A kit for Christmas – good for the club but bad for the environment

Many of you might have unwrapped one of Manchester United‘s kits for this season on Christmas day and are probably overjoyed with this gift. Although you are happy with your present, so are United and Adidas as it fills their pockets, the new shirt on your back has big impacts on the planet.

Environmental impacts of new United top

The fashion industry contributes to 10% of the total CO2 emissions in the world and is the second largest consumer of the Earth’s water supply. This is because of the planning stages that all items of clothing go through, plus the methods of mass production and materials that are used.

This season’s United tops are made from recycled polyester, which is better than its un-recycled counterpart but is still potentially harmful to the environment.

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The recycled polyester used in United’s shirts is made from existing plastics like recycled bottles. This is one of the few positives for this material but there are more environmentally friendly options, like cotton, available.

The negatives for recycled polyester are: like normal polyester it takes several years for recycled polyester to decompose leading to landfill, whereas, cotton decomposes in a few months. As polyesters breakdown micro plastics can enter the waterways, meaning that these plastics can get into ecosystems and into the food chain, leading back to us.

The financial side of football kits

The latest kits also pack a punch financially with the replica kits costing around £50 and authentic shirts being £100+. This eyewatering price tag has lead Premier League new boys Brentford to wear the same home strip for next season as they don’t want their fans to feel pressured to stay up to date alongside the money struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2014, Manchester United and Adidas signed a ten year deal worth £750 million for the German sports brand to be the kit provider for the club from 2015 till 2025. This annual amount of money, alongside other sponsorship deals, allows the Red Devils to afford marquee signings like Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt sales paid for his transfer fee from Juventus of £12.9 million (not including add-ons) by breaking the Premier League’s record as the fastest selling shirt, generating £187.1 million for Adidas, and earning United £13.1 million in commission according to LovetheSales.com.

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LovetheSales also reported that the search for ‘Ronaldo 7 shirt’ increased 600%, compared to last season, after the club announced his official number. This heightened demand led to a 62% increase year-on-year of Manchester United shirt sales and meant that United’s home kit is the most sold in the Premier League this season.

It’s a Catch-22 situation

A new set of kits every season puts the club and the United fans in a tricky situation every year. Manchester United relies on the sponsorship deals from Adidas and other companies to stay in the top of the Premier League, but only gain these deals from fans buying the shirts.

Fans want the new shirts, with the new superstar names, but with that comes grave environmental consequences. The financial setbacks because of the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to the model used by Brentford becoming the norm in the Premier League.

However, the big clubs, like United, might be opposed to this due to the amount of revenue new kits bring in every year. But what is more important, money or the health of the planet?

1 thought on “A kit for Christmas – good for the club but bad for the environment”

  1. Good read. I like that Brentford are using the same kit for another season. I remember this used to be quite normal decades ago, but commercialism was always going to win. A 2 season shirt could be a good thing for fans and the environment.

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