Transfer deadline passed on Monday without too many standout last-minute deals, with a surprising lack of action by the Premier League’s top clubs.
However, one deal that caught my eye was Newcastle loaning Glasgow Rangers five fringe players from St James’ Park on the final day of the window.
Shane Ferguson, Haris Vučkić, Kevin Mbabu, Remie Streete and Gaël Bigirimana will all spend the rest of the campaign at Ibrox and play a role in trying to get the historic Glasgow club back into Scottish football’s top flight.
Although none of the quintet have been in the first-team reckoning at the Tyneside club this term, with Vučkić’s one Premier League appearance the most of any of the players, the fact that they are all going to the same club is very peculiar.
The fact that Mike Ashley continues to take advantage of Rangers’ financial misery should be a point of concern for the Ibrox faithful, with the Newcastle owner now holding a 8.92 per cent stake in the Scottish club’s shares.
With Rangers seemingly making all the same mistakes that saw the team demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football due to their shambolic finances, Ashley had to bail the club out recently with a £10 million loan to keep the Glasgow outfit afloat.
This money was loaned from Ashley’s sportswear company Sports Direct, with the shrewd businessman seemingly having a keen eye on the popular Scottish club’s assets, shirt revenue and whatever else.
Although Ashley has been summoned to appear in front of the Scottish Football Association on March 2 to explore breaches of dual interest rules, the loaning of five players to Rangers is surely a step too far already.
The Newcastle owner is certainly not the only wealthy businessman with an interest in football clubs and if he is allowed to continue his dealings within two major sides it has the potential to set a precedent for other commercially minded figures to follow.
The deal reminds me of Chelsea’s blatant use of the farcical loan rulings in the European game, where the West London club have virtually turned other professional football outfits into feeder clubs – Vitesse Arnhem being a classic example.
For the good of the game Ashley’s position within both Rangers and Newcastle needs to be examined as it has the potential to create a conflict of interests.
Ashley has proven during his ownership of the Tyneside club that his cut-throat business sense takes priority over the welfare of the team and the Sport Direct owner’s interest in Rangers’ affairs is clearly all financial too.
Although the Ibrox club have only themselves to blame for the horrendous financial predicament they find themselves in once more, Ashley’s exploitation off the field is not the major concern.
However, when the ridiculous loaning of players and dual ownership issues rise to the fore, it is clearly another unsavoury aspect of the game that needs to be addressed for the good of the sport.