Sports Direct is understood to be lining up a leading criminal QC to advise founder Mike Ashley.

Sports Direct is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

According to The Telegraph, Keith Oliver, senior partner at fraud specialist Peters & Peters is thought to be advising Ashley.

John Kelsey Fry – who successfully defended Kieren Fallon when he was prosecuted for alleged race fixing and Steven Gerrard from a charge of affray – is believed to have been lined up to act for Mr Ashley in the event of any trial, although he has yet to be formally appointed.

Separate legal teams have been appointed to advise chief executive Dave Forsey and finance director Bob Mellors to avoid any potential conflict of interests.

A spokesman for Sports Direct told The Telegraph: “We continue to comply with the ongoing investigations of the OFT and SFO.”