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Iconic football brand Umbro keen to work with domestic clubs in Australia

Umbro has been a kit and equipment manufacturer in global football for near on a century. The iconic band was birthed in Manchester in 1924, originally focusing on playing strips alone.

The company’s designs made their English debut on the backs of the Manchester United and Portsmouth teams that competed in the 1934 FA Cup Final. Umbro grew substantially throughout the 1930’ and 40’s, with multiple teams donning the brand and it was soon manufacturing the footballs that became the official choice of the English FA.

By the 50’s, Umbro was supplying kit to the British Olympic Team, branching out into tennis fashion and birthing the beginnings of what was to become a billion dollar industry. By the end of that decade, young football fans were able to purchase exact replicas of the product their stars wore each and every weekend on the pitch.

Brazil became FIFA World Cup Champions wearing Umbro’s product in 1958 and England did the same in their triumph of 1966. Only the USSR wore apparel made outside the Umbro manufacturing base in Manchester during that tournament. At that time, an estimated 85% of domestic English clubs were using or contracted to the brand.

After a decade of disassociation with the English National team through the late 70’s and early 80’s, a new deal was struck in 1984. With a host of championship winning clubs all around the world such as Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax wearing Umbro branded kit and an explosion of corporate involvement about to occur in world football, the brand made a bold move into footwear.

Since, it has been passed from the hands of the sons of the original owners, to global giant Nike and now rests with Iconix Brand Group after a US$225 million sale in 2012.

As it stands, one of the oldest and most visually recognisable football brands maintains a firm and consistent face in the game. Umbro is an official partner of the Confederation of African Football, Coupe de la Ligue, 12 national teams spanning four continents and over 100 professional clubs around the globe.

Over 60 individual athletes also enjoy the support of the equipment and footwear giant and its presence on Australian soil is something they hope to expand. The Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar and the Melbourne Knights wear the brand. As do Japanese giants Gamba Osaka, FC Tokyo and Al-Ahli SC in the broader Asian region.

Umbro returned to the Australian market in 2014 forging partnerships and connections and a prime opportunity now exists for Australian clubs to reconnect with the global leader.

With the support of the Pro Football Group, Umbro kit returned on the backs of the Brisbane Roar before Central Coast and Melbourne also saw the benefits. The business model allows for something of a one-stop shop for professional and grassroots clubs, as well as refereeing  associations and futsal centres across the country.

The opportunity to meet and custom design team wear to create something far more impressive than off the shelf kit is something of which Umbro is keen to make the Australian football scene well aware. An obvious benefit to players is the significant discount available on boots and equipment purchased through Pro Football Group.

Considering the ever-increasing costs involved in junior football across the nation, the potential savings would no doubt be appreciated by parents and clubs alike.

There are still some sponsorship opportunities available for clubs wanting to align with Umbro for the 2020 season, however with the clock running fast, clubs would have to make contact briskly if they wished to forge a new relationship and enjoy the undoubted benefits.

Enquiries can be sent to simon@profootballgroup.com.au

SA Premier Steven Marshall to offer football clubs bushfire relief grant

Football clubs in South Australia that have been affected by the recent bushfires will be able to apply for a special grant.

The State Government led by Premier Steven Marshall, will provide recovery assistance to South Australian communities that have been ravaged by the catastrophic bushfires.

Grants of up to $10,000 will be available for sporting clubs in need, to help the rebuilding process.

These payments will be available immediately and can be used for initiatives such as replacing destroyed equipment.

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Corey Wingard claimed the grants are a vital source of help to organisations faced with the challenging task of cleaning up and rebuilding.

“These fires have been devastating for so many communities with lives, homes and livestock tragically lost,” the Minister said.

“Community facilities have also been affected with damage feared at up to 20 sporting clubs following both the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island fires.

In many communities across the State, these clubs play a much larger role than simply facilitating sporting events.

As a government we want to do everything we can to support these communities to help with the rebuilding process.

It will take time but we are committed to ensuring the process is as smooth and pain-free as possible and we are focused on making sure these sporting clubs can get back on their feet and continue to serve their broader communities.”

