NIKE SELLS UMBRO SOCCER UNIT

Iconix Brand Group Inc. agreed to acquire Nike Inc.’s Umbro sports apparel and footwear unit for $225 million in cash.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, New York-based Iconix said in a statement. Nike bought Umbro, which was founded in 1924, in 2008 for about 302 million pounds ($483.7 million), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The sale is part of Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker’s push to focus on the business units with the most growth potential and profitability. Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, previously announced it’s also trying to sell its Cole Haan unit of dress-shoe stores.

Nike rose 0.1 percent to $92.89 at the close in New York. The shares have lost 3.6 percent this year.

The deal will end one of the many acquisitions that hasn’t panned out for the world’s largest maker of sporting goods. Nike has also bought and then sold the Starter apparel brand and Canstar Sports Inc., maker of Bauer hockey gear. The one bright spot has been Converse, which has flourished under Nike’s control.

Back in 2008, Umbro appeared to be a good fit because it gave Nike more customers in Europe as it tried to reach its goal of surpassing Adidas as the world’s largest soccer company.

Umbro also had a long-standing deal with the England national soccer team to supply its uniforms. In a statement announcing the deal, Parker touted the new relationship as a “dynamic alignment” that would make Nike the world leader in soccer.

Nike announced this morning it will sell its Umbro affiliate brand to Iconix Brand Group, Inc., for $225 million. The transaction is expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Nike announced May 31 it planned to sell Umbro, a soccer equipment brand, and dress shoe brand Cole Haan. The company said the sales were planned “to focus on driving growth in the Nike, Jordan, Converse and Hurley brands.”

“It is a difficult decision to divest any business,” Nike chief executive Mark Parker said in a statement, “but this action wil enable us to focus on our highest-potential growth opportunities.

“Umbro has a great heritage, but ultimately, as our category strategy has evolved, we believe Nike Football can serve the needs of footballers both on and off the pitch.”

Nike recently announced it had signed England’s national soccer team to a footwear and apparel deal. The announcement was curious as Umbro had been the team’s supplier for years and that partnership had been perceived as one of the selling points for Umbro.

“Umbro is a true, authentic football brand with a global loyal consumer fan base,” Neal Cole, chief executive of Iconix Brand Group said in a statement, “and we are thrilled to be adding it to our portfolio of iconic brands.

“Umbro is an exciting acquisition with more than 30 licensees in over 100 countries with a devout following. We look forward to working with our international partners to maintain and expand upon the rich heritage of Umbro.”

Nike announced Umbro’s purchase in October 2007 and completed it in 2008 for $582 million cash. The purchase was the first and only acquisition for Parker, named chief executive in January 2006.

Umbro’s revenue declined about 19 percent, from $224 million to $276 million, between 2006 and 2011 because of its lesser role in the competition between Nike and Adidas soccer brands, Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss wrote when the Umbro and Cole Haan sales plans were announced.

At that time, Nike said the sale of the brands was expected before the end of the company’s fiscal year, which is May 31, 2013.

Nike purchased Cole Haan in 1988 for $80 million plus the repayment of $15 million in debt for the New York-based company.

YOUTH SOCCER PLAYER SCORES HIGH FOR HAITI KIDS

A senior student at the Quigley Catholic High in Baden (PA), Caitlan Carney, has high hopes that her school service project primarily involving used youth soccer uniform and equipment will make a big difference among the needy kids in Haiti. Carney has been involved in similar undertakings since she was a fourth grader, and the idea on how to assist the Haitian youth came nearly as second nature to her. It also helped a lot that she was co-captain of Quigley girls’ soccer team and that her teammates were as enthusiastic on the project.

The eighteen-year-old Carney organized a collection drive on new and slightly used uniforms and equipment among her teammates on the Quigley girls’ soccer team. Her efforts bore fruit in an assortment of balls, shirts, shin guards, and soccer training paraphernalia worth over $1,000. These items were donated to GOALS (Global Outreach and Love of Soccer) Haiti, a non-profit organization that uses soccer as a medium to reach out to children in Leogane, Haiti. Through soccer, GOALS is able to extend not only education but also awareness about community service, health, and similar values to the children in Leogane and its surrounding areas.  Notably, Leogane was at the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake that ruined much of Haiti. Every month, GOALS, which is based in Sarasota, Florida, extends its services to more than 600 children.

