SPORTSWEAR giant Puma has insisted it has the right to put Rangers shirts up for sale from Thursday - despite the ongoing battle between the club and Mike Ashley over merchandise rights.

Rangers has criticised plans for the shirts to go on sale - a month after Puma withdrew sales as questions arose over whether the sportswear manufacturer has the rights to trade the merchandise.

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The club says it has not been party to any discussions on the launch of the kit sales, and that the first notification of their intentions came after close of business on Friday last week.

Puma says it is releasing the kits into the market in "full compliance" with the sponsorship and licensing agreement it has with Rangers Retail - the joint venture set up between Rangers and Sports Direct plc.

Stores have taken delivery of the new home, away and third kit and are due to begin  selling to fans from Thursday morning.

In May, Rangers withdrew exclusive rights to use the club's trademarks given to its merchandising joint venture with Sports Direct, set up under the previous Ibrox management.

It was a move that put pressure on Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley to dismantle the Rangers Retail joint venture for selling the club's merchandise.

It was previously understood that new Rangers strips could not be sold because of Rangers' move to terminate the merchandising contracts and was expected to provoke a so-far unforthcoming legal challenge.

But Puma say that having taken legal advice the kits will be sold.

A Puma source said: "Puma's agreement with RRL remains in full effect.

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"Accordingly, after taking legal advice, Puma continues to uphold its contract with Rangers Retail Limited and has fulfilled its obligations to manufacture and deliver the kits to the playing and coaching staff, as well as to Puma’s retail customers with the knowledge of all parties, including RFC (Rangers).

"Puma is not party to any reported legal dispute between the RRL shareholders and therefore has no further comment to make at this time."

They said the kits have been designed in collaboration with Rangers over a period of months and final approval was received from the club last year in line with production schedules.

The playing kit was delivered to the club, and the players have played all pre-season friendlies in this kit, Puma has said.

Earlier Rangers said Puma had manufactured some replica kit after receiving purchase orders directly from Sports Direct and "without the prior knowledge or agreement" of the club and its directors on the Rangers Retail Limited board, Paul Murray and David King.

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The club said: "Despite requests to Sports Direct and Puma we have not been able to ascertain full details of this arrangement or to reconcile it with the commercial contracts that were in place between the Club and Rangers Retail Limited.

"The club has not been party to discussions on the launch of kit sales by Puma this week. We were first notified of their intentions after close of business on Friday last week.

"We are surprised and disappointed by the lack of consultation with the Club and/or supporters groups prior to the launch."

It was expected that supporters would effectively be denied the chance to buy the brand new replica Puma-designed kit that Rangers will wear in action in the coming months from the Ibrox Megastore.

Puma became the "official supplier and licensee of replica merchandise for the club" in a five-year kit deal announced by Rangers in February, 2013.

In a statement produced at the time, when Charles Green was chief executive Rangers said: "The agreement which will commence at the start of season 2013/14 will see Rangers wearing the Puma brand on all of the club’s team kit, replica kit, training wear and equipment.

"The partnership with PUMA complements the club’s joint venture with retail giants Sports Direct."

The Rangers board said it was cancelling the merchandise deal with Rangers Retail Limited, controlled by Sports Direct unhappy at the return they were getting on the venture. It was understood to mean only 4p from every pound spent in the Ibrox store is banked by the Old Firm outfit.

The trademarks agreements were a cornerstone of Rangers' merchandising joint venture with Ashley's company confirmed by then chief executive Charles Green in August 2012.

The club has already triggered a seven-year notice period required to cancel all contractual ties with Sports Direct.

Fans group Sons of Struth has refused to call off its boycott of club merchandise which was launched in protest against the deal with the Mike Ashley company, until Rangers announce an acceptable merchandise deal.

The Rangers Retail set up has been a long-lasting area of controversy and at the end of 2014 the Rangers Supporters Trust launched an alternative shirt for fans as they took on Mr Ashley - and said all profits would be ploughed back into an increased shareholding in their club.

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The relationship between Dave King and Mike Ashley has grown increasingly fractious after a string of courtroom battles in which the Sports Direct billionaire failed to have the Rangers chairman jailed for contempt of court as the Newcastle United tycoon tried to prevent the club from revealing details about the Rangers Retail deal.

The high court judge Mr Justice Peter Smith described Sports Direct’s efforts as a “ridiculous piece of litigation”.

During the litigation Mr Justice Smith questioned the length of the seven year notice period in terminating the controversial deal, and then expressed surprise at the terms of the confidentiality agreement covering it revealing that it binds Rangers and not Sports Direct.

The previous 10-year licence agreement with sports retailer JJB Sports rubber stamped in 2006, was worth a minimum of £48 million to the club. The club got an initial payment of £18 million when they launched an Umbro home kit and were guaranteed a minimum annual royalty of £3 million in each year of the licence.