On Sunday, the two major newspapers in Melbourne ran a story about Collingwood ditching long-term apparel supplier adidas to join forces with a local manufacturer who will make their guernseys and apparel in China. This will enable Collingwood to make more of a profit from sales all over the country.
I’m honestly surprised that this wasn’t a larger story. This is massive. No sporting organisation in the world the size of Collingwood has ever embarked on anything like this. All the major European clubs, such as Real Madrid and Manchester United, have stuck with traditional suppliers. Only some smaller clubs have ever attempted it.
In the 2008/09 season of English football’s League One, Walsall were in a similar partnership to the one Collingwood is about to enter in.
They made the switch from American manufacturer Nike. The kits were made by a local company called Mann Brothers but as it was a joint venture, Walsall’s mascot, a Swift, was put on the kit in place of the Mann Brothers logo. The next season they went back to having a normal supplier.
This news came in a massive week for the Collingwood Football Club. They announced their target of 150,000 paying members by the year 2018.
Gary Pert believed that this was possible due to a survey revealing they had around 1.5 million fans across the country.
If they were to reach the target, it would make them the biggest sporting club in the world, overtaking Turkey’s Fenerbache Sporting, most known for their association football team.
They also announced that they had received $10 million of federal government funding to go towards a new community centre, which would be part of the Westpac Centre redevelopment which is already underway.
That project would include an overhaul of the facilities inside the former Olympic swimming pool and an MCG-size oval next door on the old Olympic Park site.
This is a massive risk for Collingwood, possibly the biggest Eddie McGuire has taken on in his 14-year tenure as president.
They obviously want to cement their position as the greatest team in the land, but if the biggest football club in the world haven’t taken this on, why are Collingwood; who only sell apparel in Australia?
The latest major business risk that Collingwood took on was the famous pub-gate saga, which was under now-North Melbourne CEO Eugene Arocca.
They bought ‘The Beach Hotel’ in Sandringham and the Diamond Creek Tavern, which were very unsuccessful. In the end they had lost $4.5 million by the time they had sold the pubs in late 2008.
A smaller issue is about the quality of the apparel. Will it be as good as the current gear, which has the latest features? Collingwood currently makes their own polos to place in the membership packs and it’s fair to say that they certainly aren’t the best. Surely Collingwood would have some sort of designer in place to work out all these issues.
As a Collingwood member and supporter I hope this works. It was just a shame to see the 15-year partnership between Collingwood and Adidas go down the plug-hole.
The three black and white stripes suited both parties and Collingwood supporters loved to associate themselves with arguably the world’s largest sporting manufacturer.
However it is ventures like these that put Collingwood ahead. Personally, I believe the club should have experimented with the gear for their VFL side first, and I’m sure Adidas wouldn’t have minded that, but you can’t change the past.
Collingwood’s playing guernseys have always been made in Australia. Now they’ll be made offshore.
Many questions remain. Will Collingwood have the apparel under their own brand? Adidas wanted Collingwood to change to a black jumper, will they change back to white? Will the features remain? Will the quality be as good? The main one of course is will this venture be successful? And of course just like the others, we’ll just have to wait and find out.
Adidas will remain apparel suppliers to the Essendon Football Club and it is rumoured they will offer Hawthorn a lucrative five-year contract.