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What The UK Competition Authority’s Price Fixing Investigation Means For Football Clubs & Kit Suppliers

Soccer Player Celebrating
Wednesday, 17 August 2022 By Simon Casinader, Niall Lavery, Michal Kocon

On 7 June 2022, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its preliminary finding that Elite Sports Group, JD Sports and Rangers Football Club had engaged in the fixing of retail prices (for an explanation on price fixing, please see footnote 1)1 for certain Rangers-branded clothing products (including replica kits and training wear) and were therefore in breach of the UK competition law prohibition against anticompetitive agreements. A few months earlier (September 2021), the CMA had also announced that it was investigating suspected anti-competitive conduct in relation to the sale of Leicester City FC-branded products and merchandise in the UK and that investigation is still ongoing.2

The two cases are not the first time the CMA has taken an interest in the sale of football kits and football branded merchandise. In 2003,3 the Office for Fair Trading (the CMA’s predecessor) found that several sportswear retailers, including JJB Sports, had engaged in price-fixing conduct by fixing the resale prices of replica football kits. The infringing parties originally appealed the CMA’s decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal regarding their price fixing conduct but the Tribunal dismissed their appeals and the parties were ultimately fined a total of £18.6 million. The case also resulted in a follow-on damages claim brought by the Consumers’ Association resulting in JJB agreeing a settlement on 9 January 2008.4

The CMA’s new cases therefore act as a stark reminder to football clubs and their supply chain partners to carefully monitor their sale and purchase agreements as well as pricing strategies and in particular the way those strategies are communicated to their commercial partners.

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Written by

Simon Casinader

Simon Casinader

Simon Casinader is a partner in the London office at K&L Gates and had previously worked in their Melbourne office for over seven years. Simon is an intellectual property lawyer with extensive experience in protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights across multiple jurisdictions.

Niall Lavery

Niall Lavery

Niall Lavery is an associate at the London office of K&L Gates. He splits his practice into two primary areas, specifically, 1) antitrust, competition and trade regulation and 2) intellectual property and commercial law where the team’s cross-departmental approach allows him to provide a versatile and comprehensive approach to his work.

Michal Kokon

Michal Kocon

Michal Kocon is a senior associate in the London office at K&L Gates where he is a member of the antitrust, competition, and trade regulation practice group providing end-to-end antitrust and competition representation before the European Commission, the Competition and Markets Authority and other national competition authorities. Michal advises clients on a wide spectrum of competition issues, including cartels, horizontal and vertical agreements, merger clearance, abuse of dominance, antitrust compliance and competition litigation. His work covers, in particular, bringing and defending competition law based complaints, designing global go-to-market and brand erosion strategies, monitoring and enforcing selective distribution systems, drafting and implementing antitrust compliance programmes and assisting clients in obtaining merger control clearance.

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