Ex-Rangers chairman says ousting Mike Ashley was key in title journey

Former Rangers chairman Dave King insists ousting Mike Ashley regime was the key moment in club’s journey to their first title in 10 years and says Scottish football would have become a ‘one-team league’ if Newcastle owner had stayed

  • Rangers were crowned Scottish champions for the first time in 10 years 
  • Former chairman Dave King reflected on the key moment in the title journey 
  • He believes ousting a Mike Ashley regime brought the necessary changes 
  • King claimed Rangers would never have competed for titles if he had stayed 

For Dave King, there was surely some significance in the timing of Rangers’ long-awaited restoration as champions of Scotland.

Saturday afternoon’s victory over St Mirren came on the sixth anniversary of the EGM in which King and his colleagues forced boardroom change at Ibrox, ousting a Mike Ashley-influenced regime in the process.

Steven Gerrard’s side had one foot over the finishing line. Confirmation of the club’s first title in a decade followed within 24 hours when Celtic failed to win at Tannadice.

Former Rangers chairman Dave King (middle) says ousting Mike Ashley was a key moment in the club’s journey to their first SPL title in 10 years

King claimed the Gers would never have competed for titles while Ashley remained at the club

King is no longer Rangers chairman, having stepped down 12 months ago. But as he uncorked a £3,500 bottle of Yquem 1872 to toast the triumph at his home in South Africa, he still felt a profound sense of personal satisfaction at completion of a lengthy rebuilding process.

The expense incurred along the way ran into many millions of pounds, not to mention the numerous court battles and on-field disappointments. King, though, would never claim it was anything other than worth it.

He paints a bleak picture of how an alternative future might have unfolded for Rangers had the 2015 regime change not been successful. Under Ashley and his allies, King feared silverware would become an impossible aim as Celtic’s dominance continued undisputed.

‘I don’t think Rangers would ever have folded completely in the sense the supporters base is so large,’ said King.

‘My view just prior to becoming involved with the club, when I looked at the Easdale-Ashley axis, was that under their business model Rangers were *never* going to compete for honours again.

Saturday afternoon’s victory over St Mirren came on the sixth anniversary of the EGM in which King and his colleagues forced boardroom change at Ibrox

Rangers officially celebrated their title win on Sunday after Celtic failed to beat Dundee United

‘I had a conversation with Ashley in London and his view was that he could run Rangers at a profit.

‘He could have done that, of course he could. If you have 50,000, 60,000 fans willing to buy season tickets then it was feasible.

‘If you spend less than you earn and you have a loyal customer base then he could have made a profit.

‘But Rangers would never have competed. Rangers at that stage were so far behind Celtic that it required major investment to play catch up.

‘My concern was that if we hadn’t found a way to unlock regime change and bring in investors who had the same target of winning leagues and not making money then I felt Rangers would become a senior junior club in Scotland. It would have become a one-team league.’

Current chairman Douglas Park, deputy chairman John Bennett, George Letham, George Taylor, Barry Scott and Stuart Gibson are among the other wealthy Rangers who dug deep to aid the investment process.

King stepped down as chairman in March of last year. He remain the largest shareholder with a 19.55 per cent stake held through New Oasis Asset Limited, but hopes that can be sold off to supporters in the coming years having agreed deal with fan group Club 1872.

He admits the route from 2015 was not one of constant upwards progress. As Rangers floundered in the Premiership prior to Gerrard’s arrival in 2018, the likelihood of Celtic completing ten-in-a-row seemed to rise.

Kings says Scottish football would have become a one-league team without change

‘There were definitely points where I realised the challenge of getting back winning league titles was more difficult than I’d assumed – and I must say I assumed it would be quite difficult to start with,’ reflected King.

‘My focus really wasn’t on 10-in-a-row. To me, 10-in-a-row wasn’t a big thing emotionally. I’ve always seen it as something between Rangers fans and Celtic supporters.

‘You know, Aberdeen fans don’t talk about nine or 10-in-a-row. It just doesn’t exist outside of Rangers and Celtic and I just felt the fact we weren’t there for effectively five seasons meant nine-in-a-row wasn’t something I spent a lot of time worrying about.

‘To me, the focus was getting back to winning. I realised what I thought was a big challenge was even bigger after regime change. It was then that I realised the level of disintegration of the infrastructure.

‘It wasn’t just the football team. We understood the team couldn’t win without the proper infrastructure.

‘The stadium neglect was palpable but there was even more basic things like coaching and sports science. We had nothing in place.

‘So it wasn’t just a question of working on the football team. We also had to manage a lot of our financial resources into areas away from the team that I hadn’t anticipated.

‘So my challenge was how to manage the non-footballing infrastructure issues in a way that didn’t compromise the football.

‘That really just meant having to raise a lot more money than I’d initially hoped for.

‘There was a lot of challenges and it affected me in terms of time frames – but never to the point where it made me lose belief that we would win a title. It was just a case of what year.’

Rangers winning the league meant Celtic were denied their tenth SPL title in a row

2021 is the answer. And remarkably early in the year. A season billed as being an epic Old Firm battle became closer to a procession as Gerrard’s unbeaten side claimed the prize with a 20-point margin.

The pandemic has ensured King hasn’t been at Ibrox this season. But what did it mean to him when he watched the weekend events unfold from South Africa?

‘I guess for me there are two things,’ King considered. ‘First, it’s just the relief as a supporter that the project we all embarked on a few years ago to try to get back winning championships – which clearly was the target – has been finished.

‘To do it in such style really gives me an immense sense of satisfaction as a supporter.

‘Additionally, to me as an individual given my role in the whole regime change process and trying to get the club back to this point – and the commitments I made to supporters that we will do everything we can to get back to number one – that gives me a lot of personal satisfaction to have finally achieved that.’

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