JD Sports braces itself for a £2million fine after admitting it set the price of Rangers FC shirts in “cartel activity” with Elite Sports.
The two sports retailers and the Scottish football club are accused of breaching competition rules by illegally pricing replica shirts £5 higher than they should have been.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that JD and Elite have increased the price of an adult Rangers short-sleeved home shirt by almost 10 packs, from £55 to £60.
They are accused of tinkering with the prices of Rangers-branded merchandise from September 2018 until at least July 2019.
The CMA said Rangers were also involved in the alleged collusion, but only in relation to replica short-sleeve shirts from September 2018 through at least mid-November 2018.
Rangers said the results were only “preliminary” and it did not mean that “Rangers broke the law and that the CMA will make a final decision or fine Rangers.”
All three are said to have worked together to ensure a £60 Rangers shirt was no cheaper at JD Sports than Elite’s Gers online shop.
JD and Elite, the maker of Rangers-branded apparel that also sold them online, set the size of the rebates at the end of the 2019 football season to avoid competition between them and protect their profits at the expense of fans, CMA said.
The results come after a hot period for JD, which is still reeling from the botched takeover of smaller rivals Footasylum and the sudden departure of its longtime boss Peter Cowgill.
JD and Elite pleaded leniency during the investigation, which opened in 2020, and admitted to antitrust activity that could reduce the size of a potential fine.
The CMA’s Michael Grenfell said it “would not hesitate to take action where we have concerns that companies may be collaborating to keep costs high”.
He added: “Football fans are known for their loyalty to their teams.
“We are concerned that in this case Elite, JD Sports and to some extent Rangers have worked together to keep prices high, allowing the two retailers to rake in more cash for themselves at the expense of fans.”
JD has set aside £2m to cover any fines and legal costs he may incur if he is found to have broken the law. It said: “The findings of the CMA are only preliminary at this stage and the group will now review them with its advisers.”
JD’s chief executive resigned last month as part of a corporate governance review at the helm of the company with immediate effect, three months after the CMA fined more than £4m in connection with the Footasylum takeover.
The merger control authority said they exchanged commercially sensitive information and failed to inform them of two meetings between the heads of the two companies.
Shares are down nearly 44 per cent year-to-date with the company being valued at £6.2 billion.
Elite Sports was contacted for comment.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/06/07/glasgow-rangers-jd-sports-elite-found-guilty-price-fixing/ Glasgow Rangers, JD Sports and Elite found guilty of price fixing