Sports Direct share price falls after unveiling plans for the UK's first board worker rep

Oliver Gill
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Mike Ashley's Sports Direct is looking to set the gold standard in terms of representing workers' interests (Source: Getty)

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct said it was breaking new ground in good corporate governance after announcing it is kicking off the process to elect the UK's first board worker representative.

All "directly-engaged workers" can put their names in the hat for the high-profile role and the firm will then conduct an extensive "assessment" process, before putting a selection of candidates forward to the vote from Sports Direct's 23,000 staff.

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"I have always believed Sports Direct to be a business that was built by the great people who work here," chief executive Mike Ashley wrote in a letter to employees.

I therefore believe it is important that your voice is heard at the highest level in order to continue to make a positive difference.

I look forward with immense pride to sitting alongside the UK's first elected workers' representative at future board meetings of Sports Direct.

While the likes of Co-op and John Lewis have worker representation within their corporate governance structures, the individuals are selected through a series of sub-committees and councils.

The workers' representative will be invited to board meetings to attend and asked to speak at meetings on behalf of Sports Direct staff.

In the first year, the worker rep will be elected from Sports Direct's retail division and will undertake the role for 12 months. The following year, the champion will be selected from the firm's warehouse or head office and the role will then revolve between the two for the years to come.


Sports Direct has been the subject of allegations of poor working practices after a television investigation exposed draconian conditions in 2015. MPs have both questioned Ashley over staff procedures as well as conducting a tour of the firm's mammoth Shirebrook site.

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During the tour last November, the MPs were shocked by a Sports Direct employee hiding a camera in a plate of sandwiches as they met in a private room to discuss the findings of their Shirebrook tour.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct said:

Having explored all options we believe this is the best way to ensure the workers' representative is free to champion the interests of all staff. We see this as a major step forward in bringing about positive change.