Sports Direct’s independent investors are deserting it, as some suspect the retailer may never resolve its corporate governance crisis.

Standard Life, which was the sportswear giant’s biggest independent investor with a stake of 5.8%, has bowed out, according to the Guardian.

Another major institution to hold Sports Direct stock is Aviva. The insurance player has sold down its stake.

Both firms, along with the majority of their fellow shareholders, had been critical of the Mike Ashley-controlled retailer as corporate governance concerns mounted over the last three years.

Sports Direct has come under fire for its alleged mistreatment of staff at its Shirebrook warehouse and its continued support of chairman Keith Hellawell.

Hellawell continues to chair the retailer despite the majority of independent shareholders refusing to back him.

While Ashley continues to court controversy, recently claiming victory against banker and former adviser Jeff Blue at the High Court, Sports Direct has begun to address the issues which plagued its distribution centre.

Employees are now offered English classes and have formed a ‘listening group’, comprised of employees who attend monthly meetings with management.

Sports Direct is also establishing a staff health and wellbeing service, after it emerged that 110 ambulances or paramedic vehicles were dispatched to Shirebrook between January 2013 and April 2016, with 50 cases listed as life-threatening.