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Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley apologises for keeping the stores open during the coronavirus pandem

Mr Ashley was widely criticised after not following the government advice to close all non-essential stores during three-week lockdown.

UK government has closed restaurants, pubs, cafes, gyms and other businesses in fight against coronavirus. The strict rules consist of leaving the house only for essential shopping, medicine and one form of activity daily. Those measurements were introduced on March 23 and will be reviewed after three weeks. In the recent live update, Dominic Raab said: “We keep the measures we put in place under review. We don’t expect to be able to say more on this until the end of next week”.

The latest figures published by Public Health England on 11th of April show that over 400 people have died across the North East. There has also been over 500 confirmed cases in Newcastle. Sports Direct owner insisted to keep the stores open, considering sporting equipment essential for people, who try to keep fit during the lockdown. Moreover the prices increased for the fitness gear, which caused even more controversy.

The Sun, in their article published on 24th of March by Hollie Borland posted the specific items that increased in price, one of them was USA Pro multi resistant bands from £5.99 to £9.99.

The decision to try and keep the company trading caused criticism on social media platforms. One of them was a tweet from actor Con O’Neill:

There’s been many posts on twitter with trending hashtags #ProfitsOverPeople and #boycottsportsdirect under the recent Sports Direct twitter post to help people stay active over the next few weeks, whilst staying “locked” into their social channels.

In an open letter addressed on 27th of March, Mike Ashley apologised for his business response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that their emails to the Government were “ill-judged and poorly timed”. He then moved to defend his actions explaining : “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”.

“I would especially like to thank my Frasers Group employees, who have stood by the business in difficult times before and are doing so again currently”, he said. Frasers confirmed that the staff will be paid for March but didn’t comment on protecting workers who are still working in the warehouses taking care of online deliveries.

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