News this week that the European Commission has approved the £2.1 billion takeover of US sportswear giant Reebok by German rivals Adidas will renew speculation about changes to Liverpool FC’s current shirt deal. The merger, if it does go ahead, will create the second biggest firm of its kind in the world, behind Nike.
The move to merge the two brands was announced during the last transfer window, back in August, but even with the approval from the EC there is still a need for Reebok shareholders to similarly approve the move. US competition authorities have already approved the move.
A statement from the EC said: “Adidas is perceived as a professional, technically oriented brand with strong European roots. Reebok predominantly targets young people and women, is more a leisure brand and has a stronger presence in American sports that are not excessively popular in Europe. ” The green light was given because the commission felt that “the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.”
Ever since the August announcement there have been rumours about Liverpool FC being represented at some future stage by the Adidas brand rather than Reebok. The EC announcement underlines that European football teams are likely to be wearing Adidas rather than Reebok if the merger is completed. Liverpool’s current deal with Reebok was expected to be in place for some time – when the Reds launched the new Champions League kit in the autumn it was said it would be the kit used by Liverpool for European games for two seasons, but rumours before Christmas seemed to contradict this.
Despite earlier feelings that Liverpool would continue to wear Reebok until the shelf-life of the existing Reebok kits had come to an end, talk of Adidas starting to supply Liverpool started to be rumoured. The Liverpool home kits were due to change at the end of this season in any case, having been in use for two seasons, and away kits always change on an annual basis, with the previous away kit being "relegated" to a third-choice kit. As long as the Adidas-Reebok merger was completed before new kits had to be released then there was only the European kit to worry about, and so talk of a new kit deal started to emerge.
The stories claimed that Liverpool had gone one step further than waiting for the kits to "expire", and in addition were protecting their own interests by demanding a better deal if they were to change all their kit from Reebok to Adidas. A new deal had been agreed that Adidas would be the new brand name to appear on Reds shirts from season 2006-07 onwards, with the figure constantly bandied about for the deal as £130million. Whether this figure is true or not it’s likely to be dependent on success, but even so it’s not an insignificant amount.
If a deal has indeed been struck, there are still some considerations to take care of before an official announcement is made. For one thing there is still half a season of home and away kit sales to make, although prices are usually dropped before the end of the season, and the deal for the actual merger is still not fully completed.
This hasn’t stopped rumours, and pictures of the new kits have been widely circulated already. Believed to have come from a trade exhibition in the Far East, the pictures show both playing kit and training kit, along with some images of leisure items. If these are to be the new Liverpool kits, Liverpool of course retain the red shirt as their home kit, with yellow coming back again as the away kit.