Sports Direct ‘ban staff from speaking Welsh’


An MP has accused Sports Direct of “casually mistreating” their staff after a sign banning workers from speaking any language other than English was posted on Twitter.

A photo of the sign, which according to the poster was taken at the store in Bangor, says that English is the official language of the company and that it should be used at all times.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct told Golwg 360 that the sign was more relevant in their shops in England than in Wales.

“It has come to our attention that some members of staff are speaking to each other in languages other than English while carrying out their duties,” the sign says.

“This includes any personal conversations that may be taking place during work time.

“Staff who fail to adhere to this company policy may be subject to disciplinary process.”

MP Liz Saville Roberts, said: “Add Welsh-speakers (indeed anyone other than monolingual speakers of English) to the list of workers casually mistreated by Sports Direct.”

According to the 2011 census, 65.4% of people in the county of Gwynedd, where Bangor is located, are Welsh speakers.

A picture of the sign was shared on Twitter by Ben Alun Screen who invited other users to express their displeasure to the company.

The Welsh Language Measure 2011 states that if a person feels that someone has interfered with their right to use the Welsh language, they can ask the Welsh Language Commissioner to investigate it.

“This can include situations where someone says that a person shouldn’t use Welsh (verbally or in writing) with another person who also wants to use it,” it says.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox


  1. leigh richards

    this has to be illegal surely?

  2. Mae’r sefyllfa yn warthus. Anfonais neges i’r cwmni:–
    “I was surprised to see that staff at a Welsh store had been banned from conversing in their native language.”
    “Folowing the Welsh Language Act, speaking Welsh is no longer confined to consenting adults in private. Welsh or its fpre-runner Brithonic, was spoken from Glasgow to Kent until there was regime change in the 5th century with the coming of Germanic groups. Perhaps on reflection there was something Teutonic about this ill-conceived directive and I hope it will be rescinded.”


  3. I was discouraged from speaking Welsh to customers in Carmarthen, the Welsh speakers were largely preachers, yet it bothered the owner, this was four years ago and the trader is still trading.

  4. leigh richards

    “Welsh is no longer confined to consenting adults in private” – lol that’s brilliant Tudor! Meri Huws has to intervene – and maybe a wales wide consumer boycott of this terrible company is in order if this outrageous policy isnt rescinded.

  5. Mi anfonais i neges i’r cwmni hefyd:

    ‘It cannot have escaped your attention that Wales is a bilingual nation, that Welsh is the historical, indigenous language of that nation, and that to forbid staff from speakin it, rather than supporting it, sounds like something out of South Africa out of the apartheid regime. Are you aware that the rights of Welsh speakers at work are protected by law, and that the Welsh Language Commissioner has the power to enforce the law on companies that ignore it? Is this disgusting document real, and how can you defend yourselves?’

  6. My Grandfather was one of the first teachers allowed to teach in the medium of Welsh, and wrote the first nature study book for elementary schools in Welsh. It has taken us a long time to win back the privilege of speaking our own language, and it must not be given up lightly. To my shame, I was brought up in England – within site of my father’s family home in Wales, and yet found that I could not be taught Welsh because of the cruel English Education system.So I don’t speak Welsh, but I love to hear it spoken, and get a great sense of pride if I can follow a conversation. A bit like when I go to France (or any other country) where finding common phrases by which to complete a transaction is great fun. What is wrong with the dull and unimaginative management of Sports Direct, that they can display such nastiness? I am not a customer of theirs, and now I will never be, as if their products are as nasty as their management, they will not be worth buying.

  7. Ian McGuinness

    Boycott the place, they’ll soon change their minds. This has to be illegal

  8. Walter Cronkite

    Seems a perfectly reasonable request, after all what language are we communicating in now .
    They’re not saying specifically Welsh they said “other languages”

  9. Brian Cuthbert

    thats rich coming from a geordie. he cant speak english either. just speak it to annoy the English anyway.greetings from scotland.

  10. Sibrydionmawr

    Disgusting company that has form in mistreating staff. I wouldn’t shop there anyway, but suppressing the fundamental human rights of workers to speak their native language, in their own land is something that needs outlawing immediately.

    Perhaps it’s time that the private sector came under the full scope of the 1993 and 2011 legislation?

  11. William Havard

    Wnaf I byth brynu unrhew beth o siop hwyn byth eto.

    I will never buy anything from this shop ever again.

