Comparisons were always going to be tough, but the game will go on

 
Elizabeth Fournier
WHEN you’re a sports retailer reporting against a period that last year included the FIFA World Cup, the comparatives are never going to look good. So though shares fell five per cent after Ashley announced a slight fall in profits yesterday, underlying figures show little proof of a change in upward fortunes – especially when you consider the events that lie ahead.

Mike Ashley’s push into international markets is well-timed considering the next few years bring major tournaments in Poland, Ukraine, Brazil and Qatar – not to mention next year’s Olympics on home ground.

Sports Direct’s bullish stance on upcoming forecasts and insistence on setting itself “super-stretch” targets are refreshing among the doom that has been spreading across the retail sector in recent months, and with its main competition coming in the form of JJB and JD Sports we see little reason to doubt its confidence.

Shares ­– already trading at a surprising discount to the sector – closed yesterday at just 190p. We say get on the starting line before the gun fires.