Any sporting association affected by the recent fires can apply for the grant at https://ORSR.smartygrants.com.au/Bushfire or call 1300 714 990.

Norwich City FC – The Canaries continue to fly off the field

Norwich City currently sit at the bottom of the English Premier League table after winning only three games this season. Whilst their team hasn’t particularly impressed on the park in the world’s most popular league, a change in ideas off-the park well over a year ago is being associated with their rise back to the top division of English Football.

Adopting a shared leadership management structure, three people were left in charge of making decisions at the top table. Chief Operating Officer Ben Kensell believes this type of approach has encouraged innovation throughout the club when it came to dealing with the industry, the fans, the community and its staff.

“There is Stuart Webber, who deals with the footballing side, myself handling the non-football sides of the business, such as all commercial areas, finance, operations and Zoe Ward who is very much the glue in between the two areas driving behaviours and culture on both sites whilst managing support services such as Legal, HR and our fantastic community work,” he told FC Business.

“We are all experts in our fields but we communicate and run the business as a three and as a collective and that means you can be across everything and we can focus key objectives across all areas to really drive results and what’s best for the club as a whole.”

Owners Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones are adamant the club must look after itself financially, which brings about an element of self-pride according to Kensell.

“We are immensely proud to be a self-financed club, as are our fans,” he claimed.

“Delia & Michael lead by example and they are brilliant owners of this great club, we do it our way and we want to be the best we can be in everything we do. Being self-financed certainly sharpens your focus. We know how much responsibility we have to get it right and that means we take responsibility for every bit of the detail because your margins for error are very small. Our attention to detail for each other’s business needs comes from the knowledge we have little wiggle room and we have to get things right. Across all areas of the club we look for continuous improvement and from top down we are all hungry and committed to be the best we can be for Norwich City and its fans.”

But the structure seems to be providing the club with several commercial benefits, aside from the clear achievement of reaching the English Premier League.

“Our commercial revenue in partnerships has doubled. Our club-controlled income of £33 million plus has grown and we have seen good growth in retail and memberships after overhauling previous structures and we are sold out home and away for the majority of our games thanks to the phenomenal support of the fans. We are maximising every opportunity we have to work in an innovative way with partners and its certainly paying off.

“We have made a seven-figure investment in our new training facility and secured a lucrative long-term sponsorship with Lotus cars taking the naming rights of the training centre and academy. That’s on top of money that the Norwich City fans themselves have invested through the Canary bond, which we facilitated.

“We have improved fan experiences around the ground and in the city centre with our new Fan Hub. And in all that time we have worked to make sure Stuart [Webber] and Daniel [Farke] have the budget they need and the player development structure they desire to take this club forward on the pitch.”

Whilst various changes have been made it is still extremely important to communicate efficiently with fans, to get them back onside. This was a core focus for Ben, Zoe and Stuart once the executive committee was created at Norwich.

“We have firm short, medium and long-term plans in place whatever happens on the pitch. We are in a financially sound position but just as important is that our fans and everyone in our community understand the decisions we are making and buy into it.

“That’s why we work hard on our fan engagement and broader communication. We try to involve the fans through clear and concise communication in every stage of our thinking about the future of this club, we want them to feel very much part of the plan and proud of doing it the Norwich City way. Sometimes people are not going to like what we plan to do, but we make sure they understand our reasons for that.”

Ben adds: “You rarely hear a Norwich fan call for us to get the cheque book out to make a big-money signing. That’s because they have bought into our sustainable plan of being self-financed. They know through previous experiences that breaking the bank can lead to tough times for the club they love and equally, they know from what we tell them we are not willing to play that lottery again, either. We are investing in the stadium and training ground because then we will have something to show for the monies the Premier League brings but we know it’s a balance in everything we do as we want to remain competitive.

“They also know we are spending money on the club infrastructure, whether that be improvements at Carrow Road or on fan engagement zones – it is clear what we are doing.”

As the Premier League does attract a global audience, Norwich have profited through deals with the Tampa Bay tourism board and Philippines-based Dafabet. However, the club promises to stick to their roots and do things the Norwich way.

