Sport & Leisure

Church of England slams Sports Direct over treatment of staff

The Church of England has criticised Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley, over his company’s “Victorian factory” working conditions.

In a series of letters seen by the Press Association, the Church Commissioners – a group which manages the church’s £79bn investment fund – condemned the retail boss amid a series of controversies.

The letters were sent when it was revealed that the sports retailer’s staff were earning less than minimum wage while executives received bonuses.

Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United FC, was summoned before a select committee of MPs to answer questions on the claims.

In 2017, the Church voted against the re-election of Ashley as the company’s chief executive, as well as blocking the re-election of its chairman Keith Hellawell, and also voted against an £11m back payment to former Sports Direct IT director John Ashley, Mike Ashley’s brother.

The Church also recently said it would toughen up on the company’s lack of women on its company boards.

A spokesman for Sports Direct said: “The board received backing from a majority of independent shareholders at the AGM in September 2017, at which many of these historic issues were addressed.

“We note that under its 2018 voting policy the Church will not back members of nomination committees where less than 25% of the board are women.

“We recognise the value and need for female representation on the board, and we are taking steps to address this. We recently disclosed to the Hampton-Alexander review that women make up 35.1% of our senior executive team, which is ahead of target and compares with the Church of England, where we understand that around 10% of bishops are female.”

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