  12. So if a foreigner who can’t speak English very well or at all walks into a Sports Direct, any member of staff who speaks the same language as the customer isn’t allowed to speak to them in that language, even if it means a lost sale? Mike Ashley is an idiot.

  13. Oes rhywun wedi cwyno i’r Comisiynydd? Oes nag oes neb, byddwn yn falch gwneud felly.

  14. More good reasons to #boycottsportsdirect

    Error note. Hywel Williams is the MP for Bangor. Liz SR is his Plaid colleague.

  15. Adrian Sleeman

    In Carmarthenshire where I live many store staff, off all ages, wear badges to indicate that they are Welsh speaking so that Welsh speakers know who to speak to if they prefer to communicate in Welsh. In M&S, for example, staff are actively encouraged to speak Welsh to customers.

    • M&S not perfect but several levels above Ashley’s dump.

      • Th silly thing is that if someone asks you for something in a “foreign” language, most people would naturally try to understand what they wanted even if the “conversation” deteriorated into sign language. Success gives an added sense of achievement, on both sides of the transaction. The only explanation that I can think of for the nasty behaviour of Sports Direct’s management is that they understand how awful they are, and are paranoid enough to conclude that any conversation that is in a language they don’t understand, is aggressively about them. I suppose that we should feel sorry for them really. ….or not?

        • Which surely is a self-fulfilling prophesy?

          • “Self fulfilling” that if you are nasty people will talk about you,AND that you may become paranoid. The language is irrelevant. Happiness comes from positive interactions even if the language is unfamiliar.
            But I love to hear different languages spoken even though I am a lousy linguist, and feel great pride in our ancestors fight to keep our language every time I hear it spoken.
            It was good to hear sports direct saying that that notice was not intended to imply a ban on personal interaction, and that they would have to brush up on their English so that this wasn’t repeated….Still don’t like or trust them, but at least they seem to be aware that it is possible to be self critical – lets have more of it, and perhaps in 100 years time it will be a good company.

  16. As an English woman who learned Welsh this disgusts me. I will never shop in that store again.

  17. It’s about staff being abused in any other language than English. They must have had a lot of issues to be forced to put this statement out. You cannot complain about bullying if you cannot specify what was said. It’s about protecting people not diminishing the Welsh language. It’s not a conspiracy.

    • Sibrydionmawr

      Oh please! It’s not about ‘protecting people’. Welsh is the national language, and anyone moving to places that are majroity Welsh speaking like Gwynedd should learn Welsh anyway. It is utterly contemptible that a company should be issuing commands like this.

      I think it’s time to make it mandatory that all promotional material, shop signage and product packaging must be in Welsh or be bilingual Welsh and English in Wales. And all private sector staff, management included, be required to be Welsh speaking in any area of Wales where more than 40% speak Welsh. In the public sector, 100% of staff and management should be required to speak Welsh.

      I also don’t get your logic, as I’m not sure it matters what language you’re abused in, you’re still being verbally abused. And anyway, Sports Direct staff, (more likely to be Welsh speaking) are far more likely to be verbally abused by Sports Direct managers, (likely to be English, and English speaking).

      • Capitalist and Welshnash

        Sibrydionmawr, I fully agree with you. We need this basic human right if Welsh is to survive. Plus, requiring an language which is not the lingua franca is simply good for business; it sets us apart as a market requiring unique focus for investors, and this means long-term investments require more local commitment and consideration for Wales as a whole. So private sector legislation for the Welsh Language will be a boost to the Welsh economy in the long run.

        Get Labour out. Get this legislation in.

    • leigh richards

      “It’s about staff being abused in any other language than English” where did you hear that Amanda – is that the official response of the company and the branch manager to this? The fact remains people cant be forbidden from speaking welsh in wales – its against the law. Mind you given that this is a company which routinely flouts employment law when it suits it it’s safe to assume breaking this law wouldnt bother them either.

      Also do find it hard to believe a company like sports direct is suddenly concerned about ‘bullying’

  18. Gareth wyn Llanfairfechan

    Unbelievable insensitivity by Sports Direct. What next , resurrecting the Welsh not? If they think that this act of attempted linguicide will be tolerated then they are sadly mistaken. Sports Direct must recind this insulting and unjust directive with immediate effect. Should they decide to persist with this nonsense which is reminiscent of British establishment imperialism then they must be persuaded to see the error of their ways, preferably by reason but if necess by non-violent Direct Action. YMA O HYD.

