Sports Direct sparks fury after claiming store is ‘vital’ and will stay open amid coronavirus lockdown

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RETAIL chain Sports Direct have sparked outrage after claiming it is “vital” for them to remain open throughout the coronavirus crisis – even after Boris’ stark announcement instructing the nation of exactly the opposite yesterday.

In a startling email sent to employees – just 16 minutes after Boris Johnson began his televised speech – the sportswear and equipment company put out a statement declaring all stores will remain open as they are “uniquely well-placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible”.

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Sports Direct sparked outrage after claiming they are a ‘vital store’ to keep the UK fit and will not close its stores amid coronavirus lockdown

The email was sent out by Frasers Group, which owns Evans Cycles and Sports Directs, both of which plan on keeping all their combined 491 UK stores open.

Frasers Group is owned by billionaire Mike Ashley who is said to be worth a whopping £1,977 billion according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

One Sports Direct employee told The Sun: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting at a time when the Nation is facing the biggest crisis in modern history that Sports Direct are willing to risk the health and well-being of their employees and the general public to commercially exploit the retail market.”

“They are not an essential retailer by any stretch of the imagination and they should put people before pounds.”

The news was met with ridicule and outrage on social media.

One user commented: “Why not use your 30 minutes of exercise time a day to come to Sports Direct and buy some golf balls!”

Another tweeted: “Don’t leave your house other than to buy food/medicine/essential work or if you work at sports direct. Love that. #Fuming.”

A third commented: “So Sports Direct are staying open because they’re a ‘vital store’ and Part timers aren’t getting any hours and because it’s not closed the staff can’t apply for a grant, Mike Ashley has truly outdone himself.”

The statement, sent out at 8.46pm to all 17,559 Fraser Group employees said: “As the government rightly recognises in it’s guidance on social distancing, looking after physical and mental well-being during this unprecedented period of social isolation will be extremely important to prevent people ‘falling into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make them feel worse.’

Frasers Group owned by billionaire Mike Ashley is facing a backlash by employees who have called the move ‘absolutely disgusting’
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“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.”

“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 Sun has approached Sports Direct and Evans Cycles for comment.