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Report: Nike, Manchester United to split, as Southampton goes in-house

Jul 8, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT

Southampton home shirt

It turns out there’s truth to the rumor that Nike’s relationship with Manchester United will be no more.

Reuters has issued a report that, according to sources, the American sportswear giant is stepping away from its longstanding status as kit-supplier to the Red Devils over what it considers an imprudent cost of doing business.

And to be fair, United came close to doubling its asking price.

From the report:

“Clearly Nike’s football business is booming and they could easily afford to do this (deal). They had the right to match any other offer but looking at the deal on the table, they will walk away as it doesn’t make commercial sense,” the source said.

United got around 38 million pounds ($64.7 million) from the Nike deal in 2012-13, including its share of profit from the sale of merchandise around the world.

Media reports had suggested the club was looking for a new deal worth around 60 million pounds per season.

Everything has its breaking point, and a doubled-cost is apparently Nike’s line in the sand (thought Nike unveiled its latest Manchester United shirts earlier this month).

It will be interesting to see how this affects the fee for other clubs and their apparel providers, as the move is likely less about Manchester United and more about the cost of doing business with massive clubs as a whole. There’s no doubt this story will be discussed in board rooms from Barcelona to Rome and beyond.

And as Southampton moved its shirt production in house — and, gasp, they still look fine — could the industry be seeing teams playing a bit of hardball? The Saints deal seems to be more about a disagreement in turnaround time with adidas, but surely eyes will also be watching whether there’s shirt success at St. Mary’s despite a lack of manufacturer branding on the kit.

It wouldn’t bother me one bit if I were a Saints fan, but I’m not one for caring about a shirt brand. Would it stop you from buying a shirt? Perhaps more importantly in the branding world, who absorbs the criticism if the fans don’t like a shirt? In Southampton’s case, there’s little to worry about: Fans have been clamoring for the return of vertical stripes for two seasons, so this is a wise risk from the Saints.

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