Defeat in kit battle
Rangers facing hefty bill as Ashley wins latest court ruling
Replica kit sales are in dispute
Rangers are facing a multi-million pound bill from Sports Direct following the latest courtroom setback for the Ibrox club in a long-running dispute over merchandise.
A judge has ruled that the retailer, majority owned by former Rangers director Mike Ashley, should have been given the chance to match a shirt deal struck with Elite/Hummel, thought to be worth £10 million.
Rangers terminated the merchandise agreement with Sports Direct last year without giving the retailer an opportunity to make a competing offer.
Judge Lionel Persey QC ruled that the new deal with Elite/Hummel breached the agreement.
Sports Direct’s legal team have accepted that for season 2019/20 it is too late to scrap existing arrangements.
But for the 2020/21 campaign – which should be the third year of the Hummel contract -– Rangers will be forced to negotiate a new deal with Mr Ashley.
The club said it would “meet any financial award made by the court”.
Rangers secretary James Blair was accused of being “unconvincing” in his evidence and “untruthful” in his dealings at the time.
The judge said: “The consequence of my findings is that Rangers was in breach of its obligations.
“I am satisfied that SDIR (Sports Direct) was not only entitled to match the rights offered to Hummel/Elite but would have done so.
“Those rights were not only not offered to them but Rangers, through Mr Blair, untruthfully asserted that Hummel had not been granted any Offered Rights and did not provide SDIR with a copy of the Elite/Hummel agreement.”
Sports Directs losses were likely “to be in the order of many millions of pounds,” he said.
Mr Ashley’s deal with the previous Ibrox board saw his company extract about 93p from every £1 made from the sale of strips and merchandise.
That deal led to some fans boycotting Sports Direct stores and their sale of Rangers kit.
Rangers are understood to be appealing against the latest ruling. A statement posted on the club’s website read: “Rangers would like to reassure supporters that matters concerning the litigation currently being brought against it by SDI Retail Services Limited are not as reported.
“Rangers was disappointed by the terms of the recent court judgment but respects the decision of the court and will meet any financial award made by the court.
“No such award has yet been decided and at this stage Rangers does not even know how much will be sought. Contrary to some reports, the judge has not determined that the contractual cap on damages will not apply.
“Rangers would also like to reassure supporters that no steps have been taken to stop supporters being able to buy this season’s replica kits.”