The 2011-12 season is coming to an end as we speak, with only seven Premier League games remaining for our beloved Newcastle United. One story - albeit somewhat trivial in nature - that has gone relatively unnoticed at this point is the kit situation for next season. Newcastle's contract with Puma is scheduled to run out at season's end, with no extension appearing to be planned in the near future.
One thing we do know is that Virgin Money will be sponsoring the kits with a logo over the world-famous black and white stripes, but what we don’t know is who will be manufacturing those striped shirts. Gone are the days when adidas was known to be our kit maker year in and year out – it appears now that Newcastle will join an array of different Premier League clubs with “kit uncertainty” from season-to-season moving forward.
It has been rumoured that one of Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct brands could be prepared to take on the role next season, as we already know Ashley likes to use the club as his personal space for free advertising. Still, the only brand of his that is known for having ever made a Premier League football kit is Lonsdale, who made Blackburn’s blue and white halves just a few seasons ago. Still, Lonsdale is hardly a brand synonymous with the football world.
A few years ago, Wigan had their shirts made by JJB, the namesake of their stadium at the time as well, and Ashley may potentially go to extremes and have a similar layout with Newcastle, having the shirts manufactured by the same sports store that sponsors the stadium – his Sports Direct. On the surface this may seem pointless, as Ashley wouldn’t be bringing in any new money to the club, as he would be paying for the production of the shirts, but the thought process would be that this would somehow create a dramatic increase in sales. Unlikely.
Beyond that, we can dream for a higher class brand, such as Nike, and I needn’t go into detail about the great shirts they have made for various club and national teams worldwide.
Personally, if Puma aren’t retained for 2012-13, I think Umbro will actually end up as the manufacturer. Sports Direct have previously owned a large proportion of Umbro, with their 2007 move to block Nike from taking over the brand, and this leads me to believe that Ashley could still have some ties with the brand.
Umbro are much more established than any of Ashley’s brands to actually manufacture football shirts, as they already make the all-important England kit. It would certainly be very interesting to see what they could conjure up given the freedom to give their take on the traditional black and white, and what we may see is something like an old Santos home shirt, maybe with the added elegance of elements from England’s simple home shirt from the last world cup.
Whoever ends up making the kit, I just hope its not someone embarassing like one of Sports Direct’s non-football related brands, and that a more long-term contract is hammered out this time round.