‘Take some responsibility’ and shut stores, politicians tell Sports Direct

HEALTH Coronavirus

Sports Direct shops plan to stay open despite UK order

Sports Direct, founded by billionaire Mike Ashley, was criticised by unions and politicians earlier on Tuesday after it said it would keep its stores open despite the new government measures, announced late on Monday, which said only shops like supermarkets and pharmacies could open.

However, there are still reports of workers being told to arrive at stores, against government advice.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct acknowledged some prices had risen but said the goods were all still under the recommended retail price (RRP). "It's a sports clothing company". Frasers Group also owns Evans Cycles, a bike shop.

The position of Frasers, renamed from Sports Direct in December, put it at odds with the government's emergency order. The government subsequently intervened and ordered Ashley's stores to close.

Wooton said home fitness was the most popular social media search term as people looked for ways to stay healthy while isolated and with gyms and recreation facilities closed. "The lack of communication and plan when they knew this was likely is embarrassing".

"Please note we are contacting them at all levels including attempting to get confirmation from the prime minister".

Management justified the move on the basis that selling sporting and fitness equipment makes the company a vital asset during a national shutdown, according to an email seen by the PA news agency.

In 2016, an MPs" report accused Sports Direct of "not treating staff like humans', with committee chairman Iain Wright saying evidence suggested working practices at the company were "closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer".

In an internal email seen by Sportsmail, chief financial officer Chris Wootton explained to staff that the demand for their products had increased given the closure of gyms and how they were "well placed to help keep the United Kingdom as fit and healthy as possible".

"We are uniquely well placed to help keep the United Kingdom as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis and thus our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will remain open where possible to allow us to do this (in accordance with the government's current social distancing guidance)".

Most stores, though, have made a decision to follow the government's recommendation with another batch of retailers shutting their doors today.

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