Most football fans of a certain vintage recoil at the sight of youngsters in cities from Bradford to Brisbane donning replica Manchester United shirts.
It’s a reaction induced by two elements of subconscious thought: the fan’s long-standing attitude towards Man U and his generally resigned, world-weary acceptance that the youngsters have somehow fallen prey to a combination of overt marketing and relentless TV exposure to Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
Of course, we could just as easily be discussing replica Liverpool, Arsenal or Barcelona shirts: the reaction would no doubt be similar. That a cheap strip of gaudily-coloured polyester can prompt such a response.
It may come as a surprise to learn that, according to a report published earlier this week by the German sports marketing company Sport+Markt, replica Premier League shirts are, on average, the cheapest of any of Europe’s top five domestic leagues.
The firm found the most expensive, short-sleeved, XL-sized replica football shirts were those sold by Italy’s Serie A clubs, yours for just €71.40, while the average cost of the same-sized shirt in Premier League colours was a snip at €49.80.
Less surprising was the report’s finding that of Europe’s top-six-selling replica shirts, three were English (Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal), two were Spanish (Real Madrid and Barcelona), with Inter Milan making up the half-dozen.
The 2012 European Football Kit Supplier Report showed that, on average, England’s top-flight clubs each generated revenues of €5.5 million from kit deals in the current financial year, compared to an average of €3.3 million across Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues.
In total, Premier League clubs will sell four million replica shirts this year, almost double that of the German Bundesliga.
According to Andrew Walsh, head of international affairs at Sport+Markt, Premier League kit deals offer significant commercial benefits to club and manufacturers alike.
“The global reach of the English Premier League makes it a very attractive prospect for the world’s top sports merchandise manufacturers and, in turn, kit contracts are becoming a more (valuable) source of income for the clubs.
“It’s not about how many shirts you can sell, but generating brand interest and loyalty and taking advantage of media exposure. Refinancing is also a major aspect – beyond simply supplying equipment, brands are looking to expand licensing agreements with the top clubs across the merchandising spectrum.”
Sport+Markt believes the growth trend that has allowed the kit supply market to grow by 48 per cent in Europe’s top leagues since 2005 is set to continue.
However, Walsh also points out that more emerging manufacturers are entering the market, ready to take on established giants adidas and Nike.
“There are now 28 different equipment brands active in Europe’s big five leagues,” he continues, “You only have to look at the scale of Liverpool’s new deal with Warrior Sports, which kicks in next season, to gain an impression of where the market is going.”
Overall, adidas and Nike account for 44 per cent of the total €330 million spent by equipment manufacturers to secure rights for clubs from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and France’s Ligue 1 this season alone.
For this duo to maintain their hegemony, that figure will have to increase in order to fend off newcomers intent on breaking into an extremely lucrative market.
Yet the six-year, £25 million kit supply contract between US manufacturer Warrior Sports, owned by New Balance, and Liverpool will be closely watched as there is a sense the company has paid top dollar for a non-performance-related deal.