Rangers: Mike Ashley seeks security over Ibrox for £10m loan

By Chris McLaughlin and Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Ibrox Stadium
Rangers released a statement last year assuring fans that Ibrox would never be used as security

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is ready to provide a loan of about £10m to Rangers but wants security of Ibrox Stadium and the club's Murray Park training ground, BBC Scotland has learned.

The so-called Three Bears consortium, led by the businessman Douglas Park, is believed to have offered a counter loan of about half that amount.

That group wants two seats on the club board and security over Murray Park.

However, it is thought the Rangers board feel the £5m loan is not enough.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange at lunchtime on Thursday, Rangers said: "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 club needs a major injection of cash within the next few weeks just to continue as a going concern.

Rangers released a statement last year assuring fans that the club's stadium would never be used as security.

Negotiations between the board and the Park consortium - comprising Park, George Letham and George Taylor - have been ongoing since they took their shareholding in the company to about 20% at the end of last year.

Murray Park
The Murray Park training ground at Auchenhowie has six full-size pitches among its list of facilities

However, so far, no agreement has been reached.

The board are understood to favour a joint funding package including cash from Ashley, who has already provided a total of £3m in loans.

Rangers have paved the way for the acceptance of Ashley's loan by lodging advance notices of security against Ibrox and Murray Park on behalf of Sports Direct, Ashley's sportswear company.

The notices, lodged with the Register of Scotland on 13 January, mean that only Sports Direct can be granted security on the properties for a 35-day period.

They also have the effect of making it impossible - for the next 35 days - to accept the security condition of the Three Bears' offer.

The group would look to convert their loan funding into equity at a later date, but this avenue is not open to Ashley after the Scottish Football Association rejected the Newcastle United owner's request for permission to raise his stake in the club above 10%.

Reaction of Rangers fans' groups
Union of Fans: "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."
Rangers First: "Rangers First is 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."
Rangers Supporters Trust: "Quite frankly this latest move by the board is legalised theft and we will not stand by and watch it happen. 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."

As well as chairman David Somers' assertion that Ibrox would never be used as security against a loan, a request for it by Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy was denied when he offered a £3m emergency loan late last year.

The Ibrox directors instead opted for a £2m loan - later raised to £3m - from Ashley, who owns 8.92% of Rangers.

His long-time associate Derek Llambias has since been appointed chief executive, while Barry Leach left his role as an executive at Sports Direct to become finance director at the club.

"The board has given public assurances that Ibrox would not be used for any type of security," said Chris Graham of the Rangers Supporters Trust.

"We will be liaising with other shareholders to see what legal remedies are available. This is precisely why we campaigned so hard to protect our stadium.

"It is quite clear that Mr Llambias and Mr Leach are only in place to ensure that Mike Ashley retains power.

"This board has to be removed immediately and the fans have to make their feelings known in the strongest possible terms. This is the final straw."

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