RFU strike new kit deal with Canterbury
March 2, 2012
England will join Scotland in Canterbury's list of international clients © Getty Images
England are set to end a 15-year relationship with kit manufacturers Nike after signing a lucrative new deal with rivals Canterbury.
The Rugby Football Union described the four-year agreement, reportedly worth £5m a year, as "the largest kit partnership in the union's history" and it will see Canterbury supply all England national teams with playing and training wear from September this year.
RFU chief commercial officer Sophie Goldschmidt said: "We are delighted about this new partnership with Canterbury. The brand is recognised by players and fans alike and its heritage in rugby is unrivalled.
"The excellent quality of playing apparel Canterbury is famed for will also ensure the England teams have the best technical kit available to assist them on and off the pitch. This new exciting partnership will allow the Rugby Football Union to further invest in the game."
The deal is a major boost to the Canterbury business, that was started in New Zealand but now based in Stockport, and sees England join Scotland, South Africa and the USA among their international clients. They also currently supply kits for the likes of Premiership outfit London Wasps and RaboDirect PRO12 sides Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors and Leinster.
Just two and a half years ago Canterbury's European arm were rescued from administration by English leisurewear retailer JD Sports in a deal that also saw them acquire the global Canterbury brand. They also own the KooGaa brand that currently supplies Australia's kit.
Commenting on the deal, Canterbury chief executive Chris Stephenson said, "The partnership with the Rugby Football Union is the perfect combination of two brands steeped in rugby history that rugby fans know and respect. We are excited at the prospect of developing this relationship and enhancing the awareness of rugby to a wider audience with the aim of increasing participation levels.
"With over a century of experience in producing the highest quality playing apparel, designed specifically to maximise performance, we pride ourselves on producing the strongest, most technologically advanced kits available."
Nike, who spear-headed the development of tight-fitting rugby jerseys for the 2003 World Cup and had wanted to renew their deal with the RFU, remain the kit supplier for France and club sides including Premiership side Saracens and French giants Toulouse.
The RFU have been criticised in recent years for frequent kit changes and the use of red, purple, grey and black change kits. The all black kit was particularly controversial during last year's World Cup in New Zealand and England also received a warning from tournament organisers after some shirt numbers peeled off during the opening game against Argentina.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.