We’re now into the second week of English Premier League action. The last two Saturdays, I’ve been up at 7am to watch my chosen favourites Norwich City. What can I say; sports is my religion, and this is my flagellation. I knew going into the season that Norwich would be sporting new kits , but I hadn’t yet seen them in action. Holy cow, are those nice shirts! While watching the Canaries play a superior Everton side to a 2-2 draw on opening day, I couldn’t help but look up how much one of those bad boys would cost. Holy cow, are those cheap shirts (by sports jersey standards)! As a Whitecaps fan, I’ve come to expect that the bland shirts my club wears will cost the customer well upwards of $100. Imagine my surprise when I found that I could get a shirt from my favourite premier league side for only £45. (Yeah, yeah, I’ll do the math for you. That’s $73.80 CDN.) What’s up, Adidas?
The first thing that occurred to me was that the shirt is from a different manufacturer. The Premier League, like every other league in the world but MLS, allows teams to source their own jerseys. There are presently seven manufacturers represented in MLS, and Norwich uses Italy-based Errea. For an apples-to-apples comparison, we should look only at the Adidas kits. Here they are:
Hull City: £39.99
Stoke City: £45.00
Swansea City: £45.00
West Bromwich Albion: £44.99
West Ham United: £49.99
So your average fan of a Premier League team with Adidas kits can expect to spend £45.78 on a kit. At current exchange rate of 1.64, that’s $75.08. Those prices are for short-sleeve home jerseys, with no additional options, before tax. That means you don’t get the Premier League patch on some jerseys. In going through the various team stores, I did not see options for more than one variety of kit. MLS teams offer both authentic and replica jerseys. The replica is made of a lower-quality material and comes without the flag patch on the arm. It is unclear to me whether EPL teams are selling authentic or replica jerseys, but the difference in price is striking either way. A Whitecaps replica shirt will set you back $99.99. That’s 33% more than the Adidas EPL average. For an authentic MLS kit, you get to pay a $20 premium. $119.99. 60% more than a Chelsea fan would pay.
The difference is not limited to jerseys, either. Polo shirts from Stoke City top out at £26, or around $43. From Vancouver, the cheapest is $63. West Ham hoodies top out at $65, while I can’t find a Whitecaps hoody for less than $75. Hull City’s most expensive t-shirt is $24.60, more than $5 less costly than Vancouver’s cheapest.
I will be interested to see if MLS, Adidas or any of the teams will offer any comment on the ridiculously inflated prices MLS fans are paying. Is Adidas trying to recoup some of the money that they put in to MLS in the form of program sponsorships (Generation Adidas, for example)? If so, they would be better served lowering prices and getting more people to wear their products. Is there some sort of extra cost associated with manufacturing for North America? If so, what, and what are they doing to overcome it?