The start of a new soccer season in England is always a big deal for clubs and fans alike, but there are concerns that a lack of replica shirts will have an impact on kit-generated revenue. And while the players are unlikely to take to the pitch in last season’s shirts, some fans are still waiting for their teams to give them access to branded products.
According to the BBC, less than 50% of teams in the top four tiers of English soccer have both home and away shirts available for fans to purchase. Supply chain disruption is being cited as one of the reasons why clubs are struggling to maintain or even stock inventory at physical stores, but (at time of writing) only 44 out of the 92 clubs had replica kits available on their websites.
However, the global appeal of not only the English Premier League (EPL) but also the lower leagues – which fall under the umbrella of the English Football League (EFL) – means that fans might be waiting months for a replica shirt.
For example, an unnamed EFL executive told the news source that his club had given the green light for 2022/23 designs in October 2021, but production facilities in Asia were still being affected by the ongoing pandemic. The problem, he said, was that predicted cash flow from the sale of shirts was hard to manage when you don’t know when inventory will be available.
Soccer clubs rely on effective supply chains
If this seems like a first-world problem, then you need to take into account the level of revenue that replica kits generate for soccer teams.
A recent research report by Technavio predicted that the global football apparel market would grow by $2.62 billion between 2022 and 2025, with 55% of demand coming from Europe. Wearing your team’s shirt – either at a game or while watching on TV – is part of the fan experience and every club will be reluctant to tell supporters that they can’t buy a new shirt until midway through the season.
In addition, there is a consensus among shirt manufacturers that the start of a season is when most fans want to buy a new kit, with major brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma all keen to ensure that their designs are visible both before and during a campaign. And while the supply chain disruption is unlikely to adversely impact EPL clubs in the short term (with the exception of Crystal Palace and Leeds United, who reportedly have neither home or away available), it is the teams in the lower leagues who will suffer the most from a lack of inventory.
On the plus side, the English soccer season does run from late July until the middle of May, so there is plenty of time for fans to purchase shirts. Christmas is also a peak time for replica kit sales, and manufacturers will be hoping that the delays in production and shipping will be under control by then. If not, then the dedicated fan may have to watch games in last season’s (or older) kit. As long as their team is winning, then the shirt they wear is probably less important.