King hits out at ‘bullying tactics’ by Ashley
Chairman Dave King is flanked by managing director Stuart Robertson and manager Steven Gerrard at Rangers’ AGM (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers chairman Dave King has criticised Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct firm for its ‘bullying tactics’ amid a long-running dispute over kit sales.
Speaking at the club’s annual general meeting in Glasgow, the Light Blues chief expressed his ‘concern’ at the mounting legal bills in the ongoing wrangle, with reports suggesting Rangers are facing £400,000 in costs.
In the most recent exchange of legal arguments, former Ibrox shareholder Ashley was successful in his claim that the club was in breach of contract in agreeing a new deal last month with Elite Group to sell jerseys without giving Sports Direct a chance to match it.
Addressing shareholders at the AGM at the Clyde Auditorium, Mr King said: “Our commercial and marketing function has seen the benefit of the return of Rangers to top-level football and this is now being reflected in the value we are able to attract from our commercial partners at the various levels of relationship that we have with them.
“Overall, our commercial activities continue to provide greater revenue and profit for the club but we need to be challenging at the top of the Scottish Premiership and be consistently back in Europe beyond the qualifying stages before we can generate the levels of sponsorship that a club of our size and history ought to achieve.
“Unfortunately, Sports Direct has again done its best to interrupt our retail operations by engaging in the type of litigation that they are by now famous for.
“In my opinion, they use urgent and interim proceedings so that they can drown the court in papers that cannot be adequately reviewed in time.
“This allows them to get interim relief pending a full ventilation of the facts. In the final analysis Sports Direct has consistently failed with its bullying tactics and I anticipate a similar outcome to the present litigation.”
The South African added: “It is of some concern, the spending on legal fees initiated by Sports Direct.
“It’s something we have to oppose. These are hundreds of thousands of pounds of orders against us.
“It’s an unwanted situation but the alternative is to back down and give Sports Direct what they want. We’re never going to do that.”
Responding to a fan’s question about the behaviour of the Celtic players after a lap of honour at the end of their 1-0 victory at Parkhead in September sparked a crowd surge, managing director Stuart Robertson said: “Having seen the effects of what happened in September, players have a responsibility to be very careful about their reaction during and after games because every action can have a reaction.
“We cannot have a repeat of that. Players have to be conscious of what they are doing and we have to hope we don’t see a repeat of that – anywhere.”
The AGM was the first to be attended by manager Steven Gerrard, who said: “I can assure you we will continue to give everything to move the club forward and attract the best players to this incredible club.
“I am in a blessed position to be manager and hopefully I can stay here for a very long time.”