Scottish Soccer Team Accused of Price Fixing for Apparel, Merchandise
The Scottish professional soccer team Rangers F.C. has been accused of conspiracy to fix merchandise prices, along with the sporting goods company Elite Sports and retail company JD Sports.
According to Reuters, the two companies fixed the retail price of Rangers replica kits and other apparel products between September 2018 and at least July 2019. The Competition and Markets Authority said the Glasgow-based soccer club took part to the extent of fixing the retail price of the adult short-sleeved replica jersey from September 2018 to at least November 2018.
"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 two retailers could pocket more money for themselves at the expense of fans," Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, told STV.
Rangers is one of the largest clubs in Scotland, and along with crosstown rivals Celtic in what's referred to by fans as the "Old Firm," wins the Scottish Premier League regularly. With its history of success and location in a major city, there's plenty of demand for Rangers merchandise in Glasgow and beyond.
In a statement, Rangers confirmed that it received a Statement of Objections from the CMA, but clarified that it "is not a finding that Rangers has broken the law and does not mean that the CMA will issue a final decision or impose a fine on Rangers."
The club reiterated that it "is committed to operating its business in full compliance with all laws, including competition law, and treats this matter very seriously."
Price fixing has been an issue in the promotional products and branded merchandise industry in recent years, though mostly consisting of isolated events. Over the last five years, there were the cases of Totally Promotional, Zapaaz Inc. and Gennex Media LLC.
This is one of the first branded merchandise-related instances we can recall of an end-customer (in this case, Rangers F.C.) allegedly participating in price fixing along with its vendors.