Umbro, the Manchester-based sportswear firm which provided the strips in which Manchester United won 18 trophies, is competing to wrest away the club’s kit contract from Nike, The Independent can reveal.
The firm has been rapidly revived since it was bought from Nike 15 months ago by Iconix Brand Group, the licensing company publicly traded on Nasdaq.
There are understood to have been three meetings between Umbro and United, in New York – where Iconix is based – and the latest two weeks ago at United’s commercial base in London. The breadth of Iconix’s global experience – with 30 licensed brands including Starter, which makes NBA products in the United States, and rapper Jay-Z’s Rocawear – is a factor that has made it attractive to United.
The tussle to win the contract, which will be awarded from the end of next season and is expected to net United more than £70m a year, reveals the intense commercial pulling power of the reigning Premier League champions, despite their on-field struggles. Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo is also in contention, as are Adidas, Warrior and Puma.
It was in Umbro kits that United won the 1968 European Cup, as well as the 1999 Treble, in a 40-year association which began with the 1955 First Division title success.
The Iconix deal has delivered new financial muscle to Umbro, which is 90 years old this year. The announcement last month of the deal to provide Everton’s kits from next season underlined the firm’s intention to rebuild the brand, after the five-year period under Nike ownership during which the contract to provide the England national team’s kit was lost.