The Newcastle United owner has filed documents notifying land register bosses that he plans to add Sports Direct to the title deeds of both the club’s stadium and training ground.
The move suggests the billionaire tycoon is about to step in to offer the cash-strapped outfit an emergency loan.
If that proves to be the case, it would be a major set-back to the Three Bears - wealthy fans Douglas Park, George Taylor and George Letham - and oldco director Dave King as they try to fight their way onto the Light Blues’ board.
But the Rangers Supporters Trust (RST) have reacted with fury to the news - revealing they have already called in lawyers in a bid to shoot down Ashley’s plans.
In a statement, the fans 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 believe the board may be acting illegally on two fronts and we will be working with any other shareholder who wishes to challenge this. If necessary we will instigate legal action against the directors both collectively and individually.
“We have also contacted several MPs and will be seeking political and government support to stop this attempted asset grab.”
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The Rangers board has already admitted the club could go under again if it does not find fresh cash by the end of the month.
The papers lodged with the Registers of Scotland by Ashley - officially known as an advance notice - protect the title deeds and mean anyone else looking to issue the board a loan would not be able to take Ibrox or Murray Park as security.
The document is valid for 35 days, meaning Ashley has until February 17 to strike a rescue deal.
The move also suggests Ashley is not yet ready to give up his grip on power.
While the board this week rejected US financier Robert Sarver’s £20million takeover bid, Ashley still faces competition from King and the Three Bears.
They bought up two chunks of shares which combined equate to around 34 per cent of the club and are determined to push for boardroom change.
But Ashley now looks to be in the box seat.
He owns 8.92 per cent of the Light Blues but strengthened his position after handing over a £3million emergency loan late last year.
He has already placed right-hand men Derek Llambias and Barry Leach onto the board as chief executive and financial director and continues to run the club’s retail division at rates highly beneficial to him.
But having already been charged with breaching “dual ownership” rules by the Scottish Football Association, his latest Ibrox involvement could yet spark further investigations by Hampden chiefs.
The Rangers board is on record saying it would not grant security on Ibrox to anyone.
In a statement issued on May 6 last year, the directors announced they had “no intention of granting security over Ibrox to anybody” - adding “our stadium is sacrosanct.”
But it replied to Thursday’s reports by announcing to the Stock Exchange: “The company notes the recent speculation in the press. 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 Ibrox faithful, however, insist they will fight any move to give away control of Ibrox.
The Union of Fans umbrella group also released a statement, saying: “The Union of Fans is sickened by today’s news that the board is attempting to mortgage Ibrox and Murray Park to Sports Direct.
“Put simply, James and Sandy Easdale and 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.
“Derek Llambias and Barry Leach have been appointed by Mr Ashley to ensure he grabs the remaining assets of the club. Mr Ashley and his board stooges have shown a blatant disregard for the club and the fans.”
Meanwhile, fan ownership group Rangers First added: “We are extremely concerned about the fact that one party has been granted advance notice of security over assets including our stadium and Auchenhowie at a time when the Company which owns our Club has assured shareholders it is currently considering various proposals.
“This is not consistent with the advance notice of security which can only be issued in relation to a registrable deed which the person intends to grant.
“Rangers First will be speaking to its members and other shareholders with a view to establishing how best to react. Meantime, we call on the Board to urgently clarify the position and to confirm its undertaking not to grant security over Ibrox Stadium.”
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