JJB Sports Plc and Sports Direct International Plc's activities are being investigated by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office in conjunction with the Office of Fair Trade. The SFO and its consumer affairs watchdog are
both investigating allegations of fraud and anti-competitive activities
in the sports retail market, dominated by JJB Sports and Sports Direct.
The SFO said it is investigating JJB Sports PLC and Sports Direct International PLC for suspected criminal offenses under the Fraud Act and the Enterprise Act, following a referral from U.K. regulator the Office of Fair Trading, or OFT.
JJB said Thursday that OFT officers visited its Wigan, England offices after it requested immunity from prosecution in exchange for blowing the whistle on a “suspected agreement” to hinder competition in the sports retail market between June 2007 and March 2009, when former JJB Sports Chief Executive Chris Ronnie was in charge.
While JJB Sports wouldn't comment further Thursday, Sports Direct issued a brief statement saying it was assisting the SFO and OFT with their investigations.
“As part of those investigations, representatives from the OFT and SFO are visiting Sports Direct's Head Office in Shirebrook today (Thursday),” the firm said in a statement. It said it was co-operating fully with the inquiries and couldn't comment further at this stage.
The OFT said it raided a second address as part of its investigation, and that JJB approached it on Jan. 30 — just 10 days after suspending Mr. Ronnie.