US$4-million Umbro deal sparks Ricketts-led JFF

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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The Mike Ricketts-led Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is today basking in the spirit of triumph after scoring a US$4-million (about $500 million) kit deal with Umbro, the England-based sportswear and football equipment supplier.

The deal — to run over four years — marks the first major achievement of the new adminsintration, which is still getting its feet wet since taking office in September after Ricketts fended off the challenge of Ambassador Stewart Stephenson for the post of president.

Speaking from Panama City, where the signing took place on Thursday night, Ricketts was excited about the prospect of partnering with one of football's most recognisable brands.

“We think it's a pretty decent contract and we are very elated and excited about the potential of what this deal will bring to the football product. And as we are excited about this partnership, so is Umbro about partnering with us,” said the JFF boss.

“This deal is worth about US$1 million each year with the potential to earn more depending on our ability to maximise the incentives tied to performance, and so on,” Ricketts added.

The last kit deal with Dubai-based Romai Sportswear, a relative newcomer to the game, was worth US$4.8 million (approx J$670 million) over four years, but while the new arrangement with Umbro on the face of it may seem less lucrative, Ricketts begs to differ.

“First of all, Umbro is a more respected name in the sports good business, and particularly in football... they also have a long history and association with football over the globe,” he said.

“Also, we believe that we will have a better working relationship with Umbro because, through their regional distributors and partners based in Panama, we will be closer and will be able to quickly address any issues or turn up for meetings quickly, whether in Kingston or here in Panama,” Ricketts reasoned.

He said that the new deal, which was hammered out between Umbro's regional representatives Flex Pro and the JFF over the past few months, has wider benefits than that of the previous arrangement.

“The Romai deal did not include balls and football shoes, nor did it have a dimension where it will contribute directly to our top competition, which is the Premier League,” Ricketts explained.

Umbro has committed, the Jamaica Observer was told, to sponsor one player from each of the 12 Red Stripe Premier League clubs as part of build-out of the sunstantive agreements with the national programme.

The Romai deal, which started in 2015, came to a pre-mature closure by mutual consent recently.

Meanwhile, the JFF has revealed that an aggressive merchandising component of the deal will be pursued, a campaign to be led by JFF marketing manager Sophia Harris- Lau.

“There will definitely be an emphasis on merchandising and that is why we are boosting up the marketing department; and Sophia Harris-Lau is heading up that department and she will ensure that our merchandising thrust will be at an optimum,” said JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint.

“The mark-up on the gear is very good... our thinking is to have a store at the JFF and one each at both of our major international airports, and while Umbro's local dealer is Western Sports, we will be doing our own merchandising,” the chief administrator said from the signing ceremony in Panama on Thursday night.

Though no figure was offered, a signing bonus comes with the new deal, which is customary in these types of arrangements.

“We do have a signing bonus, and we will sit with our stakeholders and see how we proceed with that bonus,” said Wint.

Also, the JFF stands to earn substantial cash bonuses if the senior Reggae Boyz qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2022 World Cup slated for Qatar.

Ricketts, a Clarendon native, disclosed that with equipment and gear, there will be an annual incremental increase over the life of the contract.

In addition to football boots and balls, the 12 national teams will also receive training gear, socks, shin pads, slippers, jackets, hats, sweatsuits, shirts, shorts, “and all the rest”.

The JFF boss disclosed that as part of planned collaborations, a series of friendly matches between another Umbro-sponsored CONCACAF team, El Savador, and the Boyz is on the cards.

Ricketts said that an official launch of the new partnership will be held in Kingston after the Russia 2018 World Cup, and Umbro's top UK-based officials are expected to attend.

“We're very pleased to have added the Jamaican national team to our roster of clubs around the world. The team has a unique culture that fits perfectly with Umbro's values and, combined with our unparalleled kit design and footballing insight, should make a fantastic partnership,” Umbro Managing Director Anthony Little was quoted as saying.

The signing on Thursday night was also attended by JFF executive Bruce Gaynor and Director of Marketing and Business Development Harris-Lau, while Flex Pro director Alberto Bassan signed on behalf of Umbro.

“We have been in tremendous negotiations and we are able to reach a most generous and important deal. Umbro, a British brand, in essence, will be able to bear its name on the JFF kit and it's a real honour for us,” said Bassan.

It is widely expected that Jamaican teams will begin to sport the Umbro branded gear and equipment next year.

Umbro, a part of the Nike Iconex group, outfits the national teams of Peru and Serbia, both of whom have booked their spots to next summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia. They also outfit CONCACAF's Canada and Guatemala.

At the club level, Umbro has associations with English Premier League clubs AFC Bournemouth, Everton FC, West Ham United, and PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands, among many other clubs across the globe.

— Sean Williams

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