Newcastle owner Mike Ashley declares Sports Direct ‘essential’

England is in lockdown.

In the battle to curb the spread of the coronavirus, UK PM Boris Johnson announced on Monday night that the country is in virtual lockdown for the next three weeks.

However, there are exceptions to the lockdown rules. The public are allowed out go out for essential measures only, including food shopping or getting medical supplies.

Soon after the lockdown restrictions were confirmed, however,  Newcastle owner Mike Ashley declared that his Sports Direct stores are “essential” and will stay open where possible.


Sports Direct claim they are ‘essential’

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, which is the parent company holding Sports Direct, published the following statement on Monday night:

We stock a huge range of sports equipment for exercising at home from yoga mats, gym balls, skipping ropes, weights, indoor and outdoor trampolines, resistance bands through to bikes, treadmills, rowing machines, static exercise bikes, multigyms, fitness clothing and footwear in order for people to remain fit and healthy during this period of isolation, 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.

The PM has said that all non-essential shops are to close.

Nonetheless, employees of Sports Direct have received this email tonight. Its management has decided they are an essential service (as they supply exercise equipment) so as things stand will be staying open…

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) March 23, 2020

Cue the backlash

The backlash to Sports Direct’s decision to keep as many shops open as possible has been swift and universal.

Newcastle’s Mike Ashley has been singled out for criticism as it’s claimed his decision will hinder the efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Whether Sports Direct will backtrack remains to be seen.

A sample of some of the furious social media reactions are below.

Seriously tried to stay quiet but for Sports Direct to say they are essential and will stay open is a disgrace. It helps jeopardise all of is. I suggest the police should enforce closure if every shop like this and there should be huge penalties against them for taking the piss

— Jeff Stelling (@JeffStelling) March 23, 2020

Surprise, surprise. Mike Ashley joins Richard Branson, Tim Martin and Phillip Green in showing that in a crisis, they are far more concerned with protecting their billions than the health, safety and security of their staff. 🔔ends.

— 🌹DameLozza #DirtyWarOnTheNHS (@DameLozza) March 23, 2020

As a Newcastle fan I’m aware of how big a twat Mike Ashley is, but to declare Sports Direct an ‘Essential service’ seriously Mike, NHS staff are risking their lives day after day for us & all you care about is protecting your personal fortune….FUCK YOU PRICK 🖕🏻#COVIDIDIOTS

— Laura (@lspark89) March 23, 2020

Mike Ashley has declared Sports Direct an ‘essential service’ so that he can keep his stores open.

This guy is an absolute tosser.

The government should move to forcibly close all Sports Direct stores to protect the health of the staff and the public.

— Liam Young (@liamyoung) March 23, 2020

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