Sports Direct's Mike Ashley apologises over Covid-19 response

27 March 2020, 10:43

Mike Ashley has apologised
Mike Ashley has apologised. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The controversial founder of Sports Direct Mike Ashley has apologised for sending "ill-judged and poorly times" messages to the Government and his staff

The business owner also apologised for 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.

The move comes after Mr Ashley faced strong criticism from MPs and the public after he attempted to keep his Sports Direct business open claiming it was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit and healthy during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The businessman made a swift U-turn and closed all his stores.

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."

The Newcastle United owner said staff at the retail group are "working very hard to save our business" so that the company can continue on the high street once the virus passes.

He thanked the company's employees and said he was "proud" of how the Government, NHS and other key workers have handled the situation.

Frasers Group continues to trade online in the face of the pandemic, with workers continuing to process orders at the firm's Shirebrook distribution centre.