“We have to build our commercial expansion plans carefully to ensure we stay true to our club values and ways of doing things. We are making a name for ourselves by doing things differently, we are growing and have impressive numbers to show from a club-controlled income perspective compared to our peer group clubs, but we can, and will, continue to grow whilst never losing sight of our doing it our way.”

A new Canaries Fan Hub in the centre of the city has recently opened, with fellow English Premier League sides interested in the development. Kensell is extremely satisfied with the progress of it so far as it promotes the club’s identity further, as well as being commercially rewarding.

“It’s been a massive success and a real game changer for us; you can purchase everything there from retail to tickets to special events. It’s a true one stop shop but more importantly is that it has loads of fans and kids just coming in and playing on our penalty shoot-out simulator or going on the iPads or taking part in some of the cool experiences within the Hub.

“People come in to just watch the exclusive content whether it be interviews, highlights of the game, training across our giant screen or playing on the PlayStations. We have seen turnover rocket since it was launched in August and I am delighted with the performance of it in every aspect.”

With room for growth and plans to expand Carrow Road on the agenda, Norwich City FC are in a good place to continue to thrive.

State Federations unite together for bushfire relief

A number of state football federations in Australia have expressed their support for those affected by bushfires across the summer.

Football Victoria, Football NSW, Football Queensland and Football South Australia have already released statements and will roll out initiatives to help contribute their donations to the cause.

Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos has kickstarted the campaign by donating $10,000 to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

It has also been confirmed that the annual Community Shield matches and Round 1 of the NPL Victoria Men’s season (February 13th-16th 2020) will be a Bushfire Relief Appeal round.

Both Community Shield games will take place at City Vista Reserve, the new home of Caroline Springs George Cross FC.

In the men’s match, 2019 Dockerty Cup holders Hume City FC will take on 2019 NPL Victoria Champions Bentleigh Greens SC on Saturday, February 8, 2020, from 5pm.

The women’s match will see 2019 Nike F.C. Cup winners Calder United FC face NPLW Victoria Runners-Up FC Bulleen Lions on the weekend of March 15, 2020 (exact match date and time TBD).

In a statement by Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge, the entire federation have expressed their sympathy for the people who have been caught up in the bushfires that have shocked everyone here and around the world, while thanking all the brave firefighters and emergency workers for the selfless role of protecting affected towns and communities.

Football NSW have said they are working with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and other Member Associations and Clubs about how to unite and add to the massive fundraising efforts already on display.

So far, Football NSW have confirmed they will make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal and also dedicate Round 1 of the NPL NSW competitions as a Bushfire Relief Round.

Football Queensland have committed to the bushfire appeal by working closely with Football Federation Australia (FFA), Brisbane Roar, regional zones and clubs.

CEO Robert Cavallucci has been involved in engaging the football community through fundraising initiatives and kick-started this with a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal.

Not only will Round 1 of the NPL Queensland men’s season be dedicated as a Bushfire Appeal Round, but two special charity matches will also take place.

The first is a charity match between Brisbane Roar Legends vs an NPL Queensland Select Team and Celebrity VIP’s. It will be played before the Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix A-League match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday January 18, 2020.

The second of the charity matches will be The Football Foundation Cup, FQ’s curtain-raiser to the NPL Men’s season. NPL Queensland Premiers Lions FC will take on FQPL Premiers Sunshine Coast Wanderers on Saturday February 1, 2020 at Lions FC.

In a statement by Football South Australia, they have also given their support during this tough time, with more details to be released from them soon.

“Football SA is deeply saddened by the tragedies, losses and suffering that have resulted from bushfires in South Australia and around the nation.

We want to support the community at this time and will provide details in the coming days.

Our thoughts are with all people affected by the devastating events.”

In addition to these vital initiatives, FFA will dedicate the upcoming two rounds of Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League to raise funds for those impacted by the disasters.

If you have been affected by the bushfires and need support, please reach out to Lifeline.

Support is available 24/7 on 13 11 14, or nightly via Lifeline Text.

Lifeline Text is available 6pm – midnight (AEDT) on 0477 13 11 14.

You are not alone. Bushfire Relief tool kits are also available at lifeline.org.au

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