THE Rangers Supporters Trust has claimed that its legal action helped prevent the club’s board granting security over Ibrox to Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct company.
Rangers announced on Tuesday that they had accepted a £10 million loan offer from Sports Direct in return for a number of conditions, including security over Murray Park training ground and the Albion car park and Edmiston House building adjacent to Ibrox. But a previous application to use the stadium as security was not followed through.
The RST revealed it submitted a petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Monday seeking an interim interdict to stop Ibrox being used as a guarantee.
A statement said: “Discussions between our lawyers and the board’s lawyers continued over the past three days. The conclusion of these discussions was that the board has agreed not to grant security over Ibrox for a period up until 17 February covered by the advance notice they submitted.
“We believe our actions had a material impact in stopping the board from granting security over Ibrox. The revised deal with Sports Direct was agreed late on Monday night, according to Paul Shackleton, the club’s AIM nomad. This was immediately following the petition submitted to the court.
“We do not believe that the filing of a notice of intention to grant security over Ibrox was an error and we believe that a fixed security over Ibrox would most likely have been granted to Sports Direct had it not been challenged.”
The Rangers board chose the Sports Direct loan ahead of an offer from the “Three Bears” group of shareholders – George Letham, George Taylor and Douglas Park – who refused to meet a demand not to vote in favour of fellow shareholder Dave King’s requisition to remove current directors.
King’s demand for a general meeting is still in the hands of the board, who must respond by the end of next week and then schedule a meeting within three weeks. The RST said: “We are disappointed that we were not able to secure the extension of this commitment until the date of the upcoming EGM, as this now leaves a short period of time in which the board could grant security over Ibrox before they are hopefully removed.
“This is particularly concerning given the announcement yesterday that a further period of due diligence is required for the second £5m tranche of debt that the board has decided to saddle the club with.”
The Trust has been joined in its condemnation of the board by the club’s own internal fan representation group.
The Rangers Fans Board, which was set up by former Ibrox chief executive Graham Wallace in a bid to appease discontent among the support, accused the Rangers directors of failing to engage with it.
A statement read: “While the Rangers Fans Board do not represent shareholders, we do have the remit to represent the views of the Rangers fanbase to the board. Sadly, in recent weeks, the board have failed to communicate with the RFB in any meaningful way during this time of great concern for Rangers fans.
“This very little communication has led the RFB to believe the board has no desire to engage with the Rangers fans.
“From this, and the fact that the board don’t even have the courtesy to communicate with the RFB or any other fans groups, we, the members of the RFB, cannot support the board.”
Ashley’s latest move to strengthen his power at Ibrox came on the day a procedural hearing was held at the Scottish Football Association headquarters following disciplinary charges against both him and Rangers.
The SFA judicial panel set a 2 March date for a full hearing into the two charges against Ashley, the Newcastle owner who is accused of not acting in the best interests of football and of breaching a rule relating to holding power over two clubs. A separate hearing into three similar charges against Rangers will be heard on 16 March.
The Sports Direct founder was recently refused permission by the SFA to extend his Ibrox shareholding to almost 30 per cent, having previously signed an agreement that limits him to ten per cent.
Under the terms of the latest deal, Ashley will be repaid his recent £3m loan in the first tranche of money to come from his Sports Direct firm. As well as security over assets, his company will receive an extra 26 per cent of Rangers Retail – giving it more than three-quarters of the business – and shirt sponsorship income from the summer of 2017, and two representatives on the board.
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