Rangers fans retain Ibrox security concerns over Mike Ashley loan

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Ibrox Stadium
Ibrox Stadium was precluded from the latest loan deal with Sports Direct

A Rangers fans group fears that security over Ibrox Stadium in return for loans might be granted ahead of a meeting that could remove the board.

Rangers Supporters Trust has revealed that it obtained a legal undertaking from the board not to use the stadium.

An agreement was reached after the RST submitted a petition to the Court of Session seeking an interim interdict.

But it only holds until 17 February - before a general meeting called by shareholder Dave King.

That meeting, at which the South Africa-based businessman hopes to oust the current regime and be elected himself, will have to take place no later than 27 February.

Sports Direct, owned by Rangers shareholder Mike Ashley, has agreed to lend Rangers £10m, secured against a floating charge and other property assets.

The RST pursued the legal action ahead of the deal being announced after it was revealed that the Newcastle United owner's company had been granted advance notices of security against Ibrox and the Murray Park training ground.

"We are disappointed that we were not able to secure the extension of this commitment until the date of the upcoming GM as this now leaves a short period of time in which the board could grant security over Ibrox before they are hopefully removed," said a spokesman for the RST.

The club's board was in the midst of negotiations with Sports Direct over emergency funding and fan protests followed at the prospect of the stadium being used as security.

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley is a minority shareholder in Rangers and owns Sports Direct

The board rejected a funding offer of £6.5m from a consortium of Rangers-supporting businessmen - Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor - after the group refused a condition that it should vote against the removal of certain directors at the GM, including the non-executive James Easdale.

A £10m loan was then accepted from the company owned by Ashley, who holds an 8.92% stake in Rangers International Football Club and whose associates, Derek Llambias and Barry Leach, are the club's chief executive and finance director respectively.

Security over Ibrox was precluded from the floating charge, with the board having given the RST's lawyers an undertaking that the stadium will not be used to secure loans until 17 February.

The Sports Direct loan is being delivered in two tranches, with the first £5m provided immediately.

This will be used for working capital needs and to pay back the £3m Ashley loaned RIFC late last year.

The second £5m is likely to be required soon and Sports Direct has reserved the right to carry out due diligence before releasing it, which has left the RST concerned that further conditions might be attached to the second half of the loan.

"This is particularly concerning given the announcement that a further period of due diligence is required for the second £5m tranche of debt that the board has decided to saddle the club with," added the RST.

"We believe our actions had a material impact in stopping the board from granting security over Ibrox."

For the length of the loan facility, Sports Direct was also transferred 26% of Rangers' stake in Rangers Retail Limited, a joint commercial venture with Sports Direct, and from 2017/18 all shirt sponsorship proceeds will be paid to RRL.

The RST suggests this has "plunged our club into an unnecessary level of debt and, by pawning off further revenue streams including shirt sponsorship, have limited our ability to repay that debt".

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