Sports Direct has re-elected Keith Hellawell as chairman following backing from majority shareholder Mike Ashley.

Hellawell received 80.9% of the overall shareholder vote at a general meeting earlier today, but only 46% of independent shareholders voted for the former police chief constable to remain in his role. 

However, Hellawell’s position was safeguarded after Ashley, who owns around 55% of the business, voted for him to remain in his post.

Hellawell has been under pressure after independent shareholders revolted against his re-election at the under-fire retailer’s AGM last September, when 53% of investors rejected his re-appointment.

He offered to resign but was persuaded by Sports Direct founder Ashley to stay.

Independent investors were again called to vote against Hellawell staying in his role today, following a “catalogue of governance and operational failures”.

Sports Direct has been under fire for the past 12 months over allegations over the working practices at its Shirebrook warehouse, its use of zero-hour contracts for store staff and its corporate governance.

Both Hellawell and Ashley were hauled before a parliamentary committee last summer as part of a probe into the business.

Hellawell vowed to step down at Sports Direct’s 2017 AGM if he still did not have the backing of shareholders.

Ashley, who took over from Dave Forsey as chief executive in September, said: “Keith has my full backing and will be continuing in his role on the basis that he has the unanimous support of the board.

“I note that many of those who voted against Keith have acknowledged that we have made positive progress since the AGM.”

Ashley added: “I have spoken to Keith Hellawell this afternoon to inform him that I hope that he will reconsider his intention to stand down if he does not receive the backing of a majority of independent shareholders at the 2017 AGM.”