Rangers Football Club, JD Sports and Elite Sports have been fined more than £2m after they admitted to illegally fixing the prices of club merchandise.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found the retailers fixed the price of a number of Rangers-branded replica kits and other clothing products from September 2018 until July 2019.
Rangers Football Club also took part in the collusion, the CMA said, by fixing the retail price of adult home short-sleeved replica shirts from September 2018 to mid-November 2018.
The UK competition watchdog has fined Elite Sports £459,000, JD Sports £1.485m and Rangers £225,000.
The penalties include a discount because all three parties admitting to acting illegally, helping bring a swifter resolution to the CMA’s investigation.
Both Elite Sports’ and JD Sports’ penalties also include a discount for coming forward with information about their participation in the illegal conduct and cooperating with the investigation under the CMA’s Leniency Programme.
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.”
During the time of the infringement, Elite was the manufacturer of Rangers-branded clothing and also sold Rangers-branded products directly through its Gers Online store and later in bricks-and-mortar shops in Glasgow and Belfast while the only UK-wide major retailer selling those products at the time was JD Sports.
The watchdog’s investigation found that Rangers Football Club became concerned about the fact that, at the start of the 2018 to 2019 football season, JD Sports was selling the Rangers replica top at a lower price than Elite, which was seen at the time as the club’s ‘retail partner’.
This resulted in an understanding between the three parties that JD Sports would increase its retail price of the Rangers adult short-sleeved home replica shirt by nearly 10%, from £55 to £60, to bring it in line with the prices being charged by Elite on Gers Online.
The CMA also found 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.
This included aligning the level and timing of discounts towards the end of the football season in 2019, to avoid competition between them and protect their profit margins.
A JD Sports spokesperson said: “JD has co-operated fully with the CMA throughout this investigation, including taking swift steps to apply for leniency and agreeing to settle the investigation.
“As a consequence, the CMA has applied a substantial discount in determining its final penalty of £1.485m. In accordance with the CMA’s standard terms of settlement, JD will not be appealing against this penalty.
“On June 7, 2022, JD announced that it would recognise a provision of approximately £2m in its financial statements for the 52 weeks to January 29, 2022 representing the group’s best estimate of the liability payable in respect of this matter, including associated legal costs.
“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.
“JD is committed to offering great value to its customers with a best-in-class multichannel retail experience.”
Rangers Football Club and Elite Sports have been contacted for comment.