No Charges in Sports Direct Investigation; Cartel Inquiry Still Looking at Individuals

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Grierson

NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct company will not face any charges following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into allegations of cartel activity.

The investigation into Sports Direct and rivals JJB Sports is still looking at individuals in relation to the alleged case of anti-competitive practices in the sports retail market, however.

The inquiry first came to light in September last year after JJB Sports approached the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) over a "suspected agreement or concerted practice to dampen competition in the sports retail market".

Between them Sports Direct and JJB have leading positions in the market for replica football shirts and sportswear.

The case centres on alleged anti-competitive conduct between June 8, 2007 and March 25 last year. Both companies released statements repeating the SFO's decision not to bring charges against either firm. JJB said it would continue to co-operate fully with the SFO's investigation.

Shares in JJB Sports were up 5% after the announcement, but shares in Sports Direct were down 2%. In a statement, the SFO said: "The Serious Fraud Office investigation into Sports Direct International and JJB Sports has been completed and it is decided that no charges are to be brought against the companies. The investigation into individuals continues."

The OFT added that its own investigation into alleged anti-competitive conduct in the sports goods retail sector is continuing.

In an unrelated move, outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure - in which Sports Direct is a major shareholder - said it was in talks with several parties interested in buying some or all of the business. …

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