JD Sports, Elite Sports and Rangers FC have been fined a total of £2m after they were found to have colluded to fix the price of Rangers FC merchandise in an investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The CMA found that Elite Sports and JD Sports had broken competition law by fixing the retail prices of both Rangers kits and other clothing products between September 2018 and July 2019. Rangers FC also took part, but to a more limited extent of fixing the retail price of adult home shortsleeved replica shirts between September 2018 and mid-November 2018. All of the firms colluded to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of the shirt on Elite’s Gers Online store, says the CMA.
Today’s announcement confirms a CMA provisional finding first announced in June. At the time, JD Sports said it would set aside about £2m against the potential fine. JD Sports has now paid a fine of £1.485m, and will not be appealing the penalty. Elite Sports has been fined £459,000 and Rangers FC £225,000. Businesses found to have infringed the Competition Act of 1998 can be fined up to 10% of annual worldwide group turnover.
The CMA found that the Glasgow club was concerned that JD Sports was selling the Rangers replica top for less than Elite, which was then seen as the club’s retail partner, at the start of the season. The three reached an understanding, said the CMA, that JD Sports would raise its price for a Rangers adult short-sleeved home replica shirt by almost 10% – from £55 to £60 – to bring it in line with the price that Elite charged on its own Gers Online website. At the time, JD Sports was the only UK-wide retailer selling those products. Elite sold online through the Gers Online website and later in stores in Belfast and Glasgow.
Today Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, says: “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’ parent company JD Sports Fashion said in a statement that it had cooperated throughout the investigation and had seen its fine discounted as a result. “No directors or senior management of JD were involved in the offending conduct, which took place in 2018-2019,” it says in today’s statement. “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. JD is committed to offering great value to its customers with a best-in-class multichannel retail experience.”
Rangers has previously said that it was committed to operating its business in full compliance with all laws, including competition laws, and that it would cooperate with the enquiry. InternetRetailing has contacted Elite Sports for a comment.