Rangers and Ashley have been involved in long-running legal wrangling relating to Sports Direct’s hold over the Scottish club’s retail operation. The joint venture company has been administered through a separate firm, Rangers Retail Limited, from which Ashley stepped down in June.
“Mike Ashley went off the board,” King said of the Newcastle United owner. “So he kind of cut and ran, I suppose, when the going got tough from their point of view. So he’s disappeared.
“We don’t deal with Mike Ashley at all. He went on the board to try and impose himself on Rangers. He failed miserably and he has cut and run. I guess he has bigger problems in life right now than worrying about the retail relationships with Rangers.”
With the vast majority of proceeds from strip sales going to enterprises other than the club, Rangers supporters have generally refused to buy this season’s shirt. King chose not to endorse that stance. “It is a decision supporters will have to make themselves,” he said. “We are in a situation where we have made a lot of progress on the legal and commercial front in terms of our dealings with Sports Direct.
“I would say our position now in terms of what I would call the control and ability to influence the outcome of the commercial situations is far advanced relative to what it was three months ago, so I am feeling very confident about where we are relative to Sports Direct.
“The complication we have, of course, is Puma [who make the strips]. Puma are in the middle of this through no fault of their own.
“So what we are trying to do is get a balance right where we go beyond the mere legal dispute. Puma could be drawn into legal dispute with the club but that wouldn’t be fair on Puma. The dispute really belongs between ourselves and Sports Direct. We would like to do our best to mitigate Puma’s position.”
After watching Rangers draw 1-1 with Hamilton upon their return to the top flight, King pointed out his expectations for the manager, Mark Warburton. “The resources Celtic have got at this point in time are clearly very, very substantial relative to ours in terms of the footballing side,” said the chairman.
“Celtic have resources to compete in Europe. That is really what they are there to do. We are not competing in Europe this season so our standard this year is that we expect to compete with Celtic this season.
“Last season, I said the non-negotiable was winning the Championship. I would say this year we should at least come second.”
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