One of the country’s biggest sports retailers, headquartered in Bury, has admitted to “colluding to restrict competition” with a premier league football club.

Last week JD Sports, based on Hollins Brook Way and lead by long time Bolton-born executive chairman Peter Cowgill until May last year, admitted that the company had colluded with the now relegated Leicester City FC, which has been fined, to break competition law over three football seasons.

This included colluding in the sales of club clothing, including replica kit, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.

CMA executive director of enforcement Michael Grenfell said: “Strong and unimpeded competition between retailers is essential to consumers’ ability to shop around for the best deals.

“Football fans are well-known for their loyalty towards their teams.

The Bolton News: JD Sports had colluded with Leicester City FCJD Sports had colluded with Leicester City FC (Image: PA)

“In this case we have provisionally found that Leicester City FC and JD Sports colluded to share out markets and fix prices with the result that fans may have ended up paying more than they would otherwise have done.”

He added: “Both parties have now admitted their involvement, allowing us to bring the investigation to a swift conclusion.

“The fine that Leicester City FC and its parent companies have agreed to pay sends a clear message to them and other businesses that anti-competitive collusion will not be tolerated.”

JD Sports says that no current or former directors or senior management were involved and that it signed a leniency agreement with the CMA last month.

A statement said: “JD has taken a number of steps to strengthen its competition compliance programme and the board reaffirms its commitment to making the necessary resource available, internal and external, to ensure that this is embedded into its daily operations.”

Leicester City has also stressed that no current club directors or senior management were involved in the arrangements.

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But the Midland club and its parent companies have now agreed to pay a fine of up to £880,000.

A club statement said: “These arrangements related to a limited number of bulk orders by JD Sports, which were accepted by the club’s retail sales team over the relevant period.

“There was no intention on the part of the club to unlawfully restrict the resale of the goods supplied and no material financial advantage to be gained from doing so, given the limited amount of kit supplied to JD Sports.

“However, the club accepts the CMA’s findings and has taken steps to strengthen its training and compliance measures to ensure the club’s retail operations fully comply with competition law.”