BOSSES at a Bury-based sports giants have issued a robust defence of their proposed merger with a high street rival.

An in-depth review has been ordered by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concerning JD Sports' deal for Footasylum.

But management at the Pilsworth operator have submitted a 62-page report defending the rationale behind the move.

The CMA insisted the deal offered by JD Sports, which already owns Size?, Scotts, Tessuti and Footpatrol, would be detrimental for physical and online customers in terms of price and choice.

Colin Raftery, CMA senior director, said at the time: "JD Sports is already by far the largest player in the growing sports fashion sector, so any deal that results in it buying up one of its closest competitors could clearly give cause for concern."

In their submissions though, JD Sports has highlighted that Footasylum met the tests to be considered a 'failing firm', in the run-up to the merger.

"The CMA cannot fail to take into account the financial position of Footasylum in the run-up to the merger as relevant evidence to be taken into account in the context of its competitive assessment," the firm has said.

Three profit warnings were issued by Footasylum in the 2018-19 financial year, ending with an announcement in January 2019 that their margins had been affected by 'difficult Christmas trading'.

JD Sports bosses say their merger would provide a number of benefits to the sportswear retail industry.

If the merger was allowed to proceed, they say, the combined operation would be more efficient, with 'certain central functions' assumed by JD Sports.

The two parties would retain separate management structures, it has been pledged, and the brands mix promoted by Footasylum would be preserved. And neither firm's pricing regimes would be affected by the other.

The CMA says the deadline for submissions is March 16 and a decision on the merger is expected to be issued later this year.