By Henry Saker-Clark, PA Deputy Business Editor
JD Sports, Elite Sports and Rangers FC have been fined a total of more than £2 million (€2.3 million) by the British 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.
⚽ We’ve fined Elite Sports, @JDSports and @RangersFC a total of over £2 million after they admitted fixing the prices fans paid for certain Rangers FC-branded merchandise.
We don’t hesitate to act when companies work together to keep prices up.https://t.co/aQSgAw3bEY pic.twitter.com/p00UDeObtr
— Competition & Markets Authority (@CMAgovUK) September 27, 2022
JD Sports has been fined £1.485 million, Elite Sports has been fined £459,000 and Rangers has been fined £225,000.
The regulator first began an investigation in December 2020.
Elite manufactured Rangers-branded clothing at the time and also sold it through its online store and later in physical stores in Glasgow and Belfast, while JD was the only UK-wide major retailer also selling the items at the time.
The CMA said its investigation found that the football club became concerned that, at the start of the 2018-19 season, JD was selling the Rangers replica top at a lower price than Elite.
This resulted in an agreement between the parties that JD would lift its price from £55 to £60 to bring it in line with Elite.
The CMA said it also found that Elite and JD, without involvement from Rangers, fixed the prices of Rangers-branded clothing, including training wear and replica kit, over a longer period.
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.
“No directors or senior management of JD were involved in the offending conduct, which took place in 2018-2019,” the company added.
“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.”