England’s World Cup performance may have been underwhelming, but the football industry in the UK continues to boom at an astronomical rate. With the upcoming Premier League campaign on the horizon, we are firmly in football shirt season. Just over a decade ago most Premier League clubs would keep their attire for two seasons, but now many bring out three new kits every year. Manchester United have just signed a massive £850m deal for adidas to take over as their next kit manufacturer.
Football shirts are an emotive issue as there is a perception that fans are owed the right to own their club’s shirt at an affordable rate. The outrage at the £90 England World Cup shirt (although this was the official match-day, technological shirt) was a prime example of the typical public reaction to an overpriced shirt.
But with sales still sky-high, there is no reason for clubs to offer their merchandise at any less than the going rate. Most football shirts retail at between £45 and £55. Chelsea are the most expensive of this year’s Premier League clubs; an adult long-sleeved shirt complete with competition patches, name and number along with shorts and socks costs a whopping £113.96. If an adult was to buy the three new Chelsea kits with the same features it would thus cost £341.88.
However, if one is to shop at Sports Direct they could save themselves £10 on every Chelsea shirt and £5 on the shorts. Mike Ashley’s discount store reported a 15 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to £239.5m in April 2014. With these discounts there is no wonder customers are opting for Sports Direct as opposed to the official stores.
Some clubs, notably West Ham, Tottenham and Everton, have chosen not to retail through Sports Direct, meaning supporters wanting a shirt have no choice but to pay the £50 (£49.99 in West Ham’s case) at which they are sold.
Regardless of Sports Direct’s ability to undercut, the price of football shirts are only on the rise. Real Madrid are reported to have recouped £3.25m of the transfer fee they paid for James Rodriguez in just one day on shirt sales alone – a figure which demonstrates what an incredibly lucrative and easy source of revenue these shirts are.
Football clubs are in the unique position of being businesses with incredibly loyal followers who will always find ways to purchase their goods.
A typical fan will moan about money taking over the game until the end of his life, but if a new signing nets a hat trick in a fierce derby, there’s little doubt his name will be slapped on the fan’s (and his son’s) back by the following Saturday. That’s yet another wad of cash which Ashley has scored in his back-pocket.