Instead of looking at options to make leisurewear more affordable for struggling supporters during the cost-of-living crisis, sportswear companies are working to become more elite, writes Laura Lawrence.
The season has ended we’re now into the weeks where kits are being ‘dropped’ by clubs and countries.
The England women’s team kits were released last week prior to Euro 22. The home kit is a simple white design with iridescent logos and diamond design. A luxurious look and feel with a luxury price tag to match. The stadium shirt, a replica version, will set you back a £74.95 but a match shirt, the same as the ones worn by the players, will cost £114.95.
It’s not a new argument that replica kits are too expensive. Year-on-year we have the debate as to whether clubs should go back to launching new kits every other season. With the cheapest women’s England shirt now over the £70 mark it needs to be a more serious discussion.
Instead of looking at affordable alternatives, kit manufacturers are looking to partner with designer brands to make their leisurewear even more exclusive. It’s not a new concept. Stella McCartney has had a long-standing design relationship with Adidas, who teamed up with Arsenal Women to release a high-end collection in March, but their latest collaboration is with Gucci.
Some might think it’s naive to think that the cost of goods won’t go up due to fuel, increased export, and supply chain costs. Everything is going up so why not football shirts? After all, people will still buy the kit regardless of the price. But like match tickets, more fans are likely to purchase if prices are reasonable. Almost £75 for a basic shirt is not reasonable.
Instead of looking at options to make leisurewear more affordable, sportswear companies are working to become more elite.
It’s not just the kit makers that are stiffing supporters. Kit sellers are being accused of price fixing and acting like cartels. The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Rangers, JD Sports, and Elite Sports broke competition law by conspiring to fix the price of certain Rangers clothing merchandise so they could “pocket more money for themselves at the expense of fans.”
It’s alleged they conspired to increase the cost of adult Rangers shirts in JD Sports by £5 per shirt to bring it into line with the Rangers club shop. The CMA added that Elite and JD Sports “colluded to fix the retail prices of Rangers-branded clothing” and kits between September 2018 and July 2019, aligning “the amount and timing of discounts towards the end of the season in 2019, to protect their profit margins at the expense of fans.” They said Rangers were involved between September 2018 and November of that year.
It will be interesting to see whether the cost-of-living crisis will affect how these companies approach pricing as the Euros, World Cup, and new season arrives. Their profit margins will be affected if fans physically cannot afford their prices. I can’t say I’m sad about that but, yet again, it’s supporters who are losing out.
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR