Rangers make U-turn to pay back Sports Direct loan

Rangers' board gathers at Clyde Auditorium
The board addressed shareholders at Clyde Auditorium

Rangers' board will pay back a £5m loan from shareholder Mike Ashley's Sports Direct retail company, reversing an earlier decision not to do so.

The initial decision had been taken in June following a shareholders' vote at an extraordinary meeting of the club.

But chairman Dave King told the annual meeting in Glasgow that the board has decided to pay up.

"It took me one hour this morning to raise the £5m from major shareholders," he said.

"We will advise Sports Direct we will be repaying that loan."

Ashley, who owns nearly 9% of Rangers shares, gave the Scottish Championship club £5m in January to help them remain solvent.

But Rangers want to renegotiate the terms of the contract between Sports Direct and Rangers Retail, an agreement made with the club's previous board.

Ashley won a court injunction preventing the club from revealing details of the agreement.

Rangers welcome shareholders to Clyde Auditorium
Shareholders gathered at the annual meeting in Clyde Auditorium to hear the board

King told shareholders at the annual meeting at Clyde Auditorium that he was therefore limited in what he could tell them.

He said incessant litigation by Ashley and Sports Direct was an "ongoing hassle" but added that once the loan is paid off, the club will have "no external debt".

"If you look at the financial strength of the club, once the Sports Direct loan is paid off, other than shareholder loans which I'm saying should be treated as an equity substitute, Rangers Football Club has no debt," he said.

"You'll go far to find a single football club in the world that's got a balance sheet as strong as Rangers'. We've got no debt at all, a strong supporter base and own all our assets.

"We're one of the strongest clubs financially in the world. Once Sports Direct is paid off we've no external debt whatsoever.

"Barcelona can't say that, neither can Man United or Arsenal."

Rangers lead the Championship in their second season in Scotland's second tier, but Hibernian have caught them in recent weeks and are level on points.

King, who stressed it was vital that Rangers were in the top flight next season, said it is the board's intention to give manager Mark Warburton sufficient resources to secure promotion and then challenge for Europe.

"We will make it back to the top of the domestic game," he said. "We will continue to improve and strengthen team over coming seasons."

King said Rangers are recovering from "all manner of malicious attacks" but are now irreversibly on the road to recovery.

"It was our collective belief that kept Rangers alive despite the crimes, the punishment, the abuse, the lies and sometimes the hatred the club has endured," he added.

"No club has been made to suffer as this one has.

"But we are here today, we'll be here tomorrow and everyday after that. And because of our belief Rangers will emerge stronger than ever."

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