SPORTS DIRECT will not remain open despite claims from Mike Ashley calling the store a vital service.

The chain store received backlash yesterday after the CEO sent an email to all employees claiming they would stay open amid the lockdown as they were providing a vital service.

He said: "We are uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis and thus our Sports Direct and Evans Cycles stores will remain open where possible to allow us to do this (in accordance with the government’s current social distancing guidance).

“There is no one else that has the range of product and range of stores to make this reasonably accessible for the whole population.”

This was met with backlash as employees branded Mr Ashley as selfish and as putting money before the health of employees and customers.

However, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Sports Direct thought it would be appropriate for their stores to be open in order to help people get exercise equipment.

"We made it clear that was wrong and that the stores should not be open."

Blackburn Mall's Sports Direct store has also closed.