Carney picked up on the activities of GOALS from the Internet. She was very pleased with her efforts which turned out to be her first international undertaking. What she really wanted for a school project was something that has to do with youth soccer and helping children. “Organizing it was a lot of hard work,” she said, “but worth the effort.”

What Carney accomplished was outstanding, according to Jolinda Hackett, GOALS program officer. It is rare for high school students to send them donations, she said. Most come from Boy and Girl Scouts and groups affiliated with universities, colleges, or the military, the GOALS officer added. Without having to buy soccer uniform, she said, her organization can reach even more children and families because of Carney’s donation. Patty Miller, who is in charge of Quigley Catholic High’s girls’ soccer coaching, gave credit to Carney for developing the idea. Some of the girls in the team, she said, were into soccer since they were four years of age, accumulating in the process a sizable collection of reusable team soccer uniforms and equipment.

VENEZUELAN FANS RIOT OVER PINK TEAM SOCCER UNIFORMS

Some soccer fans in Venezuela took football hooliganism to new levels of absurdity in a recent incident at the nation’s capital, Caracas. The incident involved followers of Venezuela’s first division team, the Deportivo Tachira, whose players donned pink team soccer uniforms instead of their traditional black and yellow kits in a match against Atletico Venezuela. The uniform switch was intended for a noble cause—promoting breast cancer awareness.

During the week leading up to their match, the Tachira team had already been actively promoting the cancer awareness theme for their game. The team’s Twitter account continuously plugged prior to the game the blurb “juntos por una noble causa” (together for a noble cause) as a promotional teaser. Free admission to women wearing pink was likewise given, except at the stadium’s lower level.

A core of Tachira followers, however, appears not as avid supporters of the Senos Ayuda Foundation, a non-profit cancer charity, whose cause their team espoused. Around 30 to 40 of the team’s fans rose from their seats upon seeing the Tachira players in pink team soccer uniforms, invaded the football field, and refused to leave. The riot police had to be called to contain the protesting fans who took to the pitch waving replicas of the regular black and yellow Tachira soccer uniforms, many of them chanting something about “defending their colors,” while others took to singing the Venezuelan national anthem.

The protest went on for more than thirty minutes and ended only after the players left the field. The match between Tachira and Atletico Venezuela was suspended, and the paying spectators were assured that their ticket purchases will be refunded.

This incident, silly as it may seem, demonstrate how football teams can move fans much beyond the urge to buy soccer uniform that identify them with their idolized athletes. What may have aggravated the fans’ violent reaction against the pink team soccer uniforms was Tachira’s lowly standing in the Apertura Venezuela tournament at the time of the incident. To these team followers, it could indeed be quite discomforting to watch their pink-clad Tachira eleven, seven-time champion in the local league, languishing in eleventh place in the tournament, notching two draws, four wins and as many losses.

Some sports observers likewise believe there are soccer fans who are prejudicial against pink uniforms because these football followers view the pink color as too soft and untouchable. There’s some credibility, therefore, to reported sentiment among fans in the NFL that the use of this color be limited. These instances can perhaps include pink-colored uniforms only for soccer training, exhibition games, or even junior soccer coaching, but not in regular tournaments where matches can be so bitterly fought that pink may be indeed anathema to the game.

NIKE SELLS UMBRO SOCCER UNIT

Nike Inc. is selling its Umbro sports apparel and footwear unit to Iconix Brand Group Inc. for $225 million. The deal, which was announced this October, is expected to be signed before the end of the year. Experienced purchasing officials of athletic gear for ball clubs who buy soccer uniform each season will certainly recognize Umbro as an iconic sports brand. Based in Manchester, England, it has a heritage that dates back to its foundation in 1924. Umro’s early successes included the football kits it tailored for Manchester when this legendary soccer team won the 1934 FA Cup. Umro also counts as a long-time supplier of the team soccer uniforms for England’s national team.

Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, is as iconic as Umbro, having earned its worldwide reputation initially from running gear and later to apparel and equipment for other sports disciplines including those for soccer training and soccer coaching. Nike acquired Umro in 2008 for about $500 million, a move that was described as a “dynamic alignment” that opened more markets in Europe for the American company and propelled its bid to surpass Adidas as the biggest manufacturer of soccer apparel and equipment in the world. The long-standing deal of Umbro as a supplier for England’s national soccer squad was another big plus for Nike.

However, Nike’s expectations on the U.K. soccer apparel maker didn’t pan out as Umbro’s sales revenue dropped by about 19 percent between 2006 and 2011. Business analysts attributed the decline to the diminished role Umbro had in the Nike–Adidas competition in the market for soccer uniforms, related football gear, and soccer equipment. The impending Umbro sale, according to Nike CEO Mark Parker, is part of his company’s initiatives to focus corporate efforts on businesses units having the optimum potential in growth and profit generation.

Earlier, Nike also announced its intention to divest of its interest in Cole Haan, its unit involved in the manufacturing and selling of dress shoes. Nike likewise acquired and then sold hockey gear maker Canstar Sports and the Starter apparel brand.

Parker said that while his company recognizes Umbro’s great heritage, Nike believes it can serve footballers both on and off the soccer field with its strategy shift to focus on pushing growth in its Nike, Converse, Jordan, and Hurley brands.  The Nike and Converse brands, notably, have some football gear in their respective product lines which too are popular for youth soccer and soccer training.

BAUER ACQUIRING INARIA SPORTS APPAREL FIRM

The hockey and lacrosse equipment firm Bauer Performance Sports Ltd. is expanding into the manufacture of soccer team uniforms and other sports apparel with its recent purchase of Inaria International. Bauer acquired Inaria, which is based in Toronto, Canada, for $7 million.

Inaria’s name is a takeoff from the Italian soccer phrase which means “in the area.” Inaria started doing business in 1999, focusing on soccer uniforms and related products and soon established itself as an increasingly popular soccer apparel brand. Besides team soccer uniforms, Inaria also specialized in the manufacturing and selling of soccer equipment and accessories, as well as basketball and hockey apparel.

As the firm eventually emerged as a market leader, it diversified its product line to include practice and pro-style jerseys, warm-up suits socks, and training apparel. Its products appeal to a wide range of consumers to include youth sports programs up to the elite-team level categories. Inaria’s lifestyle wear has also grown to become one of the company’s top-sellers. The company likewise has the capability to take any custom order, be it soccer training uniform or any specialized apparel requirement.

Bauer, on the other hand, makes and sells equipment for ice hockey, roller hockey, and lacrosse as well as related apparel sold under the Bauer Hockey, Maverik Lacrosse, and Mission Roller Hockey brands. The company said the Inaria deal will help Bauer’s business expansion. Notably, the co-founders of Inaria have signed employment agreements with Bauer, and they will remain with the company which will continue to provide outfitting services to team soccer and other sports.

Kevin Davis, president and chief executive of Bauer Performance Sports, said their purchase of Inaria provides an exciting opportunity. The company, in effect, will not only serve those who want to buy soccer uniform or lacrosse apparel. This acquisition will allow Bauer to penetrate and compete in the large and growing market for other sports uniforms, a capability that the company lacks previously, Davis noted. It will expand the core competencies of Bauer to include the design, development and manufacturing of uniforms, and turn the company into a one-stop-shop for its retail partners worldwide, he added.

In its purchase of Inaria, Bauer also acquired the expertise not only in developing competitively priced quality products but also Inaria’s capability for rapid turnaround time in product manufacturing. From Canada, Inaria’s initial reputation as a reliable supplier of soccer team uniforms has spread not only in terms of product offerings but also geographically throughout North America. A significant number of leagues for soccer, hockey, and basketball across the continent, in fact, have chosen Inaria as their official outfitter. Notably, Inaria is the official apparel supplier of the Festival of Football in Canada, a grassroots program on soccer training as well as soccer coaching that had its inaugurals just this August.

