Recently, in the midst of an impassioned rant about Sports Direct, my boyfriend interrupted me and said, with watery-eyed boredom, ‘tell it to Mike Ashley.’  Following my initial confusion, because I thought Mike Ashley was the man from Wigan with false teeth who mends my dad’s car, I Googled him.  Apparently, he’s a billionaire bloke who does things with football and owns Sports Direct. Furthermore, according to trusted web oracle Wikipedia, he ‘carries his essential business tool of a mobile phone in a plastic carrier bag rather than a briefcase’ and he ‘likes to park his tanks on peoples’ lawns.’ Happy to complain to a man armed with a billion pound empire, a carrier bag and a tank, here is my letter to Mike Ashley:

Dear Mike Ashley,

I know you’re a busy man – so busy you’re forced to carry your essential business tool in a Tesco bag because you haven’t got time for pockets – but I’ll be brief: I’d like to help you rebrand Sports Direct. I know you’re probably quite happy with things the way they are, because you’re making willions of pounds and all that but, honestly Mike, it’s a festering turd of a shop. Here’ s my makeover proposal:

The Name

The thing is, Mike, I don’t like sports. In fact, the very word ‘sport’ causes me to instantly fake a migraine and a bad period, in order to get out of it. Also, experience has taught me that whenever a company uses the word ‘direct’ in their name, the service is anything but direct, and usually involves telling a depressed woman in Bangalore your postcode seven times. A name change is required, Mike – I think ‘The Emporium of Leisurely Pursuits’ has a nice ring to it. And instead of the aggressive red and blue signage, how about a graphic representation of a sturdy Edwardian lady playing a round of Battledore next to a rattan chair, bedecked with a plate of strawberries, a small kitten and a lace fan? That would pull in the punters.

The Layout

My local Sports Direct resembles my Auntie Maureen’s living room. She collects those fucking awful Royal Doulton figurines and you can’t get to the kitchen for fear of knocking the head off a crystal swan. Sports Direct has a similar issue, but with surplus rails of jogging bottoms with poppers down the side. I made the unfortunate mistake of trying to buy leggings in there once with my mum, after having just purchased an ornate rug from Next. Just try and navigate those aisles with a 10ft Persian carpet, Mike – it’s like a challenge off the Gladiators. It was so traumatic that my mother told me to ‘get a grip’ and, afterwards, said she’d gone off the rug. We had to take it back, Mike.

Why do you have socks displayed in twenty different locations? Why not have a single sock section? And only a sadist would put a massive vat of basket balls in the shop entrance, so that every child in existence picks up a ball and bounces it aggressively behind you as you try to negotiate the labyrinth of despair. If you insist on creating a labyrinth in your shop, then why not have your shop fittings inspired by the 1986 smash hit film ‘Labyrinth?’ A pair of gargoyles could offer shoppers a charming riddle on their way to the changing rooms, you could unleash a mental fox to run about and a fun game could be made of the fact that customers have misplaced their kids. And you could start selling nob-enhancing silver Bowie leggings for men. What a boon!

The Stock

Mike, you’re a hoarder. As mentioned above, there’s way too much crap in Sports Direct. The last time I went in, I counted approximately five thousand pairs of leggings arranged indiscriminately over two floors and all of them were utter crap. I want there to be just two types of leggings: black ones and black ones with bits of purple on them. The ones I bought from Sports Direct last October disappear up my vagina, Michael. You can’t imagine how distressing this is for me.

Also, can you get rid of all that naff stuff you shove upstairs, like the ‘Golddigga’ jeans with diamante on the pockets? What sport are they for anyway?


A friend recently advised me to shop at Sweaty Betty, because the clothes look nice and the changing rooms don’t give you verrucas. Unfortunately, the leggings cost £75 and their website boasts they have the fittest staff in Britain, with little profiles of women named Gretchen who have three kids and run ‘ultra’ marathons. No one wants to buy leggings from the fittest woman in Britain. I don’t want to be served by Jessica Ennis, I want to be served by Pam Ferris. Bear this in mind for the rebranding, Mike.

Also, staff members should never be forced to recite scripts. During the Persian rug outing, my mum tried on some £14 trainers. We were attended by a teenage boy who walked with a sloping gait, like some sort of hip hop wolf. ‘These cross trainers are 100% H2O repellent’ he said, trying to upsell another pair that were £58 more expensive. I nearly lost my shit, Mike. And please don’t make the depressed point of sale staff try to sell me a fucking mug with ‘Sports Direct’ written on it – why would anyone want that? Try to sell me a cheese and ham sandwich or four baking potatoes for £1.50, however, and you’ve got yourself a deal.

P.S. No one likes to be asked repeatedly if they need help. I would recommend adopting the customer service model employed at the Museum of Rural Life, where staff politely say hello, then immediately pretend to be inspecting a laithe and avoid all eye contact unless prompted.


Please bin the experimental soundtrack, Mike. It’s so stressful. Last time I was in there the music sounded like a woman having sex with a 1990s dial up internet connection. It’s not conducive to a leisurely shopping experience. How about some nice Dusty Springfield instead? Or a relaxing ‘pan pipes play Bacharach’ CD, like the Edinburgh Woollen Mill are wont to play?

Company policies

Sports Direct have got a bit of a crap reputation, Mike, for stuff like zero hours contracts and turfing out breastfeeding women. I don’t know if things have improved, but once I’ve heard an unpleasant rumour, it stays with me. It’s like the whole Una Stubbs glass coffee table-turd thing; it might not be true, but’s it’s ruined Worzel Gummidge for me, Mike. How about some new policies, like being nice to women and paying people properly? Just a thought.

So, there you have it Mike. I have many more ideas, but I can’t be arsed to write them down; there’s a repeat of Peak Practice on telly and I want to see what’ll happen to that old crone with the angina and the obstinate sheep. But please feel free to park your tank on my lawn and we can chat further, over a packet of Hobnobs.

Just to clarify, I’m referencing a crap Wikipedia entry, not offering sex.

Yours lethargically,

Flora Cramp.