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Sports Direct decision to block journalists from AGM 'not a good look'

UK sports retailer Sports Direct has blocked journalists from attending its annual meeting of shareholders today.

The firm, which is majority-owned by Mike Ashley (pictured), has not provided a reason for the decision to bar reporters.

Listed companies are not obliged to allow journalists into their annual general meetings, but most generally do.

Ryanair made headlines last year after it decided to ban reporters so its shareholders could “discuss all matters freely with the board”.

Ashley is expected to face pushback from shareholders opposing his re-election as a company director today according to Reuters, which first reported the block on journalists.

Journalists have been able to attend Sports Direct’s AGMs for the past three years. In 2015 the company initially banned reporters before having a “last-minute change of heart”, according to the Guardian.

The Times’ retail editor Ashley Armstrong told the BBC today the decision was “not a good look”.

In a tweet, Armstrong said: “Never a good look when a company shuts out journalists. What happened to its ‘very open’ promise in 2016?”

Another senior business journalist, who spoke to Press Gazette on condition of anonymity, said: “Any journalist who has covered Sports Direct for enough years knows to always expect the unexpected with Mike Ashley. He blows hot and cold with the media, depending what mood he’s in.

“At the full-year results, he went from banning the media, to letting them attend but without asking questions, to deciding to take a few.

“The issue he and his team seem to forget is – most journalists recognise he has a strong core business, but he ruins it all by refusing to realise he will continue to be held accountable for all his other actions.”

Press Gazette has contacted Sports Direct but has yet to receive a response.

The retailer is currently struggling to find a new auditor after Grant Thornton quit earlier this year.

The company’s share price has fallen from around 340p last year to a little more than 270p at the time of writing.

Picture: Reuters/Darren Staples/File Photo

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