Sports store jobs lifeline

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JOBS at a Sunderland sportswear store could be saved – by Newcastle United supremo Mike Ashley.

Ashley’s Sports Direct chain is hotly tipped to take over up to 60 JJB Sports stores, safeguarding at least 1,000 jobs.

The firm is expected buy about a third of JJB’s estate in a £30million deal, taking control of 20 stores immediately, with the takeover of the remaining 40 subject to approval from the competition watchdog.

If agreed, the deal would save up 1,500 jobs at JJB.

The chain has a branch in Timber Beach Road at North Hylton, though it is not yet clear whether it would be part of the takeover package.

JJB announced plans to call in administrators at the weekend.

A JJB spokesman confirmed the plan to close more than 70 stores – but said the firm had not yet decided which branches would go.

He added: “The company is in consultation with staff about which stores are to be closed.”

JJB group has been hit hard by the squeeze on consumer spending triggered by the financial crisis and by the stellar performance of rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports. By late 2008 it was in a battle for survival.

The group has been through six chairmen in the last four years, covering a period in which it also incorrectly applied VAT to children’s clothing, leading to a £5million bill.