Six astonishing things we learned from the Sports Direct inquiry

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley (Image source:
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley (Image source:

The national media is reeling today after yesterday's high-profile grilling of Mike Ashley, the billionaire who runs Sports Direct andwho is at the centre of a scandal over the mistreatment of workers in Shirebrook.

Despite previously stating he would attend the committee hearing to stand up for his company and had 'nothing to hide', there were numerous revelations that came out of the questions to both him and the heads of recruitment agencies who provided thousands of zero-hours workers over the past 10 years.

Here's a few:

Mike Ashley has lost control of the Sports Direct ship

The billionaire tycoon, in a roundabout fashion, admitted that he's lost control of the company, which has led at least one major shareholder to doubt confidence in his leadership of the company, and there was even a suggestion that Ashley may be taking a bullet and stepping down from the helm. When asked if it's time he find someone who can 'sail the oil tanker' that his company has become, he answered: 'Probably'. Again, when asked: "Do you think it may have outgrown your ability to manage it?" He said: "Possibly a long time ago."

Some workers, at one particular point in time, may possibly, have been paid less than minimum wage

Mr Ashley admitted that some workers have been paid less than minimum wage. When pressed he said: "On that specific point for that specific bit of time, yes." This follows a Guardian investigation which found just that, and Mike has already said he will review this and make sure workers all receive above minimum wage, which is a legal requirement.

Workers still aren't being paid for time spent in security queues

The Guardian revealed that staff spend upwards of 40 minutes going through security checks on their way in and out of the Shirebrook complex, effectively making their pay drop below minimum wage. But rather than pay them more the boss has focused on tackling the 'bottleneck' which leads to long waiting times. Reportedly, this has been dealt with.

Mike admitted that some cultures at Shirebrook are 'repugnant'.

Using a variety of language, Mike damned the revelations about his business, and claimed to be unaware of them. He called the level of zero-hours contracts 'unacceptable' and agreed there should be more permanent workers. And when it came to a culture of sexual harassment, where fresh female employees are called 'new meat' by some members of staff and sexual exploitation in the workplace is rampant, he said it was 'repugnant'.

On that note, Mike Ashley doesn't know what sexual harassment is called

When it came to addressing the culture, he had to ask for advice mid sentence, and was quoted as saying... "Are you absolutely sure there's no, what do you call... sexual... within the office [Mike Bishop gives him a cue: 'harassment'] harassment, happening in Sainsbury's? I think there probably is."

He later astonished tweeters who were following the inquiry when he answered: "Sports Direct has to pull its socks up. Simple as that fellas. Not just fellas. Girls. Sorry." Others described this as a win for Ashley as he 'trolled' the panel.

"Anonymous face-to-face" surveys don't work

A Transline director who provides staff for Sports Direct said only a few weeks ago a survey was undertaken among workers, and an amazing 96 per cent returned positive results on their experience of working at the company. When asked about the nature of the survey it transpired to not be an 'anonymous' one, but was conducted face to face with Transline staff. MPs were left puzzled as to how the company thought this yielded reliable results.