Last month I read a really interesting theory as to what Mike Ashley was really up to in his multiple dealings with football clubs.
The theory was in a piece by respected writer Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, somebody who has published some excellent pieces on the Rangers mess and who has excellent sources that regularly come up trumps.
Phil Mac has also increasingly started to include the goings on under Ashley at Newcastle and in this piece below in January, he wrote the following;
‘One business analyst has been advancing the theory, and that is all it is, that big Mike (Ashley) just might have a cunning plan.
He believes that what Big Mike is about in Scotland is conducting a dry run in Scotland for something much bigger.
Here is the scenario that he put to me:
‘There are at least ten clubs in the English Championship that are financially struggling. If Ashley can move in and lend to them then he can separate the profitable bits of the operation from the loss making parts.
If he can disconnect the merchandising operation in a discrete entity then those profits will not disappear down the black club (hole?) in the club’s finances.
He could end up running the retail side of several clubs doing a kit deal and controlling the advertising space without actually owning any of these clubs.
That way he would not fall foul of the FA’s regulations.
Rangers might just be a way for him to test this out in Scotland to see if it works.’
All interesting stuff and then if we move to the present day, the minutes of a meeting between Rangers fans and Mike Ashley’s men Derek Llambias and Barry Leach has added more fuel to the fire.
The meeting took place last Wednesday (11 Feb) and those at the meeting were the Rangers Fans Board and representatives of the Scottish club including Llambias and Leach.
The Rangers Fans Board is the equivalent of the Newcastle Fans Forum and now they have published their minutes of that meeting which includes the following questions and answers.
As (Mike) Ashley is looking more and more likely to be in control of Rangers what is his short term plan and long term plan for Rangers? Can Mike Ashley or his representatives tell us his vision for the club?
“We can’t speak for Mike Ashley. SD (Sports Direct) has a football priority going forward and affiliation with 5 different clubs: Oldham, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Rangers.
“Their model is taking over as many retail operations in football clubs and putting them ‘into the SD machine’ for ongoing retail revenues. I believe they can help Rangers sell more shirts overseas than we could ever have done on our own.”
“I haven’t spoken to Mike Ashley since I left SD in September. Derek hasn’t spoken to him for longer than that, so we can’t speak to what his plans are.”
Quite embarrassing the way that Llambias and Leach are attempting to distance themselves from Mike Ashley, as though we are expected to believe that in the last six months while Llambias has been taken on by Rangers (3 November), confirmed as Chief Executive (19 December), and Leach appointed (5 January), there has really been no communication between them and Ashley???
Derek Llambias speaking so openly about the Mike Ashley model is very illuminating and whether the Sports Direct supremo will be happy to have his intentions put out in the open is doubtful.