UK Government Fines Two Sports Retailers and Soccer Club for Apparel Price Fixing
The U.K. government has fined Scottish professional soccer team Rangers F.C., along with sporting goods company Elite Sports and retail brand JD Sports, for price fixing.
According to a release from the U.K. government, the Competition and Markets Authority found that Elite Sports and JD Sports "broke competition law by fixing the retail prices of a number of Rangers-branded replica kits and other clothing products from September 2018 until July 2019." The investigation found that Glasgow-based Rangers took place "only to the extent of fixing the retail price of adult home short-sleeved replica shirts from September 2018 to mid-November 2018."
During that time, Elite was the manufacturer of Rangers-branded merchandise and sold Rangers products through its online store and at brick-and-mortar shops in cities like Glasgow and Belfast. JD Sports was, at the time, the only major retailer selling Rangers products across the U.K. Rangers reportedly "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.'"
The three parties agreed that JD Sports would increase the price of the adult short-sleeved home replica shirt by about 10%, making it more on par with the prices being charged by Elite online.
The government fined Elite Sports £459,000 ($490,091), JD Sports £1,485,000 ($1,585,589) and Rangers £225,000 ($240,240). Elite Sports' and JD Sports' penalties reportedly include a discount for coming forward with information about their participation in the price fixing scheme and cooperation with investigators.
"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," Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said in the statement,. "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."
Elite and JD Sports further collaborated without the involvement of Rangers to fix retail prices of Rangers-branded apparel, including training wear and other replica jerseys, by aligning discounts to avoid competition between them and protect their profits.
As we reported when this case first came to light, Rangers is one of the two most successful clubs in Scotland, and has a large fanbase across the U.K. and beyond, meaning there's plenty of demand for merchandise online and in Glasgow shops.