11 Mar 2016

Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley blasts ‘antagonistic’ MP

Mike Ashley says he is “disgusted” by an MP’s “deliberately antagonistic” stance towards his company Sports Direct.

Mr Ashley also accused Iain Wright, chairman of the Commons business, skills and innovation committee, of “abusing parliamentary procedure in an attempt to create a media circus in Westminster”.

Mr Wright had criticised the sports retail boss for failing to agree to appear before his committee to discuss the treatment of his workers, and suggested he would be in contempt of parliament unless a date was fixed.

In his reply, Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United football club, did not mention a possible date, but repeated his invitation to the committee to visit Sports Direct’s headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.


“I was disgusted to learn that you have adopted a stance that is deliberately antagonistic,” he wrote.

“By refusing to visit Sports Direct to see things with your own eyes, you are missing out on a genuine opportunity to gain a detailed and balanced understanding of the matters you wish to discuss.

“I believe you are abusing parliamentary procedure in an attempt to create a media circus in Westminster, which is not in the best interests of any of the people who work at Sports Direct.”

The Unite union has been campaigning over a number of issues affecting Sports Direct workers, including the widespread use of zero-hours contracts.

In a letter to Mr Ashley, Mr Wright said his committee wanted to question him about the action he had taken in response to reports about his treatment of workers.


He said efforts had been made to fix possible dates for an appearance, “but as yet you have not accepted any of them, nor agreed in principle to attend”.

Mr Wright, a Labour MP, added: “As you will be aware, select committees do not normally need to have recourse to our formal powers to summon witnesses in order to secure attendance; refusal to attend without good reason may be considered a contempt of the House.”

Whether MPs can compel people to appear before them is a grey area.