Mike Ashley has given an exclusive interview to The Mirror, Newcastle United’s media partner, to reveal to the world how he is playing Santa this year…albeit in a very small way.

Showing that even he is not immune to outside forces, Ashley has been forced to bow to pressure from media, parliament and his own shareholders at Sports Direct.

With over 20% knocked off the share value in December, the Newcastle United owner was forced to take drastic action and has given thousands of his rock bottom Sports Direct employees a pay rise.

It must have really stuck in his throat to be seen to cave in but he obviously had no other option and has chosen to come out fighting and presented the pay rise as a big deal, though the 15p per hour rise would mean only £6 extra for somebody doing 40 hours per week…before deductions.

Though many staff will get even less than that as they are on zero hour contracts and will regularly get fewer hours than this.

mike ashley

Amusingly, Mike Ashley says that he and Sports Direct ‘have a responsibility to set a high moral standard’, whilst describing the paltry 15p an hour rise as ‘ambitious’.

The rise takes immediate effect from tomorrow ( January 1) and will affect approximately 15,000 zero hours workers who work mainly in stores, as well as around 4,000 agency staff at the SD depot in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

The Mirror is now a very public media partner of Mike Ashley and Newcastle United, with very visible advertising seen at Steve McClaren’s press conferences and the training ground, with the newspaper group granted regular exclusive access to the players and Head Coach.

mike ashley

Speaking exclusively to the Mirror, Mike Ashley:

“I’m making a New Year’s resolution pledge to the Daily Mirror – and I’m deadly serious. I want to see Sports Direct become the best high street retail employer, after John Lewis.

“I realise this is ambitious and it won’t be easy but I believe that as a FTSE 100 or even 250 company we have a responsibility to set a high moral standard.

“Several thousand Sports Direct staff receive life-changing bonuses each year – but we have an obligation to our whole workforce.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and have notified the City we will be spending £10million ensuring all employees are above the minimum wage.

“I want the Mirror to hold my feet to the fire and ensure we don’t slip up – and if we do, I want to hear about it.”

(Tickets are yet to go on sale to watch Mike Ashley have his feet held to the fire but once they are, they’re expected to sell out fast…)

The new rates mean that workers aged 21 and over go from £6.70 an hour to around £6.85 an hour. The rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will rise from £5.30 to £5.45.

The staff aged 25 and over will keep the 15p an hour rise in April when the new £7.20 an hour national living wage comes in – meaning they will move to £7.35.

predictably, the unions were underwhelmed by Mike Ashley’s move, with Alex Flynn of Unite saying:

“Sports Direct should give agency staff permanent contracts and a real living wage.”

The Living Wage Foundation recommends workers are paid a minimum of £8.25 an hour and £9.40 in London.