SFA to defend Mike Ashley challenge over Dave King

Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley is unsatisfied with SFA's ruling of Dave King as a fit and proper person. Picture: PA
Billionaire businessman Mike Ashley is unsatisfied with SFA's ruling of Dave King as a fit and proper person. Picture: PA
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THE SFA will defend its approval of Dave King as “fit and proper” to become a director and chairman of Rangers when the decision is put to a judicial review by Mike Ashley next year.

The case petitioned by Newcastle United owner Ashley, who holds a nine per cent stake in Rangers through his MASH Holdings company, will be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on 4 February.

The Scottish FA can confirm we have received a petition for judicial review

Mike Ashley

A statement from Scottish football’s governing body read: “The Scottish FA can confirm we have received a petition for judicial review and will be defending it. We will make no further comment at this stage.”

It is the latest twist in the ongoing battle of wills between King and Ashley over their respective influences at the Ibrox club.

South African-based businessman King was passed fit and proper by the SFA to take up a formal role at Rangers on 19 May this year, two months after he led a successful bid for regime change at the club which saw Ashley’s colleagues Derek Llambias and Barry Leach ousted at a general meeting of shareholders.

Prior to the SFA’s judgement on the matter, King had been cleared by the Court of Session to become a company director in Scotland.

The question over his eligibility arose from his conviction in August 2013 for 41 counts of breaching tax regulations in South Africa which were subject to imprisonment. King reached a settlement of £43.7 million with South African Revenue Services after money laundering and tax evasion charges were dropped.

SFA criteria for “fit and proper” status allows the blocking of any individual convicted in the last 10 years of an offence liable to imprisonment or anyone who has served as a director of a club in the five years prior to it suffering an insolvency event.

King served as a director Rangers prior to and during it going into administration under Craig Whyte’s ownership in 2012.

Sports Direct owner Ashley is now challenging the SFA’s backing for King, reasoning that he should have fallen foul of the governing body’s criteria on those counts.

But the SFA also reserves powers of discretion for its main board of directors to make the final decision in such cases.

When they announced King had been passed as fit and proper, the SFA stated: “The scale of this due diligence is unprecedented but befitting the complexities of the consideration placed before the board.

“During this exercise both Mr King and the club were fully co-operative and responded to all questions put to them by the Scottish FA.

“On the basis of this advice presented to it, and having considered all submissions received from Mr King and the club in respect of this matter, the Scottish FA board granted an approval, conditional upon further submissions from Mr King in respect of documented agreements with the appropriate authorities in South Africa.

“The Scottish FA can confirm it has now received this supplementary documentation in full and the board is satisfied Mr King is fit and proper.”

The SFA’s eight-man main board consists of chief executive Stewart Regan, president Alan McRae, vice-president Rod Petrie, SPFL chairman Ralph Topping, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, Scottish Junior FA secretary Tom Johnston and independent non-executive directors Barrie Jackson and Gary Hughes.

In a separate case, Ashley is pursuing King for contempt of a gagging order placed on him and his fellow Rangers directors to prevent them providing details of the controversial retail deal Sports Direct struck with the club under the previous boardroom regime.

Ashley claims King breached the injunction in a television interview in July. The case is scheduled to be heard at the High Court in London on 9 December with a guilty verdict carrying a potential 30-day prison sentence.

Prior to that showdown, King is seeking to remove Ashley’s voting rights at Rangers. A special resolution at the club’s agm in Glasgow on 27 November will call for any shareholder involved in the management or administration of another club to be barred from having any say in affairs at Rangers.