Ashley criticised as Sports Direct remains open despite government lockdown over coronavirus

Ross Houston
March 25, 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday told all Britons to stay at home to halt the spread of coronavirus, saying that all but essential shops must shut immediately and people should no longer meet family or friends or risk being fined.

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has hiked prices by more than 50 per cent on some sports equipment on Tuesday, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to internal documents seen by the PA news agency.

Newcastle's owner, Mike Ashley, has already courted controversy this week when he initially ordered staff to work at his Sports Direct and Evans Cycles retail stores, claiming they fell under the essential shop category because they sell sports equipment and people need to exercise.

The store has since reversed its decision.

But the announcement sparked heavy criticism, with Labour chair Ian Lavery telling Ashley to "take some responsibility" and close down.


I was asked earlier if Sports Direct should remain open and I said it should not.

Ashley has been accused by some of putting profits before the safety of employees, customers and the wider public.

Labour MP Jess Phillips agreed that the firm was "not essential", tweeting: "Massive mugs notwistanding there is nothing people can not live without in Sports Direct".

Sports Direct, which has an outlet in Inverness, had previously said stores would remain open despite a government-announced lockdown.

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".


"There is no one else that has the range of product and range of stores to make this reasonably accessible for the whole population".

Labour MP Jess Phillips agreed that the firm is "not essential", tweeting: "Massive mugs notwistanding (sic) there is nothing people can not live without in Sports Direct".

Addressing Homebase on Twitter, Labour MP Stella Creasy encouraged people to stay at home, and said: "Government needs to be clearer and consumers need to remember who listened and who saw profit".

Labour MP Jess Phillips also criticised the appeal to keep stores open, tweeting: "Massive mugs notwithstanding there is nothing people can not live without in Sports Direct".


Other reports by iNewsToday

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