England’s technical supplier could be Nike as soon as next spring according to reports emerging in the last 24 hours. A deal is apparently about to be done to migrate Umbro’s England deal to Nike before rather than after the latter sells off the former, as reported here and elsewhere at the start of UEFA Euro 2012.
When Nike announced that it was to sell Umbro, it was clear that the option remained as to whether the England deal would be part of that sale or would be switched to Nike beforehand. Footy-Boots estimates a new away kit next spring and a new home kit next autumn. I’m unclear as to whether a change in technical supplier would actually require England to play in two Nike kits from the start.
This is not welcome news, in my opinion. It’s all down to sentiment, of course: Umbro and England are hand and glove, umbrella in cocktail. Umbro has historically been England’s supplier, save for a spell with Admiral 30-odd years ago. Umbro and England just fit. Having met several of the Umbro team I feel entirely confident as an England fan that this is a brand that is absolutely proud of its association with the national team.
The focus Umbro has on its relationship with England will be the big loss if the Nike switch goes ahead. It’s not essential to be an English brand to make kits for England, but in Umbro’s case over the years it’s certainly helped. I’m no nationalist, but I like that Umbro is England’s supplier. I like that adidas supplies Germany, and I like that Nike supplies the United States of America. Not every country can have a domestic supplier, but it gives me a warm feeling that we can, and we do.
Of course, the quality of the kits produced play a big part as well. Umbro has it all here, from brilliant classics to the smouldering simplicity of the latest home kit. The blend of classic tailoring, the heroing of white, the killing of blue and the inclusion of the latest material technology in a subtle way makes Umbro perfect for England.
The latest England kit is, in a word, stunning. I loved it when I was given a sneak preview, I love it now I’m wearing it as I write this post. In an ideal world there’d be no reason to change from Umbro to Nike, but we all know we don’t live in an ideal world.
In any case, it’s worth acknowledging that I’m hardly the voice of the people. SoccerBible did a rudimentary poll of its Twitter followers today and returned an emphatic verdict to the contrary. The SB audience isn’t exclusively English, however, and Nike’s global footprint is undoubtedly mightier than Umbro’s.
And just like that, times change and we all have to keep up. Nike has a difficult task here. England’s kits in the last five years have, by and large, been exceptional. Nike has put out some instant classics in the same time period, but in terms of understated kit cool, Umbro has changed the game. If this deal goes through as expected, Umbro will be a sad loss in the life of the England supporter.
The sponsorship of St George’s Park could yet be an even more fascinating transformation.
Here, I should reiterate my disclaimer: the views in this post are my own personal views and do not reflect those of my employer, or its clients. I do not work for Umbro.