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Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley ‘deeply' sorry for Covid-19 response, offers support to NHS

By Huw Hughes

Mar 27, 2020

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he is “deeply apologetic” for his company’s earlier efforts to keep stores open amid the country’s lockdown and has offered to help the NHS during the pandemic.

On Monday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the immediate closure of all ‘non-essential’ stores across the country - including fashion stores - in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Following the announcement, Ashley wrote to the government proposing that stores of Sports Direct and Evans Cycles - which are both part of his Frasers Group - remain open on the basis they provide the British public with sporting goods which he argued was essential in current circumstances.

However, following widespread criticism, Ashley took a U-turn and apologised for the decision. In an open letter to the government, he wrote: “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.”

Ashley also offered the NHS his fleet of delivery trucks to deliver supplies during the pandemic.

He said: “I take this opportunity to repeat that we are keen to help support in whatever way we can our marvellous NHS and its employees who are putting themselves in danger to protect our wellbeing.”

Click here to see the latest updates on how Covid-19 is affecting the international fashion industry

Photo credit: Sports Direct media centre