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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.
AGL has announced it has renewed its partnership with four-time A-League champions Melbourne Victory for another two years.
AGL General Manager Customer Channels Jane Morwick said AGL was proud to be Melbourne Victory’s Major Partner, extending a relationship that dates back to 2014.
“We had no hesitation in reaffirming our support for the Melbourne Victory, particularly given the success of the partnership,” Morwick said.
“We are also pleased to be able to continue to support the club during what we know has been a challenging year, given the COVID-19 pandemic.”
As part of a new two-year deal, AGL will remain the naming rights partner of the club’s Victory in Business networking functions as well as the Chairman’s Function on match-days.
“Our partnership with Australia’s biggest A-League club has been highly successful and we look forward to continuing our support of its network and its most passionate fan base,” Morwick said.
“Victory members will also continue to enjoy the benefits of this relationship through special energy offers for partners.”
Melbourne Victory CEO Trent Jacobs added that the club was thrilled to continue its relationship with AGL.
“To recommit to the club in the current environment speaks volumes of the leadership at AGL, and behalf of the entire football club we thank CEO Brett Redman and his staff for their ongoing loyalty and support,” Jacobs said.
“AGL has been a wonderful supporter of our strategic vision, both on and off the pitch, and have also provided our members and fans with genuine value through their products and services.”
In this age of uncertainty, Australian football faces great challenges to maintain prosperity in the professional sporting environment.
The decision makers would assure the football fraternity, the right decisions are being made by the people who are responsible for the governance of the game.
However, the history of the game is highlighted by the failure to provide former players the opportunity to contribute in their life after football.
Many of these players have succeeded in the business world but have never been sighted by the hierarchy.
In 1992, the former Socceroo great, Marshall Soper, commented the game was all about administrators, not players.
Two former players who have succeeded in the business world are former Sydney Olympic team-mates, Peter Katholos and Manny Spanoudakis.
Katholos commenced a business in the manufacture and supply of football equipment while still playing professionally, has applied his electronics background in telecommunications and pursued extensive property and development interests.
Spanoudakis’s specialty was in electronic engineering with Unisys and is now General Manager of Sales for global technology company, Cisco Systems, in the Asia Pacific region.
In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Katholos and Spanoudakis provide their insights into Australian football.
With the restart of the A- League, what are your views on the current state of the game?
Like all fans, I’ve missed the game and it wasn’t before time that the League was recommenced.
Ironically, the pandemic is an inflexion point for the stakeholders to reassess the existing status of the key areas of operational, technical and administrative procedures, and to implement necessary change.
The restart was critical because if the League wasn’t to be completed, it could’ve potentially led to its premature demise.
Some players and coaches haven’t returned and without a competition, there was no publicity and the League became a distant memory.
However, the game probably required a reset so it could come out stronger at the other end.
What was your opinion of the playing standard before the halt?
Watching overseas football with no crowds over the last few months has given me the opportunity to reflect and compare against the standard of the A League. Whilst the tempo, skill and intensity overseas is more advanced than the A League, turnover of possession and defensive frailties even at the most elite level are still there to be seen. That said, the standard of the A League still has significant scope for improvement in order to be compared with most European leagues.
There are a couple of good teams in the League but it’s far from exciting as there is an absence of creative players.
I watched Leeds United v Stoke City a few weeks ago in the English Championship and it was breathtaking.
It highlighted the speed, technique and intensity which is lacking in our game and the bottom line is broadcasters woudn’t be pulling out of A-League coverage ,and subscriptions wouldn’t have been declining so consistently in the last few seasons if the product was better.
What is your view on the XI Principles for the future of Australian football, recently released?
The document is voluminous so it’s better to consider the main points.
Point number 1 refers to the requirement for a strong brand and identity. I believe the Socceroos and Matildas already have a strong affinity with even the most casual sports fan across Australia. However, at the domestic level, promotion and marketing of the A League is almost non existant.
The awarding of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will certainly increase awareness of our sport across all demographics and we should look to leverage this great event to amplify the A League at every opportunity.
To improve the identity of the game, there has to be consistent marketing for the benefit of the sporting public.
People are aware we qualified for the last four World Cups which we should continually market to the masses.
Personally, I was pretty disturbed by the total lack of coverage when the A-League and NPL competitions ceased at the start of the Pandemic.
On that note, what are your thoughts about the viewing audience last Saturday for Central Coast v Perth of 9,000 compared to NRL of 804,000 and AFL 978,000.
Before their seasons recommenced, the other codes launched their publicity machines and people knew what was happening.
Honestly, I wasn’t aware that Sydney FC played Wellington in the first match of A- league until I saw the score the day after.
Also, I didn’t know about the Central Coast match so the message is, there has to be some money spent on promotion because I didn’t see any advertising for the A-League.
The figures don’t lie which suggests the A-League isn’t exactly capturing the imagination of the sporting public.
Point 3 of the Principles highlights payments in the transfer system.
Your thoughts about player transfer payments.
In order to stimulate the football economy, the most immediate focus should be for the establishment of a transfer system across all levels of football in Australia.
For example, I remember in 1989, Zlatko Arambasic was an up and coming striker playing for Canterbury Marrickville Olympic in the NSW Super League. Blacktown City was in the NSL and paid a $50,000 transfer fee to secure his services.
If NPL clubs can generate revenue from developing players, they can reinvest in better facilities and coaching which sustains the football economy.
We need a vibrant and sustainable development system so the NPL clubs can be rewarded via a transfer system which provides the resources for them to continue to churn out quality players for the A- League and the national teams.
Point 5 in the Principles refers to creating a world class environment for youth development.
Your take on this.
The whole youth development system needs to be revamped and a funding structure established.
In order to improve the end product, we need a 5-10 year plan which entails developing better youth coaches and investing more in player education.
Parent education also has a key role to play in assisting youth development because up to 80% of the player’s available time during the week is at home.
Consequently, nutrition, fitness levels and private practice of technique and drills have to be of the highest order.
Our major objective should be to develop better players who can boost attendances and bring more money into the game with the help of companies and the government.
In the 80’s, when I played at Sydney Olympic, our star local players attracted crowds of 10-15,000 without much promotion.
If you raise standards, more money will naturally flow into the game and also players can be sold overseas providing another substantial revenue stream.
There is a severe absence of past players involved in the game.
How can this change?
As a corporate manager, I believe you need football people in the key positions of financial, operations and marketing.
Historically, the CEO role was awarded to a non-football industry candidate but times have changed and James Johnson’s appointment was a positive one and quite timely.
The previous CEO’S had a lack of emotional connection to the game so at least giant strides have been made here.
There are enough football people and former players available to be involved in all areas of the game like in Europe.
When the FFA started, their executives didn’t know who we were.
The skill set of former players should be utilized in coaching, mentoring, marketing and administration.
I applaud the selection of the first eleven but the key issue is, some of these current and former players may have little business experience.
Undoubtedly, there are many former players who have succeeded in business and willing to make a contribution to the progress of the game.
Is the administration hanging its hat on the success of the Women’s World Cup bid?
This is a fantastic victory for the sport as it promotes gender equality and it should be an amazing tournament.
During the difficult times, a better good news story couldn’t have happened to the sport.
This was a real success after the failure of the Men’s World Cup bid and hopefully it will encourage a large commitment to building better infrastructure for the sport.
Frankly, I didn’t follow the women’s game closely until the Stajic saga prompted me to take interest.
However, I believe the players like our men, have to improve the technical side of their game if they’re going to be a threat in the tournament.
The Love NSW campaign will feature in LED and virtual signage across a majority of the remaining A-League games this season.
NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, believes the partnership will be a huge boost, in what has been a tough year.
“In what has been an incredibly challenging year, the NSW Government is proud to support the return of the Hyundai A-League and use this high-impact opportunity to help our state’s tourism industry to recover,” Mr Ayres said.
“This partnership is a fantastic opportunity for us to promote the unique experiences and attractions NSW has to offer local holidaymakers now and in the future through high-reaching broadcast and social media activity.”
“All travellers and businesses must follow the latest health advice to ensure all NSW adventures are COVID-safe.”
FFA CEO James Johnson thanked the minister and Destination NSW for their support.
“Over recent weeks, we have been working with the NSW Government at many levels, through their support and assistance in getting our Hyundai A-League teams to NSW, and on developing this integrated marketing partnership,” Johnson said.
“The fixture to complete the season will see Hyundai A-League matches played across five different NSW venues, in Sydney and in regional areas, and is therefore a great platform to showcase the state of NSW.”
Johnson continued: “COVID-19 has required sports rightsholders and marketers alike to be agile and look for creative partnerships that adapt to the constantly evolving circumstances our community is facing.
“The condensed nature of the restart to the Hyundai A-League season allows brands to capitalise on the unique media opportunity that our Festival of Football provides, especially for those looking to amplify targeted campaigns.
“We greatly appreciate the support of the NSW Government through Destination NSW for the remainder of the Hyundai A-League season and encourage our fans across the country and the world to #LoveNSW,” he concluded.