SFA set to defend “fit and proper” ruling on Rangers chairman Dave King after Mike Ashley legal challenge

THE SFA will defend its decision to pass Dave King, the Rangers chairman, as a fit and proper person after being taken to court by Mike Ashley, the major Ibrox shareholder.

King, who took control of Rangers at an EGM he requisitioned back in March, was cleared to take up a place on the Ibrox board by Scottish football’s governing body on May 19.

He had to be ratified by Hampden due to his tax convictions in South Africa and the fact he was a director of the oldco before it was put into administration and liquidation in 2012.

King admitted to 41 breaches of the South African Income Tax Act and agreed to pay a settlement of £43.7 million in 2013 following a prolonged legal battle.

The SFA consulted with the South African Revenue Service and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as well as police in South Africa and Scotland before allowing King to become chairman.

Senior officials, who sought expert legal advice in both Scotland and South Africa during the painstaking process, are confident a judicial review will rule they acted appropriately.

However, they are concerned about the amount it will cost – they will need to spend in the region of £50,000. One source said: “That is money which will be lost to Scottish football.”

If Ashley’s court action is successful, it could ultimately result in the fit and proper person ruling on King being overturned.

An SFA statement read: “We are in receipt of proceedings from Mike Ashley. It is in the hands of our lawyers. We aren’t going to comment on it until such a time as the matter has been dealt with by our advisors.”

After being passed as “fit and proper” by the SFA earlier this year, King released a statement which read: “I must be the most scrutinised candidate in Scottish football history.

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“But I was happy to accept this given the importance to the club of having a board fully comprised of individuals who are all approved by the Scottish FA.”

The move is the latest development in an increasingly acrimonious stand-off between Ashley, the billionaire Newcastle United owner, and King.

Ashley has launched a bid to have King jailed for allegedly breaching the terms of a High Court injunction he took out in June to prevent him from talking publicly about the terms of Rangers deal with Sports Direct.

Ashley’s legal representatives believe the interview he gave Jim White of Sky Sports at his home in South Africa in July breached the gagging order.

King, who succeeded in ousting Ashley associates Barry Leach and Derek Llambias back in March, has been unable to renegotiate a contract between Rangers and Sports Direct.

Ashley owns an 8.92 per cent share in Rangers through MASH Holdings Ltd after receiving written permission from the SFA to buy a stake in the Ibrox club three years ago.

However, he was prevented from increasing that to 29.9 per cent by the governing body in December of 2014.

Ashley received security over the Albion Car Park, Edmiston House, Murray Park and the club crests and badges as well as a controlling stake in Rangers Retail Ltd in return for a £10 million loan in January.

In June he demanded that Rangers reimburse him the £5 million which was drawn down – but there is no time scale on the interest-free loan and Ibrox officials are refusing to return his money.