JD Sports ‘illegally fixed prices’ of replica shirts says competition watchdog

Rangers footballer Connor Goldson in action

Fashion giant JD Sports has been accused of price-fixing Rangers-branded replica kits.

Britain’s competition watchdog said JD Sports and Elite Sports, along with Rangers Football Club, have broken competition law by fixing the prices of some Rangers-branded clothing to keep them high.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which has been investigating the matter since December 2020, said sports retailers Elite and JD fixed the retail prices of a number of Rangers-branded replica kits and other clothing products from September 2018 until at least July 2019.

Rangers FC also took part in the alleged collusion but only to the extent of fixing the retail price of adult home short-sleeved replica shirts from September 2018 to at least mid-November 2018.

All three parties allegedly colluded to stop JD Sports undercutting the retail price of the shirt on Elite’s Gers Online store.

The CMA is also concerned that Elite and JD Sports – without involvement from Rangers –colluded to fix the retail prices of Rangers-branded clothing, including training wear and replica kit, over a longer period.

Elite and JD applied for leniency during the CMA’s investigation and confessed to cartel activity, the watchdog said.

Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, said: “We don’t hesitate to take action when we have concerns that companies may be working together to keep costs up.

“Football fans are well-known for their loyalty towards their teams. We are concerned that, in this case, Elite, JD Sports and, to some extent, Rangers, may have colluded to keep prices high, so that the 2 retailers could pocket more money for themselves at the expense of fans.

“These are the CMA’s provisional findings and the companies involved now have the chance to make representations to the CMA before it reaches a final decision.”

JD Sports said it will be reviewing the matter with its advisers and that it intends to recognise a provision of approximately £2m in its financial statements for the year to 29 January 2022, which was its “best estimate of the liability payable in respect of this matter,” including legal fees.

It said: “The CMA will consider any representations that are made before issuing its final findings. As the CMA has noted, JD has co-operated fully with the CMA and, provided this continues, JD will receive a reduction on any financial penalties that the CMA may decide to impose.”