English league bosses have confirmed they plan to hold talks with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley over his interests in Rangers.
Ashley holds an 8.92 per cent stake in Rangers in addition to his ownership of the Magpies. He also owns a 49 per cent share of the company selling Rangers’ retail products.
But that could now land the Sports Direct tycoon in trouble with the Football League following Newcastle’s relegation to the Sky Bet Championship.
Rules on dual ownership for clubs competing in the Championship are tighter than the ones governing English top-flight sides and the penalties for breaching them go as far as expulsion from the league.
Ashley would have to get the written consent of the Football League if he is to hold on to his Rangers interests.
If they refuse, he may be forced to loosen his grip on the retail deal that reportedly earns Rangers just four pence from every pound spent in its club store.
A Football League spokesman said: “Under Football League regulations, which differ from those applied by the Premier League in this area, individuals with shareholdings in a member club are permitted to own up to 9.9 per cent in a second club where held for investment purposes only.
“Any other interests require the League’s consent. Once Newcastle have formally become a member of the Football League this matter will be discussed with the club.”
Sections 10 and 11 of the Football League’s rule book cover cases where the owner of one club holds shares or commercial interests in another team.
It states: “The following regulations prohibit one club controlling another and individuals, either alone or with others, having interests in or influence over more than one club.
“Any breach of any of the foregoing Regulations 98 to 101 inclusive, including without limitation knowingly rendering incorrect or incomplete information pursuant to Regulations 101 and 103, shall constitute misconduct.
“Without prejudice to the range of other sanctions that may be imposed in respect of such breach, any club in breach of any of the aforesaid regulations may with the sanction of a special resolution passed at an annual or extraordinary general meeting of the League, be expelled from the League. There shall be no right of appeal against such expulsion.”
Regulation 98.2.4 states that no individual from one club is permitted “to have any power whatsoever to influence the financial, commercial or business affairs or the management or administration” of another.
The Football League does allow its members to own up to 10 per cent of other clubs so long as the shares are bought “purely for investment purposes only”.
It is understood it is Ashley’s commercial tie-ups at Ibrox – originally set up when Charles Green was still in control of Rangers – which are likely to cause the Football League concern.
The Ibrox support have grown frustrated with Ashley’s involvement in their club.
They have even boycotted the club’s merchandise in an attempt to force Ashley out but he has refused to budge, even taking his bitter feud with Rangers chairman Dave King through the courts.