OUTLOOK: There's no excuse for Ashley's two-footed tackle on Debs

 

Outlook A two-footed tackle from behind in football is an aggressive and stupid play because it's liable to leave your team with 10 men. You'd think Mike Ashley would understand that, owning a football team and a sports retailer as he does. But apparently not.

His Sports Direct might make sweet music with Debenhams. After all, it has numerous brands, some of which wouldn't be out of place at Debs. It's also very good at online, and has successfully exported its formula overseas. Maybe there are grounds for an arrangement here.

But instead of seeking this in the normal way – perhaps through securing an informal meeting followed by lunch and a Powerpoint pressie – his Sports Direct has spent the thick end of £50m on securing a 4.6 per cent stake in Debs and talked about its desire to "work together". In other words, it wants to establish a relationship by putting a gun to the other party's head – never the best way to secure a harmonious partnership.

Even had the move been prompted by Debs rebuffing Sports Direct after an earlier approach, it still shouldn't have happened. Becoming an investor doesn't, and shouldn't, give you the right to exert commercial leverage. Far from it. Of course, Sports Direct has form here, with somewhat mixed results (Black's Leisure anyone?).

Maybe Debs can be persuaded that signing up with Sports Direct can make for a winning team. The next time you place an order through Debs' website you could even find that a Sports Direct mug and re-usable bag have somehow appeared in your order at the checkout. Stranger things have happened.

Two-footed tackles from behind can sometimes work if, for example, they prevent your opponent from scoring or take out their best player. They're still aggressive and stupid, but that's not to say that they don't sometimes work.

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