The Speed Read | The lawyers report on Sports Direct

The Speed Read is a new series from Lawyer 2B: key commercial awareness in bite-sized chunks. 


A pretty negative report from law firm RPC on the working practices of its client, Sports Direct.

The report addressed claims regarding breaches of regulations and zero hours contracts (zero hours contracts involve employers hiring staff with no guarantee of work, so that employees only work when they’re asked to – usually with hardly any notice).

Sports Direct were found to be underpaying staff and their “six strikes and out” approach was revealed (examples of strikes included “excessive chatting” and being ill!).

People protest against zero hour employment contracts outside a branch of Sports Direct in Hastings.
People protest against zero hour employment contracts outside a branch of Sports Direct in Hastings.


By means of an independent report – Sports Direct asked its longstanding legal advisors, RPC, to write up their impartial view of the situation. There’s been a history of law firms producing ‘independent’ reports about their clients and being accused of glossing over mistakes and failures, so Sports Direct may have been expecting something a little more favourable!


The report was published by RPC on September 6, 2016.

Why it matters

The findings of this report are pretty interesting, and may pave the way towards a fairer future of employment in retail. Sports Direct has already apologised for its working conditions and suspended its “six strikes” policy.

It’s also made a number of pledges, one of which includes putting a worker representative on its board (if this promise sounds familiar, it might be because you recognise it from one of Theresa May’s first statements before entering Downing Street).

The findings are also interesting for the topic of ‘independence’ of law firm reviews on their clients. Arguably, RPC has gone quite far in this case, demonstrating its independence by making some pretty critical comments on Sports Direct’s practices.

But shareholders of Sports Direct argued that RPC didn’t go far enough – that it wasn’t sufficiently independent to carry out the review alone. It was announced recently that another independent party is to be brought in for the next review. And so it continues…

Further reading