JD Sports fined £1.48m over football kit price fixing
JD Sports, Elite Sports and Rangers FC have been fined a total of more than £2 million by the competition watchdog after it found they fixed the prices of replica football kits.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Elite Sports and JD Sports broke the law by fixing retail prices of the Rangers-branded kits and other clothing items from September 2018 to July 2019.
It added that Rangers “also took part in the collusion”, but only in fixing the price of specific adult home short-sleeved shirts from September to mid-November in 2018.
The CMA added that all three worked together to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of the shirt on Elite’s Gers Online store.
JD Sports has been fined £1.485 million, Elite Sports has been fined £459,000 and Rangers has been fined £225,000.
Sporting goods business Elite Sports was seen as the official "retail partner" of the Rangers team, manufacturing Rangers-branded clothing and selling them online and in its bricks-and-mortar shops in Glasgow and Belfast.
The CMA said that at the time JD Sports was the only UK-wide major retailer selling these products and that Rangers FC became concerned about the fact that, at the start of the 2018-19 football season, the retailer was selling the Rangers replica top at a lower price than Elite.
This resulted in an "understanding" that JD Sports would increase the price of the rangers adult replica shirt by 10%, from £55 to £60, to bring it in line with the prices being charged by Elite on its online store.
Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of enforcement at the CMA, said: “At a time when many people are worried about the rising cost of living, it is important that football fans are able to benefit from competitively priced merchandise.
“Instead, Elite, JD Sports and, to some extent, Rangers, worked together to keep prices high. Today’s decision sends a clear message to football clubs and other businesses that illegal anti-competitive collusion will not be tolerated.”
JD Sports said on Tuesday that it will not be appealing against the penalty and said it had already set aside a provision of roughly £2 million to cover the matter, including associated legal costs.
The company said in a statement: “No directors or senior management of JD were involved in the offending conduct, which took place in 2018-2019. JD has taken a number of steps to strengthen its competition compliance programme and is committed to ensuring that this is embedded into its daily operations.”
Last year, the Competition and Markets Authority ordered JD in November to sell the business it bought in a £90 million deal in 2019 over competition concerns. The nature of the order from the CMA meant that JD Sports' would inevitably reduce the price it hoped to obtain for the chain.