MIKE ASHLEY has lost his appeal against being found guilty of breaching the Scottish Football Association disciplinary regulations on havin an interest in more than one club.
But the billionaire owner of Newcastle United has succeeded in having the fine imposed for the offence reduced from £7,500 to £1,000.
Against the wishes of Ashley and his legal team, who had requested that the full details of the appeal hearing should remain confidential, the Appellate Tribunal chaired by Supreme Court judge Lord Bonomy ruled that the full determination should be published.
The appeal took place at Hampden on 20 May, two months after a Judicial Panel found Ashley in breach of dual interest regulations as a result of his then increased involvement in Rangers.
Sports Direct owner Ashley had been granted permission by the SFA board to hold a shareholding in Rangers on the understanding it did not exceed 10 per cent. Ashley has a stake of 8.92 per cent in the Ibrox club and had a request to increase it to almost 30 per cent rejected by the SFA board.
The original notice of complaint issued to Ashley came in the wake of the £2 million loan facility he provided to Rangers in October last year. Part of that agreement, made through his MASH Holdings company, allowed him to place up to two directors on the Rangers board.
Derek Llambias, who was managing director of Newcastle and is a long-time associate of Ashley, was appointed to the Rangers board and subsequently installed as chief executive of the club.
The SFA Judicial Panel, sitting on 17 March, found Ashley to have breached rule 19 of the SFA disciplinary procedures and Article 13 of the SFA articles of association which prohibit anyone involved in the management or administration of a club having “any power whatsoever to influence” the management or administration of another club.
A second charge that Ashley had “failed to act in the best interests of association football” was found not proven by the Judicial Panel. In appealing against the outcome, Ashley’s legal representatives claimed that it was a “determination which the Judicial Panel could not properly have issued on the facts of the case” and that “the sanction imposed is challenged in terms of paragraph 14.8.4 on the ground that it was excessive or inappropriate”.
But Lord Bonomy’s Appellate Tribunal rejected Ashley’s complaint and backed the reasoning behind the Judicial Panel’s judgement, while also explaining their own decision to reduce the fine to just £1,000.
“The range of penalties applicable for top end breaches is very wide, ranging from £1,000 to £10,000, and reflects the extensive variety of possibilities,” they said in their note of reasons published by the SFA yesterday.
“In this case the basic circumstances of the breach are such as to bring this breach within the top end range. Although the funding provided was needed by Rangers, it could have been provided without the perpetration of an obvious breach of the dual interests rule. That breach was deliberate and had the effect of providing the Appellant with a measure of power over the management and administration of another club. Although answerable to the shareholders, the Board directs the affairs of the club. Membership of the Board is a powerful position. Securing that degree of control was done deliberately.
“On the other hand, the interests of Rangers FC were not directly adversely affected. Only one nomination is alleged in the complaint. The appellant has previously been of good conduct. The credit facility involved has now been fully repaid.
“Since the Appellate Tribunal have decided that the Judicial Panel erred in the respect specified above, it is now for this Tribunal to determine the appropriate sanction. Having regard to all the circumstances, the Tribunal consider the appropriate sanction to be at the entry point to the sanctions for top end breaches and impose a fine of £1,000.”