QUESTIONS have been raised over Rangers' commercial deals as it emerged that Sports Direct, headed up by billionaire Mike Ashley, have had effective control of the club's retail operation for nearly two years.

According to official documents, while Rangers Football Club Ltd have 51% of the joint venture and Sports Direct 49%, Ashley and Sports Direct have the upper hand.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the company rules for Rangers Retail Limited were changed in November 2012, three months after the joint venture was established. Rangers Retail's amended Articles of Association showed Sports Direct receive two votes for every share on "financial matters", ensuring Mr Ashley's company has effective control.

When Rangers' joint venture with Sports Direct was confirmed by the club under then chief executive Charles Green in August 2012, it was promoted as enabling Rangers "to once again control its retail operation and give supporters the chance to buy direct from the club and in doing so, continue to invest in its future".

At the time, there were no details of any money changing hands to seal the deal and details of how the club benefit have been sketchy.

Rangers Retail run the club's entire retail operation, including the Rangers Megastore, and hold the rights under licence to the club's famous crests.

Details of the terms of the joint venture between Sports Direct and The Rangers Football Club Ltd, the club's operating company headed by controversial chairman Sandy Easdale, came as supporters registered their disquiet over the acceptance of a £2 million emergency loan from Ashley amid unsubstantiated claims the business was days from insolvency.

As working capital was running out, as of June, £2.72m relating to Rangers Retail was included in the £4.26m cash balances of parent company Rangers International Football Club plc.

But, according to their accounts, this sum was "not immediately available as working capital to the group".

Ashley has already bought the stadium naming rights, so far unused, for £1 in 2012.

It is understood he has a deal for the operation of the club's shops and that he controls a portion of Rangers' revenue through that contract, which sees club merchandise sold in Sports Direct stores.

According to Sports Direct's latest accounts, it has registered sales of £3.843m to Ashley-controlled Rangers Retail in the year to April 2014.

Craig Houston, of the Sons of Struth supporters' group, said Ashley appeared to have control of every part of the money-making side of the club and has made it "unsellable". He said: "All a buyer seems to have is ticket sales and TV rights."

The terms of Ashley's £2m emergency loan also gave him security over the Albion car park and Edmiston House facility next to Ibrox.

Under the previous 10-year retail agreement with JJB struck by Sir David Murray in 2006, Rangers accepted an initial £18m from the sports firm, while it was also guaranteed a minimum royalty fee of £3m per year until 2016.

As a result, JJB held exclusive rights to design, develop, source and retail merchandise associated with the club.