The Football Association and Manchester United are among 11 organisations that face millions of pounds in fines for an alleged conspiracy to fix the price of replica shirts.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said yesterday that clubs have been colluding with the shirt manufacturer Umbro and eight of Britain's most prominent retail chains to maintain artificially high prices in a market worth an estimated £250m. The retail chains named are JJB Sports, JD Sports, Sports Soccer, Allsports, Blacks Leisure group, Debenhams, Sportsconnection and Sportsetail.
The alleged price-fixing operation was uncovered in a year-long investigation that included dawn raids at the offices of at least two of the accused companies – Umbro Holdings and JJB Sports. The claims, if proved, could result in fines of up to 10 per cent of each accused company's UK turnover.
The OFT has given the organisations nine weeks to respond to the allegations. Shares in the companies fell in value after the announcement.