Rangers fans call for boycott over Ashley deal

The prospect of the Ashley deal has been met with fury by Rangers fans. Picture: Gary Hutchison.

The prospect of the Ashley deal has been met with fury by Rangers fans. Picture: Gary Hutchison.

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RANGERS supporters’ umbrella group the Union of Fans (UoF) has called for a demonstration and boycott at tonight’s Championship fixture against leaders Hearts following the latest revelations to emerge about Mike Ashley’s dealings with the club.

A statement from Rangers yesterday confirmed the Ibrox board were “considering various proposals to secure the financial future of the club”, with Ashley having offered another loan, reported to be worth £10 million, to the cash-strapped club. Rangers have now posted notice of Ashley’s intent to take out security over Ibrox stadium and Murray Park training base, indicating the Newcastle United owner could be set to provide the secured loan in return for the title deeds of both properties.

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This prospect has been met with fury by Rangers fans, who have pointed to an assurance by the present board that Ibrox would not be mortgaged off. In a statement issued on 6 May last year, the club’s directors said it had “no intention of granting security over Ibrox”, describing the stadium as “sacrosanct”.

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The UoF issued a statement yesterday, urging supporters to protest outside the ground before tonight’s vital televised clash with Hearts, who have a 13-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Championship table. It has also called on supporters to further make a point by then not going in to watch the match, whether or not they have a ticket.

Another fans organisation, the Rangers Supporters Trust (RST), revealed that it has already called in lawyers in a bid to block Ashley’s plans. In a statement, the group said: “The RST is taking urgent legal advice regarding this attempt by the board of Rangers Football Club to pass the most prized assets of the club to Mike Ashley. We have also contacted several MPs and will be seeking political and government support to stop this attempted asset grab.”

But the UoF has called for immediate action tonight, prior to a game many claim represents Rangers’ last chance to stay in the title race. “We would ask [fans] to do two things,” said the statement. “First of all please come to the ground tomorrow night, 45 minutes before kick-off and stage a mass demonstration at the front door of our Ibrox home.”

Rangers International Football Club plc released a statement to the Stock Exchange yesterday morning after it was revealed Ashley had filed documents to the Registers of Scotland (RoS) notifying plans to take out security on Ibrox and Murray Park.

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“The company notes the recent speculation in the press,” said the statement. “The directors confirm that they are currently considering various proposals to secure the financial future of the club. However, no decision has been made at this time.”

The Rangers board had already admitted it will need funds to survive beyond January and the papers lodged with the RoS – known as an advance notice – protect the deed and mean anyone else looking to issue a loan to the board would not be able to take Ibrox or Murray Park as security.

The document is valid for 35 days, meaning that Ashley now has until 17 February to strike a rescue deal.

The move also suggests that Ashley is not yet ready to relinquish his grip at Rangers, despite the Scottish Football Association rejecting an application from the Ibrox club in December to increase the businessman’s stake from 9 per cent to nearly 30 per cent.

While the board this week rejected US financier Robert Sarver’s £20m takeover bid, Ashley still faces competition from the Three Bears – wealthy fans Douglas Park, George Taylor and George Letham – and oldco director Dave King for control of Rangers.

“The Union of Fans is sickened by today’s news that the board is attempting to mortgage Ibrox and Murray Park to Sports Direct,” said the statement from the UoF. “Put simply, Mr James Easdale, Mr Sandy Easdale and Mr David Somers have lied to fans and shareholders.

“They have engineered a situation where they are handing the most prized assets of the club to Mike Ashley despite other, better funding offers once again being on the table. Mr Ashley and his board stooges have shown a blatant disregard for the club and the fans.

“John Brown could not have been more accurate when he described them as ‘rats’.”

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