Dave King avoided jail today in a London court, when Sports Direct’s lawyers appeared to turn up at the proceedings without bringing the smoking gun.
In fact, it was a rather baffling morning, as the guns they did bring didn’t even appear to be loaded.
James Doleman offered the best performance of the proceedings, keeping all the Internet Bampots up to date throughout with a clear and concise commentary on events, and those were far stranger than many of us anticipated.
For one thing, the judge appeared slightly perplexed, right from the start, as to what exactly Sports Direct and their legal team were up to.
Amongst the many questions he asked about the way in which they conducted the case was why King hadn’t been called as a witness, why Jim Whyte hadn’t been summoned and why Sports Direct believed King’s statements during his interview with the Sky Sports presenter in South Africa constituted an offence serious enough to send a man to jail, even a man as egregiously unfit for holding office in a football club as the “glib and shameless liar.”
We know Ashley has a game plan, but even His Honour was confused as to just where this particular courtroom skirmish fits into it, asking, after he’d dismissed Sports Direct’s case without even needing to hear a summation from King’s lawyer just what £400,000 had been committed to this action for.
It’s a question many of us will be asking over the next few days.
This matter now moves on to a new series of hearings, two tomorrow and a major one in January, relating to the Sports Direct injunction itself, which Ashley’s company appears to want extended and hardened.
There is no sign of them softening their stance.
Two items of potential interest emerged from the hearing; the first is that King’s lawyers claim that Sevco has paid off the Sports Direct £5 million loan.
This is a strange one, as this information was not released with any fanfare at all, and appears to have been timed to embarrass Ashley’s council with new information.
Indeed, he claimed to be unaware of it.
Have they actually done this?
I would think so, otherwise that’s a dangerous road to go down.
Quite where the money came from is something the Bampots will have to investigate, but there’s little doubt that the Three Bears provided the bulk of it, if not every penny.
Quite how long their forbearance lasts will be the subject of much speculation … but if you were in their shoes how long would you carry on burnishing the reputation of a man like King, who so far has invested exactly none of his own money in this enterprise?
The second item of interest was King himself submitting an affidavit to the court saying he didn’t know the terms of the Sports Direct gagging order against the club.
Even the judge expressed doubts over this one, and I am willing to bet that if there is a comeback from Ashley over today it will be focussed on this document and what’s in it.
Indeed, King himself, when he did speak, was his usual obfuscating self, claiming not to remember much of the Sky interview, and at one point actually saying he didn’t know he was wearing his “Rangers hat” during it.
I think we can say, quite openly, he’s very lucky Sports Direct’s guys didn’t have him up on the stand when he uttered that nonsense.
He has already given one of his famous statements to the media in the aftermath of the hearing, telling STV that he was “not surprised” by the “withering” judgement.
It was, he said, a “humiliation for Mike Ashely”, the kind of remark we’ve come to expect from this guy and one not designed to put these issues to bed.
His bombast knows no bounds, and if he needed his ego stroking today is a good day for it.
But trouble is never far away and only a mug would think we’ve seen the end of this.
Sports Direct’s legal case today cost an estimated £200,000 upwards and it’s hard to imagine Ashley having spent that money for nothing.
Whatever today was about, it appears not to have been about putting the Sevco chairman in jail.
So if not that, then what?
Did they simply overestimate the strength of their case?
I’d be very surprised if they had.
It looked weak on paper, and to anyone who had watched that Sky interview it was very difficult to see where King had crossed the line.
In court today it was even less convincing and the failure to put King himself on the stand is glaring.
So something more is going on here.
In the fullness of time, I suspect King’s gloating outside the courtroom will be seen as hubris.
He could have been humble today; a victory like this appears to be needs no spinning whatsoever.
His lack of class and sophistication in these matters is astounding.
What is it DeNiro’s Al Capone says in The Untouchables?
“One more thing; you have an all out prize fight, you wait until the fight is over, one guy is left standing. And that’s how you know who won.”
This one isn’t over by a long, long way, and my money is on Ashley being the one with the staying power, and the money, to see it through to a real finish.