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England’s new football kit: Fans react with disgust

Yesterday (March 31st), the FA and Nike proudly unveiled the new football kit that will be worn by the England national team at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, but fan reaction was not what they had been hoping for.

The new all white kit, so proudly modelled by Premier League superstars such as Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard, and Raheem Sterling, is the second England team strip manufactured by US sportswear company Nike, which pays a reputed £25m (approximately $39.6m) for the privilege of being the team’s exclusive supplier. Given this amount, it is understandable that Nike is eager to make the venture profitable, but the pricing of the new kit has come under fire from fans, players, and the media.

Two shirts are being released; a ‘stadium shirt’ and a ‘match’ shirt. The so-called ‘stadium’ shirt is priced at £60 (approximately $95) and the ‘match’ shirt at £90 (approximately $143). So, what’s the difference?

According to Nike, the ‘stadium’ shirt is a replica of the shirt the players will wear at the tournament, but does not feature some of the performance benefits of the match shirt. The main benefit of the match shirt according to the manufacturer is its cooling technology which is described on Nike’s site as “laser-cut side panels and engineered mesh add ventilation in major heat zones to help keep you cool.” Anybody wanting this extra benefit will need to pay an extra £30 (approximately $47.50).

This strategy has been condemned by several high profile figures, who, it would seem, regard it as exploitation of fandom. Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford described the pricing strategy as “disappointing” while Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton called it “appalling” and “taking the mickey”.  Former England striker Stan Collymore reacted even more vehemently, dubbing it “a rip off” and sarcastically suggesting they should not stop at two.

The new kits became a topic of much heated discussion on Collymore’s talkSPORT show and the overriding feeling was one of disgust. The need for two shirts was questioned, as was the pricing of children’s kits – £42 (approximately $66.55) for eight-15 year olds and £40 (approximately $63.38) for three to eight year olds  – and the fact that the previous home kit had only been worn in seven matches and the away kit twice was also called into question. Many also enquired about production costs and what the mark-up is, and although Nike has not released this information, it did confirm on Twitter that the “kits are made in audited factories in Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Bulgaria.”

In Nike’s defense, it did assume the right to supply the kit mid-cycle and the company has confirmed there will be no new kit before 2016. It remains to be seen though, whether initial discontent translates into poor sales, but if historic sales are anything to go by, it will be the success of the team in Brazil that is the deciding factor, not price.

To learn more about Nike, read our case study NIKE, Inc.: Building a diverse business.

For a detailed SWOT analysis of Nike, check out our company report.

For more on the relationship between business and sport, see our case study Sponsorship and sport: A marriage of convenience.

Posted in Apparel, Sports.

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