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Mike Ashley agrees to appear before MPs

Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley, has agreed to appear before MPs next month to answer questions about conditions at his Sports Direct firm. The agreement is based on the condition that they visit the factory first.

Mike Ashley Credit: PA

The businessman had previously refused to give evidence in parliament over concerns about how workers were treated at the warehouse in Derbyshire. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee says it will consider his offer next week.

"We can confirm that Mike Ashley has agreed to attend Westminster - provided that the committee members visit the Shirebrook premises in advance to see employment conditions and practices with their own eyes."

– Sports Direct

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Owner Mike Ashley to stand by Newcastle - even if they are relegated

Owner Mike Ashley will stand by Newcastle even if they are relegated because he is "wedded" to the club Credit: PA

Owner Mike Ashley will stand by Newcastle even if they are relegated because he is "wedded" to the club.

That's what he told reporters at a Sports Direct warehouse in Derbyshire.

The Sports Direct magnate faces the prospect of seeing the Magpies slip out of the Barclays Premier League for the second time in his near nine-year stint as owner if they cannot turn their season around over the final eight games.

But Ashley, who this month sanctioned the appointment of former Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez in place of the sacked Steve McClaren, insists he is going nowhere should the worst happen.

Newcastle, who battled back to snatch a 1-1 derby draw with Sunderland on Sunday, find themselves in trouble at the foot of the table despite spending more than £82million during the last two transfer windows.

They currently sit in 19th place and three points adrift of safety.

"I'm wedded to Newcastle, like Sports Direct.

They have got me and I have got them, that's just the way it is.

I think we have the right man in the job.

If there's any chance of us staying up, let's hope Rafa can do the business and keep us up there."

– Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley pledges £10m pay boost for staff

Mike Ashley promises to raise pay for Sports Direct employees. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Mike Ashley has pledged to spend £10m on raising the pay of all of Sports Direct's employees to above the minimum wage.

The move follows criticism from unions and in Parliament over the retail giant's pay and employment practices, including the use of zero hours contracts, under which staff do not know how many hours they will work from one week to the next.

It also comes shortly after the board announced that the Newcastle United owner would oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions at the company.

The rise, announced in an interview with the Daily Mirror, is likely to most benefit casual workers in its stores and agency staff in its depot.

He told the paper: "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 as a FTSE 100 or even 250 company we have a responsibility to set a high moral standard.

"We're putting our money where our mouth is and have notified the City we wil be spending £10mn ensuring all employees are above the minimum wage."

He added that thousands of Sports Direct staff received "life-changing" bonuses each year.

The rise will amount to around 15p an hour meaning workers 21 and above will receive £6.85p per hour, and 18 to 20 year olds will be paid £5.45p hourly, the paper said.

There are around 4,300 agency workers employed in Sports Direct's warehouse, while the company employs around 28,000 staff across the UK and Europe.

Sports Direct posted half-year results showing a 3.6% rise in underlying pre-tax profits for the six months to October 25.

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Detectives raid Mike Ashley's Sports Direct HQ

Detectives investigating the alleged fraudulent purchase of Rangers have raided Mike Ashley's Sports Direct headquarters. Officers from Police Scotland travelled to Shirebrook in Derbyshire as part of the ongoing investigation into the acquisition of the Ibrox side.

Credit: PA

Former owner Craig Whyte appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court in November charged with involvement in a fraudulent scheme under the Companies Act 2006.

The investigation is ongoing and led Police Scotland officers, assisted by Derbyshire police, to search the Sports Direct base.

Newcastle United owner Ashley has a stake of almost 9% in Rangers.

"We can confirm that officers carried out a search of a property in Derbyshire. As this is part of a live inquiry, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

– Police Scotland

"The premises of Sports Direct at Shirebrook were visited by Police Scotland conducting an investigation relating to Glasgow Rangers FC and various persons previously employed by and or associated with Rangers. The police investigation is not directed at Sports Direct or at any of its directors or employees. The police were seeking documentation which might assist the investigation. Sports Direct has co-operated fully and will continue to co-operate in the provision of information that the police request."

– Sports Direct statement

Poll: Should Newcastle fans boycott Spurs match?

Should Newcastle fans boycott the match against Spurs? Credit: PA

Thousands of Newcastle fans are expected to boycott today's game against Tottenham at St James' Park.

The Magpies recent run of form has angered some supporters, who blame owner Mike Ashley for not investing more money in the club.

Campaigners from the 'Ashley Out' group say they will hand out 20,000 leaflets near the stadium before kick-off at 4pm.

What do you think? Should Newcastle fans boycott today's match? Have your say below:

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