  19. I grew up in apartheid South Africa. We had to speak on Afrikaans as kids no English allowed… of course when we moved back to Wales and they insisted on compuksory Welsh in school, those memories came back… but this is truly pathetic. As if any employee is going to only talk to their boss in Welsh when they know he can’t speak Welsh that would be disrespectful like this notice…

  20. Radek Piskorski

    I’m thinking they probably meant that Polish workers were speaking Polish among themselves. This may have happened anywhere in the country and all shops were asked to display the sign. The truly offensive thing, IMO, is to assume that the UK has only one native language. As in, “oh we don’t want people to speak forrin, so let’s tell them to speak only English”. Even if the first sentence is shit, it would still have to logically include other languages other than English.

    • Sibrydionmawr

      I personally don’t see what the problem would be if two workers were conversing with each other in Polish would be, if it were a private conversation. It’s just yet another spin on the traditional English xenpohobia. Polish may not be an official language, but it is the community language of a significant number of people in Wales, and and even greater numbers in England. Sports Direct should have to prove intent, if they suspect that people are using a language to disrespect others, or spread sedition against the company, even though it’s one company that deserves dissent form it’s staff.

  21. Radek Piskorski

    By the way, doesn’t Sports Direct have signage in Welsh?

    • Sibrydionmawr

      It might do, but that is just the worst kind of tokenism. All signage, and product packaging should be in Welsh, and all staff in Gwynedd should be Welsh speaking.

  22. Paul Atkins

    Wow this a bit of an own goal. Are Sports Direct trying to attract bad press? Its unbelievable that in the age of camera phones and social media someone did not have the foresight to see the potential for backlash.

  23. Capitalist and Welshnash

    I was told not to speak Cymraeg in front of customers at a High Street bank. Comisiynydd y Gymraeg, we need stronger legislation to make true bilingualism, not merely Welsh as an accent painted on the wall occasionally when a business wants to look ‘progressive’.

  24. Capitalist and Welshnash

    Left wing tokens of charity will be the death of Cymraeg if we are not careful. We need to get real and stand up for ourselves and demand the same rights French and Norwegians would for their languages.

    • leigh richards

      ‘left wing tokens’? really dont know what you mean. Those of us on the welsh left are committed to defending and upholding the rights of welsh speakers. And i would remind you that this outrageous decision to ban welsh in its stores was taken by a company owned by the very right wing mike ashley.

    • What’s “left-wing” about the Sports Direct situation? The private sector opposed being included in the Welsh Language Measure (and the 1993 Act). I agree that regulating them is essential, but it won’t be seen as a very “capitalist” thing to do. Still, right to say it’s normal in other countries.

  25. Isnt this a breach of human right?

    ‘Linguistic rights are the human and civil rights concerning the individual and collective right to choose the language or languages for communication in a private or public atmosphere.’

  26. I agree that this is wrong (and I’m and English speaking Welshman) but I don’t see the same level of outrage when we are told not to share our religious beliefs, or not to voice our opposition to political correctness, or to disagree with LGBT laws, etc. Let’s get a balance on these things.

  27. Of course, what it’s REALLY about is insecure management worrying about staff conspiring against them in a language they don’t understand.

    I’ve got supervisors who’d like to do the same, but fortunately we have an official bilingual policy.

  28. Emma Thomas

    I was in the llantrisant store with my daughter trying on trainers s family were from West Wales doing the same speaking in Welsh. Unfortunately I do not speak the language of my country but my daughter does. My daughter was pleased to hear the family speaking in the language she uses all the time in school. The family were wondering whether any staff could speak it but unfortunately they didn’t. We agreed this was a shame and now I hear about this story I think you should know some customers would prefere the language to be used this is a free country still ?

  29. Penny Cornett

    The directive didn’t say employees couldn’t speak Welsh, it just said that employees shouldn’t speak it while carrying out store duties; i.e., waiting on customers? I have been in businesses (in the U.S.) before where employees were speaking a different language than English to each other, and it did come across as rude and off-putting. (See the old Seinfeld episode where Elaine is upset over the manicurists at her salon talking about her behind her back in Korean.) Perhaps this is what the company was trying to avoid. They could have made their intention more clear, however. Surely if a customer is speaking Welsh, it would be alright for the clerk to answer the customer back in that language. If I order in French at a French restaurant or in Italian at an Italian restaurant, I find it charming when the waitperson answers back in that language (as long as they speak slowly!)
    Of course, it is just as rude for two employees to be carrying on a private conversation in English while they should be waiting on customers.

