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Inquiry into club's affairs deepens

Police raid Sports Direct HQ over Ashley’s Rangers deal

Mike AshleyMike Ashley’s Sports Direct headquarters have been raided by police investigating the alleged fraudulent involvement in Rangers football club.

Police Scotland were looking for documentation in relation to the deal, said a spokesman for the sportswear firm at its headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

The person said: “The premises of Sports Direct at Shirebrook were visited by Police Scotland conducting an investigation relating to Glasgow Rangers FC and various persons previously employed by and or associated with Rangers.

“The police were seeking documentation which might assist the investigation.

“Sports Direct has co-operated fully and will continue to co-operate fully in the provision of information that the police request.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm that officers carried out a search of a property in Derbyshire. As this is part of a live inquiry, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The investigation appears to be linked to inquiries around former owner Craig Whyte who appeared in court in Glasgow last November.

Ashley, who is facing fan protests over his ownership of Newcastle United football club, holds an 8.92% stake in Rangers, and was prevented from increasing it to 29.9% by the Scottish Football Association in accordance with ownership rules.

However, his Sports Direct business has the rights over the club’s retail division. However retail revenue last year fell £500,000 to £4.3m due to the closure of the Belfast and Glasgow Airport outlets and a demonstration by some supporters of dissatisfaction with the previous Rangers board and arrangements with the club’s retail partner.

Rangers made a £2.6 million half year loss in the last set of results under its former board which came in for further criticism for its “staggering” mismanagement of the club.

When announcing the figures in March new chairman Paul Murray said the club had not revealed that its auditors Deloitte had resigned last June. The new board brought in Jeffreys Henry to review the accounts and said it would make a further announcement once a new auditor has been found.

Shareholder loans of £1.5m which had been made available to provide working capital facilities to support the club were repaid by September 2014. These loans were replaced by £3m of loans provided by  Mr Ashley’s MASH Holdings.

But the new board tore up Mr Ashley’s offer of a second £5 million bail-out and instead accepted a £1.5 million in interest-free loans from the Three Bears consortium of Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor.

The unsecured loans will be used for day-to-day running costs and are due to be repaid at the end of the year, providing the club with time to find a longer term funding solution.

The club accepted half of a £10m from Sports Direct but the second tranche came with conditions that no longer apply, including a right to put two directors on the board. 

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