The Three Bears consortium tonight offered to increase their offer of a £5 million loan to Rangers in a bid to prevent Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley taking a firmer control over Ibrox and its training ground.
The Newcastle United owner’s controversial move excludes other offers for 35 days, but the consortium says it does not want to include the club’s assets as security. A fans group is taking legal action and there are plans a demonstration against Ashley.
The consortium, comprising Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, stepped in after documents emerged revealing that Ashley had offered a £10m loan to the club in return for taking the Ibrox stadium and Murray Park training complex as security.
Documents filed by Ashley’s Sport Direct retail chain with the Register of Scotland aim to add its name to the title deeds of the stadium and training facility.
In a statement, the Three Bears said: “If the board are now saying they need more than £5m then we are prepared to increase our funding package to begin the process of putting Rangers back on a firm financial footing.”We hope this can be agreed soon so we can put an end to the suffering of Rangers fans who have been shown complete disregard for far too long.”Rangers fans deserve greater respect and it would be foolish to take them for granted. They have had enough and will not take any more.”Our initial funding offer also asked for a negative pledge on Ibrox, which is a guarantee that security over that asset couldn’t be given to anyone else.”This condition was refused by the board and we accepted this on the basis of the board’s previous statements that Ibrox would be sacrosanct.”Rangers fans, including ourselves, do not want Ibrox given over as security to anyone.
“The very notion is abhorrent to us and that it is even being considered suggests at best a lack of understanding of what Ibrox represents, and at worst a callous disrespect.
“There is absolutely no need for Ibrox to be used as security when there are people ready and committed to offer more than adequate funding while at the same time protecting the stadium.
The board has been accused of reneging on earlier pledges to reject any attempt to use the assets in this way. In October, the club threw out an offer from Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy who proposed a similar arrangement.
Last May the club said: “For the avoidance of doubt and so that all Rangers fans are again reassured, the board has stated that is has no intention of granting security over Ibrox to anybody.”
Rangers issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange this afternoon responding to reports about Ashley’s plans. It read: “The company notes the recent speculation in the press. 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.”
But fans believe the board has done a u-turn as part of another plan to strengthen 8.92% shareholder Ashley’s grip on control.
The documents say that Sports Direct will be granted exclusive security on the loans for 35 days which excludes a counter offer.
Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle prevents him from adding to his holdings in Ibrox above 10%. The Scottish FA ruled that he would not be allowed to increase his stake to 29.9%.
This latest move to provide loans to the club comes amid continuing uncertainty about its future. The club says it is in a race against time to find the capital needed so it can continue to trade.
A £20m takeover offer from US tycoon Robert Sarver, which would have enabled him to wipe out Rangers’ debts was rejected by the board earlier this week.