The news today that Ibrox and its former commercial partners at JD Sports and Elite were fined for breaching competition regulations and effectively operating a cartel for the purposes of price fixing is not a surprise.
The case was decided months ago, and only the size of the sanction remained to be seen.
The club itself has been fined a quarter of a million pounds.
The press, as usual, swallows Ibrox’s assertion that they knew nothing about any of what was going on. Which is why a regulator has fined them, I presume, because it’s common practice to fine companies in these cases if they are entirely innocent.
What idiots our press are. Whatever the Ibrox line is, they trot it out as though it were Holy Writ. Their defence in this case is absurd and the regulator has decided that it doesn’t hold water.
That’s why the fine was issued. They were in it up to their necks.
The thing is, you need to look at what it was that they were into.
Stripped of all the niceties they were involved in a conspiracy to rip off their own fans by having all three companies charge the same outrageous sums for kit, with none allowed to cut the costs of doing so.
They made sure that their fans didn’t get the benefits of discounts or rival prices … this is racketeering when you get right down to it. And they got caught doing it.
That club has utter contempt for its own customers, and this has been displayed time and time again. The Castore deal is a sham, which most people now realise has Ashley behind it pulling the strings like mad.
They heralded that, when it was signed, as a genius move which would net them more money than we made. In their 2021 accounts it was revealed that Castore paid them £4.2 million. Celtic, in the same period, got £7.5 million from Adidas.
Castore’s selling point – and the reason they are able to charge the Ibrox fans so outrageously for their products – was that each strip was special and each one was custom made.
Not so now that Castore have mass production capability and contracts with a half dozen other clubs. All this “bespoke kit” nonsense, all this talk of a “premier product” has been revealed as the utter nonsense we Celtic bloggers said it was … but it’s what justified premium prices.
And since nobody wants to admit that Ashley is still all over this, what you have here is basically what amounts to a whole different scam. The Castore deal has three more years to run, and when it was signed the press release said it would run for “five years minimum” which means that there might be extension clauses in there.
Don’t forget, Ibrox was desperate when this deal was signed.
Bisgrove says that they “might” go “back to the market” when the deal ends, in the hope of finding a different company. But having been fined over the Elite deal and having terminated the Puma deal without cause and with a developing reputation for disrespecting commercial agreements you wonder how they think they are going to fare doing so.
The Castore deal is almost certain to be extended, most obviously because one strongly suspects that Ashley is behind the whole thing and still has the club in his grip.
At some point, even their fans have to wise up, don’t they?
Their board clearly doesn’t think so.