BY Matt Williams
It’s been little more than two weeks since the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League season came to its breathless conclusion, but already a number of clubs have shown that they aren’t hanging around when it comes to preparing for next year.
And we don’t just mean on the transfer-negotiating front. Indeed, it’s hard not to be bored already by the ‘will-he-wont-he’ saga of Eden Hazard, or the ‘China or a proper club’ question hanging over Didier Drogba.
No, where the real action has been happening so far has been away from the field, as clubs negotiate bigger and more eye-watering deals from kit manufacturers.
These deals may not be splashed all over the back page of The Sun in the same way that Hazard and co have been, but they are still hugely significant.
For a start, the figures we’re talking for kit manufacturers are like nothing ever seen before.
Liverpool will reportedly earn an annual £25 million from next season through a new six-year deal with the US sportswear company Warrior Sports – a sum that eclipses even the £23.5 million per year deal that Manchester United holds with Nike.
Tottenham Hotspur are another who are replacing their existing kit manufacturer with a US firm. Like Warrior, Under Armour are looking at kit manufacturing as a way of boosting its brand in the UK, and are reportedly paying as much as £10 million per season for the privilege.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa have agreed a deal with Macron to become the Italian brand’s kit partner for next season, while Everton and Sunderland are two more established Premier League clubs that have switched too - Everton moving from Le Coq Sportif to Nike and Sunderland going from Umbro to Adidas.
Heading into the Championship (well, they will be there from next season) kit aficionados will have also been interested to note that Bolton Wanderers have ended the longest kit partnership in British football history, ditching the Bolton-born brand Reebok (the club’s kit manufacturer for 22 years) in favour of Adidas.
Of course, many football fans won’t care a jot which brand’s logo appears on their team’s kit, as long as the shirt looks half-decent.
But as overseas companies like Warrior and Under Armour look to football as a way of making it big in the UK, the sums of money they’ll be willing to spend will only increase. And as with every other commercial aspect of the Premier League, clubs will have to work harder than ever to ensure that they don’t get left behind.