Instead of looking for options to make leisurewear more affordable for struggling fans during the cost of living crisis, sportswear companies are working to become more elite, writes Laura Lawrence.
The season is over, we are now entering the weeks when the kits are “dropped” by clubs and countries.
The England women’s team kits were released last week ahead of Euro 22. The home kit is a simple white design with iridescent logos and a diamond design. A luxury look and feel with a luxury price to match. The stadium shirt, a replica version, will cost you £74.95 but a match shirt, the same as those worn by the players, will cost £114.95.
It’s not a new argument that replica kits are too expensive. Year after year we have the debate about whether clubs should go back to releasing new kits every two seasons. With the cheapest women’s England shirt now over the £70 mark, there needs to be some more serious discussion.
Instead of looking for affordable alternatives, kit makers are looking to partner with designer brands to make their leisure wear even more exclusive. It’s not a new concept. Stella McCartney has a long-standing relationship with Adidas, which teamed up with Arsenal Women to launch a high-end collection in March, but their latest collaboration is with Gucci.
Some might think it naïve to think that the cost of goods will not increase due to fuel, increased exports and supply chain costs. Everything goes up so why not football shirts? After all, people will always buy the kit regardless of the price. But as with match tickets, more fans are likely to buy if the prices are reasonable. Almost £75 for a basic shirt is not reasonable.
Instead of looking for options to make leisurewear more affordable, sportswear companies are striving to become more elite.
It’s not just the kit makers who are adamant supporters. Kit sellers are accused of fixing prices and acting like cartels. The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Rangers, JD Sports and Elite Sports breached competition law by conspiring to fix the price of certain Rangers clothing so they could “pocket more money”. ‘money for themselves at the expense of the fans’.
It is alleged they conspired to raise the cost of adult Rangers shirts in JD Sports by £5 per shirt to bring it in line with the Rangers club shop. The AMC added that Elite and JD Sports “agreed to set retail prices for Rangers-branded apparel” 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 the same year.
It will be interesting to see if the cost of living crisis will affect how these companies approach pricing when the Euros, the World Cup and the new season arrive. Their profit margins will be affected if fans physically cannot afford their prices. I can’t say I’m sad about it but, once again, it’s the fans who lose.
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