Sports Direct has attacked Findel after shareholders of the Kitbag owner rejected a bid by Mike Ashley’s firm to have a director elected to its board.

At an extraordinary general meeting yesterday, 81% of Findel shareholders voted against Sports Direct representative Benjamin Gardener joining its board.

Sports Direct, which has a 19% stake in Findel, put forward Gardener as a director last month, but two of Findel’s major shareholders, Toscafund and Schroders, indicated they would reject his appointment.

However, Sports Direct hit out after yesterday’s vote. “Findel should focus on trying to run its business more successfully and not reject offers of specialist assistance,” it said in a strongly worded statement.

“All the Findel business segments could have been improved for the benefit of all of its shareholders with the retail expertise of Sports Direct. Mr Gardener could have helped in all these regards and would have been a positive addition to a board that Sports Direct believes has under-delivered for its shareholders.”

Last month Findel reported flat half-year sales and profits and has been without a chief executive since March.

Findel had also criticised Gardener’s suitability as a director. But Sports Direct said the criticism was “unfair, inaccurate and unjustified”.

Sports Direct acquired a stake in Findel in September, which was seen as a move by Mike Ashley to disrupt a potential acquisition of the business by an unnamed party. Findel’s Kitbag business sells replica sports shirts. The deal has subsequently been delayed.

Separately, Sports Direct last week revealed that Mike Ashley will lead an investigation of its staff conditions following revelations in The Guardian. However, it insisted the portrayal of its employment practices had been “unfair”.