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Sports Direct has appointed its first workers’ representative to attend board meetings, as the Mike Ashley-led sports retailer tries to transform its image after a year of scandal.

Alex Balacki, who works for Sports Direct as a store manager in Barnstaple, will attend all scheduled board meetings over the next 12 months, with a new representative to be elected each year.

Mr Balacki, who has worked for the company since starting as a casual sales assistant when he was 17, was elected in a vote of the company’s 23,000 workers after an internal assessment process.

UK prime minister Theresa May caused unease among many executives when she called for companies to put workers on boards last year, but Sports Direct said it would be the first to answer the prime minister’s call after a year in which it was denounced by MPs for the working conditions in its warehouses.

Mike Ashley, Sports Direct chief executive, said:

I’d like to be the first to congratulate Alex, who will help us to continue to make a positive difference by ensuring that your voice is heard in the boardroom.

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