Sports Direct

Long wait for people queuing for Sports Direct

Long queues snaked round the corner in Brighton as shoppers flocked back to Sports Direct as it reopened for the first time in three months.

BBC South East Today reporter Charlotte Wright tweeted a video showing the scale of the queue into the city centre store this afternoon.

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Coronavirus: Mike Ashley 'deeply apologetic' for blunders

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he is "deeply apologetic" for a series of blunders in the way his chain has reacted to the coronavirus lockdown.

The retailer lobbied the government to keep his shops open, arguing they were an "essential service", but backed down after a backlash from staff and media.

Mr Ashley, who owns Newcastle United, admitted his request was "ill judged and poorly timed" and said he would "learn from his mistakes".

The retail tycoon also offered to lend the NHS his delivery trucks.

In an open letter, Mr Ashley also admitted the firm's communications to staff and the public were "poor".

"I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future," he said.

Mike Ashley
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Mike Ashley apologises over 'ill-judged' coronavirus response

Sports Direct founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has apologised for "ill-judged and poorly timed" emails to the government and poor communication with employees and the public in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter, the majority owner of Frasers Group also said he has offered the company's "entire fleet of lorries" to the NHS to help deliver medical supplies and equipment.

It comes after the businessman faced fierce criticism from MPs after he tried to claim Sports Direct was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit, before performing a U-turn and closing his stores.

Mike Ashley

Frasers Group - which rebranded from Sports Direct International last year - faced further scorn after its finance chief wrote a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Wednesday in an attempt to defend its position.

In the new letter, Mr Ashley said: "Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open; we would never have acted against their advice.

"In hindsight, our emails to the government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.

"On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor.

"To reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future."

MPs demand answers from Mike Ashley over coronavirus advice

Sports Direct and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley (pictured) and Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin must explain to Parliament how they will be protecting staff during the coronavirus crisis, by the end of the week, the chairman of the Business Select Committee has said.

Rachel Reeves, who chairs the committee, said it is "crucial that companies such as Sports Direct and JD Wetherspoons do all they can to ensure their workers are properly protected and get the pay to which they are entitled".

The move comes as Mr Ashley's Frasers Group wrote to Cabinet minister Michael Gove in an attempt to get the government to agree with its position.

Both Frasers Group and Wetherspoons have faced heavy criticism over their handling of staff welfare, with conflicting messages over pay and working hours.

Mike Ashley

Workers 'disappointed' over Sports Direct U-turn

PA Media

Shirebrook-based Sports Direct performed a U-turn this morning on keeping its shops open during the coronavirus lockdown following a backlash over its proposals.

The retailer initially said it would remain open as it was "uniquely well-placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible".

But it now says it will not open "until we are given the go-ahead by the government".

Sports Direct's initial plan to stay open drew widespread criticism on social media and from employees, who told the PA news agency they feel "disappointed".

Sports Direct
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A worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said they have worked at the company since they were 16 and now have a young family.

"I cuddled a scared and confused five-year-old to bed last night knowing that his mum and dad could risk potentially bringing in the virus for the sake of some fitness equipment," they said.

"I am disappointed (the announcement to close stores to the public) has not come from the company itself and am worried they find another loophole to continue us working. I have had no contact from them as of yet."