Nike have been slammed for failing to roll out enough France football team shirts with two stars after the last World Cup and the president of the country’s football federation has blamed a “slow boat” for the delay.
According to French media, eight months after the World Cup, it is still “complicated” for fans to get their hands on Les Bleus’ colours with that extra star, which represents their second World Cup victory.
An investigation by L’Equipe reveals that the French Football Federation (FFF) is embarrassed about being too harsh on Nike, because they do a considerable amount of business with the American sportswear giants.
After fans were told a few months ago that the elusive two-star shirts would be in stores by Christmas, they were reportedly left disappointed once again with most allegedly still waiting for supply to catch up with demand.
Regarding their apparently non-existent stocks of the sought-after piece of memorabilia, L’Equipe were told by a member of staff at the FFF shop on Avenue de Grenelle in Paris: “I told fans to ask Nike, it’s normal, they are the manufacturers. But some clients still tell me that Nike sends them back to us.”
According to local media, Noel Le Graet, the President of the FFF, was already saying in October: “It is annoying. We could have sold 300,000 since the summer. We do not understand why they are so late.”
And in December, he is reported as saying: “I would have preferred having shirts everywhere for the Christmas period, but it won’t be amazing. It is embarrassing when you think of all the kids who wanted to have them as Christmas presents.”
At first, it was assumed that Nike was building up demand and anticipation for the product. L’Equipe report speaking with a “former Nike Europe executive” who said: “That’s also what I told myself. For me, they were building up demand before they were going to satisfy it. Because I could not imagine anything else.
“Nike know what they are doing. I do not understand what happened. Normally, after the final whistle, there’s a guy who should have pressed the button to start the process. For all I know, it’s as stupid as that, there is a guy who forgot to press the button!”
The situation is reportedly causing tension between Nike Europe and its American headquarters.
A Nike executive is quoted as having told L’Equipe: “We obviously asked what had happened but no answer. But there must have been a problem because there were not even shirts at the employee store!”
Normally, the brand’s teams reportedly hang on to around 300 shirts.
The French report says that even at the FFF they reportedly had to stitch on a second star themselves so that the families of partners could have two-star shirts.
The FFF are quoted as having said that they have only sold 200,000 shirts since the Bleus’ victory in Moscow. The FFF explained their incredulity, saying: “Our contract with Nike is one of the biggest ever signed with a federation, to my knowledge.
“And the numbers even before the World Cup indicated what it could be like after. Finally, this increases the chances of counterfeiting, legal actions to fight against it, thereby increasing the shortfall.”
According to experts, the potential was enormous, with about 1.5 million Bleus shirts that could have been sold in France alone over the last year.
In comparison to the meagre 200,000 units sold so far, Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer told local media four years ago: “In total, we have sold more than three million shirts.”
L’Equipe report that a manager in the Nike Store on the Champs-Elysees, who had promised “a big arrival any day now” with Les Bleus playing their first matches of 2019, apologised, saying: “France’s victory had not been anticipated. And the manufacturing process takes a long time.
Last autumn, Le Graet said: “It is taking a long time because their factories deliver all over the world and probably orders had already been placed before ours. Still, we should have been given priority…”
He added: “They arrive by boat (from Asia) and the boat is going a little slower than expected. So, it’s very late.”
A senior manager from another brand told L’Equipe: “What Nike will never admit, and we cannot blame them, is that they have not made the two-star shirt a priority on their production line at the expense of others products.”
After spending 15 years at Nike, Yves Marchand does not want to “be too hard on them”, but he told French media: “There must have been a problem at some point, it’s not possible otherwise. It is a very well organised company, that generates 40 billion in turnover, and that spends between 4 and 6 billion in marketing every year and that pays a lot to have the French team.
“So, it wants to see returns. What happened is a shame for everyone. As a Swiss, I can comfortably say that the French all measured 30 centimetres more in 1998 after their victory. They were levitating. So there is a social role to play in these cases, one cannot afford to miss something like this.”
Contacted for comment by Golder’s News and Sport (Golder’s), a spokesman for the FFF press office said: “It is a Nike product so you have to talk to them about it.”
Nike were not immediately reachable for comment. The FFF’s online store, however, shows all sizes of the shirt to be currently unavailable.
Netizens have voiced their frustration. One called ‘pascalpierrain’ said: “Fire the comma [Nike] and take the Coq Sportif [sportswear brand].”
‘Teamates’ said: “The counterfeit ones were available in China that very evening.”
And ‘HamTime’ said: “You are wasting your time looking for a two-star shirt… I took my one-star shirt and sewed on a second star…”
Nike, in the meantime, appears to have moved on to greener pastures, having recently unveiled the Women’s World Cup 2019 kits.