Watchdogs 'right' to fine Mike Ashley over Rangers shares

Mike Ashley. Picture: PAMike Ashley. Picture: PA
Mike Ashley. Picture: PA
FOOTBALL watchdogs were correct to fine billionaire Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for breaking rules about having shares in Rangers, a court has heard.

Advocate Aidan O’Neill QC told judge Lord Brodie that the businessman broke SFA dual ownership regulations when his firm acquired shares in the ‘Gers.

The senior lawyer told the Court of Session in Edinburgh that the Scottish Football Association were correct to fine him £1,000 last year.

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He told the court that the rules forbidding people from having influence in more than one club were in place to help the development of football.

Mr O’Neill told the court: “It is in place to help the promotion of football as a good thing. It is not just about the players and the teams at the highest level.

“It is also about the amateurs and the Saturday morning leagues.

“Nobody supports a business. They support a team. They don’t spend all their pennies on a business – they do so on a team.”

Mr O’Neill was speaking on the second day of a judicial review at the Edinburgh based court.

Mr Ashley, who owns high street retail chain Sports Direct, has brought a case against the SFA.

His lawyers have arguing that the organisation made the wrong decision when the organisation fined him for taking an 8.92 per cent share in the Glasgow team.

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They concluded that Mr Ashley broke their rules about how an individual should not be involved with two football clubs at the same time.

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On Thursday, lawyers acting for the world’s 318th richest man told Lord Brodie that the SFA acted incorrectly.

Advocate Craig Sandison QC told the court that it was Mr Ashley’s company – MASH Holdings – that controlled the Rangers shares.

He told the court there was a legal difference between Mr Ashley as a person and MASH Holdings.

Consequently, Mr Sandison said that the SFA should have appreciated the difference and not have fined Mr Ashley.

The lawyer asked the court to overturn the SFA’s fine.

On Friday, Mr O’Neill told the court that Mr Ashley’s view didn’t have any substance and that the SFA acted correctly.

The lawyer told the court that there was no evidence available to prove that there was a legal difference between MASH Holdings and Mr Ashley.

He also said that there was evidence that Mr Ashley was involved in the day to day running of Newcastle United Football Club.

Mr O’Neill asked Lord Brodie to stop the case.

He added: “I am asking you to dismiss all of it.”

Lord Brodie told the lawyers that he would issue his decision on the matter at some time in the immediate future.