Sports Direct stores will only open if they are given permission to do so, the finance chief of the retailer's parent group said today, clarifying an earlier email to its staff. 

Sports Direct, owned by Frasers Group, had earlier suggested it would defy Prime Minister Boris Johnson's order for all but non-essential shops to close. 

Frasers's finance chief Chris Wootten said he had asked the government for permission to open its Sports Direct stores, arguing that sports equipment was essential for people to have at home at a time when they were being encouraged not to leave their homes. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told all Britons to stay at home to halt the spread of coronavirus, saying that all but essential shops must shut immediately and people should no longer meet family or friends or risk being fined. 

Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies and bike shops were amongst the services designated essential.

Sports Direct, founded by billionaire Mike Ashley, sells sports clothes as well as sports equipment. It has about 700 stores across the UK and continental Europe. 

Evans Cycles, also owned by Frasers Group, also plans to stay open, as bicycle shops have been designated as essential.