Dressing down for competition watchdog over JD Sports


Competition watchdog given dressing down as its decision to block JD Sports’ takeover of Footasylum overturned

Festive: JD Sports' Christmas ad campaign features popstar Rita Ora

Festive: JD Sports’ Christmas ad campaign features popstar Rita Ora

The competition watchdog was given a public dressing down yesterday as its decision to block JD Sports’ £90m takeover of Footasylum was overturned. 

A tribunal ruled that the decision by the Competition and Markets Authority failed to take the growing force of Nike and Adidas’s online shops into account. 

The chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal slammed the CMA’s ‘irrational’ decision-making and its failure to properly assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The CMA had said the merger would reduce competition in the UK trainer market – but it will be forced to reconsider its judgment.

It is only the second time a decision by the CMA to block a deal has been quashed since it was founded over seven years ago. 

JD had always maintained that the CMA’s decision, which was published in the middle of the first lockdown, was ‘inaccurate and outdated’. The FTSE 100 tracksuit and trainer specialist – whose festive ad campaign features popstar Rita Ora – has about 400 stores and also owns a number of other High Street brands such as Footpatrol, Blacks and Millets. Footasylum, which it bought back in June 2019, has 65 UK stores. 

Survey data had found that shoppers saw Footasylum as the next best option after JD, and other retailers, including Sports Direct, also complained about the tie-up.

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But JD pointed to Nike and Adidas’s booming digital growth. The pandemic has accelerated the shift to internet shopping, driving the global giants to invest more in their online shops. 

JD’s executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: ‘We have always maintained that this merger would provide significant long-term benefits to customers, colleagues and brand partners. 

‘We look forward to presenting further evidence which demonstrates the true extent to which the competitive landscape has evolved, in particular as a result of the unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic.’ 

The CMA said it was ‘disappointed’ but would now ‘take stock’ of the judgment and consider its next steps. 



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