 matches in the last 12 months in contravention of SFA regulations which prohibit players from any gambling on football. Simonsen has until next Thursday to respond to the charges and faces a principal hearing at Hampden on 12 February.
Rangers caretaker manager Kenny McDowall said he has no intention of dropping Simonsen for today’s Championship fixture against Cowdenbeath at Central Park, their last outing before the League Cup semi-final with Celtic next Sunday.
“No, I wouldn’t think about making a switch,” said McDowall. “Lee Robinson is available and has gone about his work terrifically well, but it’s not something I’ve thought about.
“I would hope Steve would be okay to play. I will have a chat with him and also with the board to see what they are thinking.
“The club have issued a statement about it and I can’t really comment any further. He’s not guilty as yet.”
Simonsen is the second Rangers player to be at the centre of a high-profile gambling charge after midfielder Ian Black was handed a ten-match ban – seven of which were suspended – and a £7,500 fine for placing 160 bets over a seven-year period.
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