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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK

Business: Your Money

Clubs rapped over kit sales

The sale of kits is big business for football clubs

The Office of Fair Trading has accused some top football clubs of fixing high prices for replica kits.

Now its Director General, John Bridgeman, has banned manufacturers from threatening to stop supplying retailers who sell the kits at a discount.

The BBC's Denise Mahoney: "Another example of competition watchdogs clamping down on price fixing"
Some Premiership football clubs were accused of encouraging manufacturers to fix the price of their replica strips.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated the £210m market after complaints from retailers that they were not allowed to sell merchandise at a discount.

The Football Association, the English Premier League clubs and the Scottish FA have now given assurances that licensing contracts will enable retailers to offer replica kits at a discount.

Mr Bridgeman said his investigation had found that some big football clubs actively encouraged price maintenance.

[ image: John Bridgeman:
John Bridgeman: "Some Premier League clubs encouraged price-fixing"
"Retailers told us that manufacturers had threatened to withhold supplies of replica kits if resale prices dropped below a set minimum. This in unlawful under the Resale Prices Act," said Mr Bridgeman.

"We also have conclusive evidence that some Premier League clubs have encouraged manufacturers to prevent discounting.

"In doing this they have not themselves breached the law - because they are not considered to be suppliers - but any involvement in price maintenance is totally unacceptable."

Sunderland fanzine editor Peter Daykin: Good news for supporters
The cost of replica kit - and the number of times new versions come on the market - has long been a bone of contention for football fans.

The average replica shirt for an adult costs about £40, and a full kit £55. Some estimates suggest this is five or six times the cost of manufacture.

[ image: Alan Shearer models England's shirt]
Alan Shearer models England's shirt
Kevin Monks of the Football Supporters' Association welcomed the OFT's announcement.

"For far too long the clubs have been getting away with murder, and it's taken something like this to stop them," he said.

"This is excellent news for the game and for supporters, who will no longer have to pay the prices set by the clubs."

'Artificially high prices'

The OFT's John Bridgeman: "People want better value for money"
Mr Bridgeman said the clubs and the football authorities had been very co-operative in trying to root out the price-fixing.

"I have no doubt that both supporters and parents have been paying artificially high prices," he said.

"Retailers are now free to set their own prices and I hope that we will soon see a variety of discounts.

"Parents and fans can encourage this by shopping around and raising questions about prices which are the same wherever they go" added Mr Bridgeman.

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