Sports Direct's complaints about BBC rejected

Mike Ashley at Parliamentary committee
Image caption Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley gave evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Complaints by Sports Direct about a BBC investigation into working conditions at the company have been rejected by the BBC Trust.

The complaints centred around the programme's reference to a member of staff giving birth in warehouse toilets.

It said Inside Out East Midlands had misled the audience and not given the company an opportunity to respond to this "serious allegation".

The BBC Trust rejected both points.

Image caption The programme investigated working practices at the Sports Direct warehouses in Shirebrook, Derbyshire

The programme, Investigating Sports Direct, was broadcast on BBC One on 5 October last year.

As a result of the programme and other media coverage, MPs in the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee examined working practices at Sports Direct.

In their report, the MPs accused Sports Direct of not treating its workers like humans.

What was Sports Direct complaining about?

Image copyright PA

The programme included testimony from Sports Direct agency workers who said they were managed by a "six strikes" disciplinary policy. Workers would be sacked if they exceeded six strikes in a six-month period, for "offences" including reported sickness, excessive chatting, and excessive or long toilet breaks.

Workers alleged that this policy meant they attended shifts even when they were ill.

Sports Direct had two points of complaint:

  • The programme referred to a member of staff giving birth in warehouse toilets, which "misled" the audience because it implied this was another example of someone coming to work when they were unfit to do so.
  • The programme did not provide Sports Direct with an opportunity to respond to the "serious allegation" about a member of staff giving birth in the warehouse toilets.

The BBC Trust noted that the reference to the birth was "factually accurate" and "went no further than the known facts".

It also said Sports Direct had been given an adequate "right of reply".

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee chairman, Labour MP Iain Wright, has thanked the programme for its work.

"We wouldn't have been here, and we wouldn't have had any success in the select committee had it not been for... Inside Out," he said.

"Ultimately, as a result of the work of Inside Out, thousands of lives, workers at Sports Direct, will now start seeing their conditions improve, and their lives improve as a result."

Sports Direct has not yet commented on the BBC Trust's finding.

Image caption Iain Wright MP said conditions at Sports Direct had improved as a result of the programme

The birth of the baby in the warehouse toilets was widely reported when it happened in January 2014, including by the BBC.

The BBC Trust noted that the information was therefore already in the public domain prior to the programme's broadcast.

Police investigated the circumstances of the birth and charged the mother, a Polish woman in her 20s, with abandoning her baby.

However, the case was later dropped before the mother was due to stand trial.

More on this story