    • Sibrydionmawr

      In Wales, workers are allowed to speak Welsh to each other, even whilst carrying out their duties. Welsh is the national language, and it’s illegal to discriminate against it. We don’t care if it comes across as ‘rude’: we are sick and tired of being discriminated against for speaking our own language in our own country.

      I note you have fallen for the old chestnut of believing that staff speaking amongst themselves are automatically ‘talking behind’ someone’s back. When are we gong to be free form having to take the responsibility for some monoglot English speaker’s paranoia? There is always an easy solution, either learn Welsh, or move back to somewhere where the local population are solely English speakers.

      You, I assume, are an American, so I doubt whether you completely understand the scenario we have here. Wales, despite what many Americans believe, isn’t part of England, but part of the UK, (which for some of us is accepted somewhat reluctantly). Since 2011 the Welsh language has had official status, and is the national language. English is also an official language. However, both the Welsh language and speakers of Welsh are widely discriminated against, despite it being rude, technically against the law, and in many cases, tantamount to racism. Welsh isn’t some anachronistic survival preserved for display to tourists, but one of Europe’s oldest languages, spoken by over half a million people, many of them as their everyday language. It has a literary tradition that is 1,500 years old, about twice as old as the English literary tradition. We don’t speak it to charm tourists, and whilst it’s often very tempting to say things about bombastic and often rather stupid English tourists in Welsh, we usually have far more important things to discuss, such as the weather, or how the local football, (soccer) team are doing. We tend to let the more stupid and xenophobic English tourists know what we think of them in their own language, often reinforced with a few well chosen terms of Anglo-Saxon origin!.

      • We should also acknowledge that in may parts of the USA, Spanish is the majority language – some claim that it is or may soon be
        the majority language for the whole of the USA. But there are many languages that have been spoken there for much longer than either English of Spanish. And America claims to be the Country of Immigrants so to complain about people speaking other languages is a betrayal of the American spirit. Historically America has always welcomed people of all race and religion, whatever language they speak.
        Coming from a country like America, someone complaining about others speaking their own language is deeply shocking.
        However, I am prepared to forgive Penny when she later wrote of speaking both Spanish and Italian, putting me completely to shame as I only speak English in spite of my best efforts to follow other languages including my native Welsh. You have my deepest respect Penny!

      • Mr blue sky

        The taffia ranting again, but of course a language that is only spoken in ONE country is naturally with preserving 🤔 I beg to differ your claim of it being the national language, which are we conversing in now?

        • I guess that you have never heard of Patagonia then? And don’t forget that in England, Cornish, and in France, Bretagne, are dialects of Welsh. (Though you must not forget to value Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic either. They are all British languages as well. English is only one of many.)
          And in English many words are derived from Welsh. The easiest examples are the river names. For example the Parret in Somerset derives from the Welsh word for fence, and was the boundary between English and Welsh speaking parts of England for centuries. The River Wye is has an Anglicised version of the Welsh name. And what about all your River Avons derived from “afon” the Welsh word for “river”. One of your highest mountains is Helvellyn ….I could go on, but anyone speaking English will be using words derived from Welsh, as well as Anglo Saxon (a dialect of German), Norman (a dialect of French) etc. Though I use English all the time, at least I acknowledge and value its diverse origins.
          And in case you were wondering, Welsh owes a lot to even older languages, and adopted words from many nations with whom the Welsh, and before them the Celts traded
          But Welsh is a modern developing language, very different now from the language my family spoke in the 1950s. Although we still see “pillipalas” flying about, there were no “poptypings” in the 1950s. And Welsh is developing with a sense of humour, and a love of its sound, whereas English is becoming degraded by jargon, glockle stops, and Americanisms. Whereas Welsh retains wonderful regional differences, English is becoming more and more bland, uniform and trans-Atlantic.
          I don’t speak Welsh. That is because the incompetent Government in Westminster made it impossible for many, including my parents, to find work in Wales. (We moved about 20 miles over the border, still in site of geographical features that could be seen from the family home) The English education system only taught one of the British languages, and in 1950s Somerset there were no extracurricular subjects taught in schools at all. I could keep learning vocabulary by listening to BBC Radio broadcasts on the Welsh Home Service. But in 1967, this was replaced by two local stations, Radio Wales which was exclusively English and all sports, pop music and phone ins, none of which appealed to me, and Radio Cymru which was exclusively in Welsh, which was not much help to a learner. Radio 4, which we could listen to was exclusively English. So I lost my own language. The powers that be have maintained their anti Welsh policy, by only a month ago , refusing to licence another Welsh speaking television channel on the excuse that they “couldn’t limit television broadcasts to national boundaries” But what an aid that would have been to me! Language with pictures so that you knew what they were talking about…….

