Barcelona’s potential NWSL entry in jeopardy over Nike deal

Barcelona’s potential NWSL entry in jeopardy over Nike deal
Plans for Spanish soccer giants Barcelona to set up a team in the US women’s top-flight National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) remain in the balance due to the club’s existing kit supplier deal with Nike.

The Spanish champions want to be the first European soccer club to launch a team that will play in the premier US women’s division. The league is made up of nine teams and was founded in 2012.

Xavier O’Callaghan, Managing Director of Barcelona’s US office, has revealed that the club’s Nike kit supply deal still remains a stumbling block for any potential venture.

The Barcelona’s existing deal with the American sports brand is the most valuable soccer kit deal in the world, worth $174m-per-year until 2023, and covers both the men’s and women’s teams at the club.

The NWSL has its own league-wide partnership with Nike but it only runs until the end of 2019. Thereafter, the league would be free to partner with a new potential technical supplier, a move that would contravene Barça’s deal with Nike. The club want assurances over an exemption for their Nike kit in order to take part.

“We don’t want to share our brand. We are very protective of the ways we present ourselves. We want to use our crest, our  colours  and our sponsors. Otherwise this will dilute the brand,” O’Callaghan told SportBusiness.

“We have a long-term partnership with  Nike  and we have to play with Nike. If the NWSL changes to a different brand, then we have a problem.”

Adding: “It’s not so easy to do it, to make it real. We are asking for [a sponsorship] exemption – but it is not in our hands.

“We believe we can boost the competition but if there is no way to do it then will not take part in it.”

In March, Barcelona played Atlético Madrid in front of a 60,739 spectators – a record for a European women’s soccer fixture.

On the pitch, Barça finished second in the Spanish Women’s top flight and face French side Lyon in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final later this month.

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