The RFU are set to cash in on the Rugby World Cup this year by releasing six different England shirts in the space of just 15 months.
Having released two brand new shirts in 2014, England kit suppliers Canterbury are due to launch two more for the World Cup which will be followed up by a further two kit releases ahead of the 2016 Six Nations.
Shadow Minister for Sport Clive Efford said last night: ‘Merchandising is an important part of sport but governing bodies must be responsible and help fans and parents by showing restraint.’
The new shirts, which start at £50 and go up to £90.99, are being released in a bid to compensate for the loss of revenue incurred by the ban on shirt sponsors during the World Cup (plus the Canterbury deal if for two new kits per season).
The RFU’s strategy follows a very similar one to that of the FA during last year’s FIFA World Cup where they brought out a series of expensive new kits in a short period of time. The result was a great deal of public unrest as fans balked at being asked to fork out several times in such a short period.
An RFU spokesman said: ‘We have brought out one new home and alternate strip each season for the last five years, as is normal across the sports industry. The prices have remained unchanged for three years and every penny made is invested back into the game.’
The deal with Canterbury was signed after the 2011 World Cup when English rugby was at something of a low and avoided them having to agree to reduced terms with Nike. The current deal is worth more than £5million a year.
This news comes shortly after the World Cup ticketing debacle in which many fans failed to get hold of any tickets for the showpiece event, and have since had to resort to purchasing off re-sale sites at several times face value.
It was reported that despite requests for regulation of ticket touts for the Rugby World Cup similar to those employed during the 2012 Olympics, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid was influential in the Government turning down the amendments.