Sports Direct owner in High Court battle with Rangers over merchandise deal

Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is embroiled in a High Court fight with Rangers over a merchandise deal said to result in the Scottish club getting about 7p of every £1 spent.

Bosses at a company within the Sports Direct group say Rangers directors wrongly terminated a deal through which branded products, including kits, were sold, and want damages.

Rangers' directors dispute the claim.

Deputy High Court Judge Richard Millett has been asked to decide how the litigation should proceed and is analysing evidence at a High Court hearing in London.

In May, Rangers' directors said they were going to rip up contracts held with a merchandise company, Rangers Retail, they ran with a Sports Direct firm.

Mike Ashley. File image
Mike Ashley. File image

The deal had been agreed by former chief executive Charles Green.

But chairman David King, who took control nearly two years ago, and other directors were unhappy with the arrangement.

William McCormick QC, who is leading Rangers' legal team, told Judge Millett that supporters were also upset.

He said fans became angry after learning that the club only got around 7p of every £1 spent and had staged a merchandise boycott.

Mr McCormick said fans thought Mr Ashley pocketed too much of their money.

He said there was a widespread view that no "self-respecting" Rangers supporter wore a replica shirt.

"The involvement of Mike Ashley and Sports Direct in Rangers FC has been controversial with supporters since the outset," he said in a written submission.

"Whether rightly or wrongly, the supporters see Mike Ashley's primary goal as the making of money at the expense of on-field success."

He added: "The greatest anger is reserved for the manner in which the revenue generated by the club's merchandise is divided.

"When it became known in late 2014 that only about 7 per cent of revenue spent on merchandise accrued to (Rangers), certain groups of supporters began to call for a boycott on the basis that Mike Ashley and Sports Direct gained disproportionately from supporters' money."

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