Secrets of Sports Direct? Do me a favour. Channel 4 should be sued for false representation. This week's Dispatches, so often the barometer against which all other hard-hitting investigative documentaries are pitted against, let itself down badly. After an hour's viewing, the most revelatory thing seemed to be that Sports Direct own stakes in some of the brands they sell, and stock is sometimes delivered to the warehouse with the price tags already on. You what? Those terrible people! Hang on, I'll just get on the phone to MI5. This information threatens the very fabric of society!
Regarding the infamous zero hours contracts and working conditions, this is nothing new. Employment agencies have been doing it for decades. What those in the rosy upper echelons of society reaching down to try to help the less advantaged fail to understand is that 'zero hours contracts' actually suit some workers. They are more flexible and come with less commitment. The funniest part of the entire show was the bit where the 'undercover reporter' went into a Sports Direct store for the first time and looked like a rabbit in the headlights. The fact that he had never set foot in Sports Direct before was telling enough. You don't come from my world, so don't try and do me any favours, pal.
If the makers had done a bit more research they would have discovered that as a company Sports Direct actually look after their long-serving workers, rewarding loyalty with shares and bonus schemes which can then be converted to hard cash. They are under no obligation to do this, and very few other companies do so. So you are not allowed to play with your mobile, stop to chat with your mates, or take long toilet breaks during work hours. Big deal. I worked in a factory in south Wales for nine years where working conditions were a lot more draconian than that. As the shift managers there used to say, 'you are here to work, not play.' Six strikes and you are out? In most places you only get three. At least Sports Direct are upfront about it.
And the Newcastle United fans who constantly whinge they are not challenging for honours. In case you hadn't noticed, neither are 85 of the other 91 clubs in the league system, boys. What Mike Ashley did at Newcastle United is make them one of the few clubs in the land that actually turn a profit. So what if he isn't blowing £80 million every transfer window? It's been proved time and time again that model is unsustainable. The supporters of most clubs would absolutely love to follow an established mid-table Premiership side. You want Ashley to walk away? Where would the club be then? Be careful what you wish for.
I don't know why sections of the British press are so anti-Ashley. He is a self-made billionaire, an entrepreneur who should be admired not pilloried. It's a mystery to me why the media focuses so much energy on discrediting him. Maybe because he keeps such a low public profile, refusing to bow to tabloid demands and give them the ammunition they want to fire back at him. Why would he? Not many of them have done him any favours over the years.
We live in a free country. Nobody holds a gun to anyone's head and makes them work for Sports Direct. Same as nobody holds a gun to anyone's head and makes them shop there, but we still do. They have good quality gear at rock bottom prices, so why not? That's what people want. If you don't want to go there, don't. Go somewhere else and pay more money for the same product. Like I said, it's a free country.