JD Sports has defended executive chair Peter Cowgill after a car park meeting between him and Footasylum boss was secretly filmed and questions were raised about whether it breached competition rules. 

The meeting, reported by The Sunday Times, prompted concerns because JD has been ordered to sell Footasylum by the competition authorities, to the fury of Cowgill and the JD team.

Following the report, JD issued a statement “for the sake of balance”, and “totally” refuting any suggestion that may also have been made that corporate governance is not taken seriously.

JD said: ”Peter Cowgill has known [Footasylum executive chair] Barry Bown on a business and personal basis for over 25 years. As a result, it is not unusual, or in any way suspicious or illegitimate, for them to meet from time to time, including in relation to the ongoing review by the Competition and Markets Authority of JD’s acquisition of Footasylum.

The Sunday Times omitted to report on the positive obligation that JD has under the terms of the interim enforcement order to take all reasonable steps to encourage key staff of the Footasylum business (which includes Barry Bown) to remain with the business. 

”The CMA has already been fully apprised of the content of the meeting on 5 July 2021 and the reasons for it and JD firmly believes that its actions in participating in this meeting do not amount to wrongdoing or a breach of the Order and does not see how it would be reasonable to accuse JD of such.

”It is disappointing that The Sunday Times has not reported in a more balanced way on the highly irregular and potentially illegal covert surveillance undertaken by a third party for their own interests.  JD hopes that a regulator, tasked with acting in the wider public interest, is able to more critically regard the actions of the third party for what they are.

”Any suggestions with regard to corporate governance breaches are totally refuted. JD’s stakeholders are very aware that the chairman and the board treat governance matters extremely seriously and with the utmost transparency. As demonstrated at the recent capital markets event for investors, the success of the business is underpinned by its core values and integrity.”