    • So you walk into store in the US owned by Mexicans and you speak to the Anglo assistant, in English.. They reply in Spanish, even though they are a native English speaker, because they would be breaking store policy and risking disciplinary action if they speak to you in English. This is exactly what we are talking about here. Most people in Bangor speak Welsh.

      Just because this notice wasn’t directed specifically against Welsh in Wales doesn’t diminish its repugnant nature when displayed in a predominantly Welsh area. How rude and off-putting is it when you walk into a store in your own country and the staff all talk between each other in a foreign language and force you to speak that language too?

      Sports Direct should have instantly retracted this notice in relation to all Welsh stores and clarified that it was not directed against community languages, but they haven’t, so guilty as charged.

      • Hi “Foreigner”, not sure if you were replying to me, but I think that we are on the same side of this argument. My unravelling of American linguistic history, was in response to Penny, who seemed to suggest the opposite argument to mine, although I think that she had some sympathy with it.

        I am shocked, and hurt (given my family history) that anyone should display such discrimination as Sports Direct have done. I really only speak English (even though my grandfather, and most of my parents’ generation taught in the medium of Welsh – I was educated within site of the family home, but on the wrong side of the Bristol Channel, where the local education authority regarded Welsh as a minority which should be suppressed – a bit a bit like Sorts Direct) Later I worked in an international environment for many years, where one of the joys of the job was working my way around the “language barrier” with people who were equally enthusiastic about the job in hand.

        Managers in Sports Direct should display more humanity, treat their staff in such a way that encourages trust, and then trust them to be loyal servants of the company in whatever language. Learn that it is exciting to meet people with different experience, as displayed by their language. And in Wales, realize that English is the new import, and that Welsh has earned respect for many hundred years before English evolved out of many languages, not least Welsh.

        • Glyncoch – No my reply was not meant for you – it was for Penny Cornett but I must have replied on the wrong part of the thread. I think we are very much of the same view here. I am neither Welsh nor English, hence my “Foreigner” epithet. I have been to this area many times and overwhelmingly found the indigenous population to be friendly and accommodating.

          Too many people just don’t grasp the status of Welsh in this area. It is not a badge of identity. Its usage is not to make any sort of statement. It is their language and that is it.

          • Thanks “Foreigner”. It seem that sometimes people need to have a bit of distance to see the truth, though it appears that Sports Direct are on a different planet! I guess that we have the right amount of distance to support our friends who speak any language! (Its funny, it seems that there aren’t the words in English for an elegant phrase to express my thoughts abut differences over language – I wonder why?)

  30. It’s interesting how people can’t read. But decide to infer their opinion. The sign states a) English is the official language of the company – that is acceptable. b) the use of the word should not shall, which means one is recommended, where the later would mean compulsory. c) the most important being …. Unless otherwise specified, which does allow for exception, be it Welsh, Urdu, Polish or any majority language. Reading isn’t difficult, understanding seems to be an issue. Would I be concerned, no. I am Welsh, and if there was a tribunal hearing due to this I’d be happy to pick up the compensation.

    • The letter uses the word “should” in a more modern, less precise usage to mean “shall”. This is proven by the use of the word “must” in para.2, line 4. Regardless of how technically imprecise the English may be by former standards, if you take the trouble to actually read the entire notice, it is not open to misinterpretation. English MUST be used and failure to obey the policy MAY result in disciplinary action. It’s you who hasn’t read and understood it.

  31. Just support businesses who support the Welsh language. Easy to do through people like Lles Cyf

  32. Mae Mike Ashley yn sais diawl!!! Mae’r iaith Gymra,g yn iaith cenedlaethol yng Nghymru! telly cer i’r grafu Sports Direct!!! peidwch a siopa yn siop Mike Ashley o hyn Mlan.

    Huw yn Wrecsam

  33. As a cymro and native speaker of Cymra’g from the sowth living in the north I feel we should boycott all Mike Ashley stores this man is a muppet you only have to ask fans of Newcastle United what they think of him!!! we as cymry must stand to protect our culture and language from idiots like this.

    Cenedl Heb Iaith Cenedl Heb Enaid


Leave a Reply