WHY WEAR SOCCER JERSEYS

A mere cursory look of at the viewership figures of the France-Italy finals in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Berlin would explain why there is such a huge demand for soccer jerseys. That finals match won by Italy via a penalty shootout was viewed by an estimated 715 million people around the world, according to FIFA. The huge number of soccer fans is also the reason why many major sports goods manufacturer practically jump at each other’s throat competing to become the official outfitters of popular national teams or ball clubs.

To the avid fans, however, everything that their favorite teams stand for is the team soccer uniforms. The legendary Argentine football player and who’s now into soccer coaching, Diego Maradona, put this dictum best in the football adage “give everything for the shirt.” Football followers often wear the colors of their favorite teams not only to proclaim support and loyalty. Many fans chose replica soccer jerseys with the numbers of the players that they idolize.

The most treasured of these team uniforms are those jerseys that many popular players throw to the spectators’ stands after their games. In many instances, too, these players auction off their team soccer uniforms for the benefit of one charity, cause, or another. The association of stellar soccer players with certain numbers was made stronger with the wide media coverage which football games have received. Consequently, sports apparel manufacturers picked up on the players’ individual popularity and increased their production and commercial selling of team soccer jerseys with specific numbers and, in many cases, also with autographs of the players.

Cheap imitations of team soccer uniforms–those that were not produced by the teams’ official outfitters–also flood the market. This is particularly so during the major international football competitions, like the World Cup, the Champions League in Europe, and the Copa America in South and Latin America. To the purists of soccer fans, however, there would be no substitute to having genuine items with such brands as Nike, Puma, Adidas, Diadora, Reebok, or Eurosport.

It was around the mid-1980s when the marketing trend of soccer players endorsing certain apparel brands began. This practice further gained momentum in the 1990s with the increased commercialism of soccer uniforms and the rising demand for replica shirts bearing the logos of major football clubs or national teams. Over the years, the materials used in soccer kits have also changed. Starting from cotton in the early years of the game, the favored materials now are lightweight fabrics such as nylon and polyester.

WARDING OFF SOCCER COACH ABUSE

Love affairs between a mentor and a student have always been a fertile source of contentious issues and scandals that any responsible parent should be wary of. Such forbidden relationships can develop not only in classroom situations. Interaction in school sports activities is just as full of opportunities for illicit romance between coach and student.

And maybe even more so, since engaging in soccer coaching, for instance, makes physical contact a norm between a male coach and a female student player. The coach will certainly find himself often up close and personal with his female wards in some figure-hugging soccer jerseys. A coach with a truly malicious intent can even ask his female players to change their team uniforms in front of him, at one pretext or another.

This was exactly the case brought up against the coach of Atlanta Fire United Soccer Club, Patrick Ahern. The 27-year-old coach was accused of statutory rape or engaging in sex with a minor–one of his female student players, a sixteen-year-old. However, he evaded conviction from the charge on technicality. In Georgia, where the incident happened, sixteen is the age is consent. Ahern was instead charged later with felony robbery in connection with the incident which allegedly happened in the girl’s bedroom.

One immediate take here is that parents must be vigilant about the team goings-on of their daughters involved in one sport or another. The incident about coach Ahern asking his female players to change soccer uniforms in front of him should have already rang alarm bells. At the very least, such practice should have been immediately called to the attention of the Atlanta Fire United soccer team management.

Kids in general also have to be taught how to recognize child predatory behavior, not only of coaches but other menacing adults. Besides the subtle soccer jersey changing which Ahern was fond of asking his girl players, there are many other indications by which to recognize that some form of child abuse may be brewing. Some predatory approaches may even be innocent, such as lavishing gifts and attention to a target girl player.

Hence, child safety experts suggest that a parent will have to be on the lookout if a coach is paying too much attention on their kids. Offers of special outings or private training sessions to a child player must be scrutinized and double-checked. Frequent communication such as SMS or texting or interaction via Facebook or other online social media network from a coach may also signal an impending threat of coach abuse.