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Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Sunday, 31 January 2010

BBC investigates Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's business


BBC investigates Mike Ashley business

BBC Inside Out - North East & Cumbria

A BBC investigation has followed the supply chain of multi-millionaire Mike Ashley's sportswear retailing business all the way back to one of the world's poorest countries where workers are paid around £1 a day for a twelve hour shift.

A special Inside Out programme about the controversial owner of Newcastle United football club, being shown tonight, filmed workers in Laos making clothes for his Sports Direct stores.

The factory had one sealed air conditioned room to keep cool a computerised sewing machine which was embroidering dozens of Lonsdale logos.

Elsewhere on the site hundreds of people were in long production lines in the heat sewing clothes together ready to be shipped to Mike Ashley's UK stores. They were bagged up - and amazingly even had a 70% discount sticker already added before they left the factory.

The manager told the undercover reporters that his factory did not meet the internationally accepted standards for garments workers - known as the SA 8000 standard.

It guarantees no child labour is used, and the workers get a living wage without excessive overtime - in a safe and decent environment.

The factory manager admitted to meet the standard he would have to improve conditions in the factory - and pay staff more.

Factory manager offering undercover reporter merchandise
Undercover reporters were shown samples produced at the factory

Many other major sports retailers such as Nike publicly list all their suppliers who all have all passed this test; Sports Direct does not list its suppliers.

A spokesman for Mike Ashley told the BBC that the neither the company nor the club would be commenting.

They did say that some of the questions the programme makers had written to them about were "inaccurate and misleading" - although they have not said in what way and added they would be watching the programme closely.

'Mike Ashley Uncovered - an Inside Out special' is on BBC 1 in the North East & Cumbria region at 10.25 on Sunday, 31 January. Viewers with satellite can watch it live on Sky channel 975. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer.

Watch: Mike Ashley Uncovered - 31-01-2010 - 2225 GMT

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