Mike Ashley keeps Sports Direct stores open despite government lockdown over coronavirus

Sports Direct Founder Faces Commons Select Committee Over Working Conditions

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley will keep his Sports Direct stores open despite the United Kingdom being put in lockdown to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement written to all workers within 30 minutes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to shut all non-essential retailers down, Sports Direct and another of Ashley’s companies, Evans Cycles, are regarded as an essential service in the bid to keep people in the UK fit.

Finance chief Chris Wootton said: “We stock a huge range of sports equipment designed for exercising at home... indeed home fitness is the number one trending topic on social media after coronavirus itself.

"Against the backdrop of the closure of gyms the demand for these types of products has increased exponentially as the population looks to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"Consequently, we are uniquely well placed to help keep the UK 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).

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

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Ashley is receiving a lot of criticism for his decision, with #AshleyOut trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning.

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The public were told they must stay at home by the Prime Minister on Monday as more restrictions were put in place to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

People may only leave home to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, to shop for essential items, to exercise once a day, and to fulfil any medical or care needs.

Shops selling non-essential goops have been told to close and public gatherings of more than two people who do not live together are prohibited.

Sports Direct is allowed to stay open, however, as the Government’s advice made exceptions for ‘health shops’ and ‘bicycle shops’.

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