Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Northern Ireland earn their stripes

Football in Northern Ireland, from grassroots level up to the international game, has been given a massive financial shot in the arm thanks to the Irish Football Association’s biggest ever kit deal.

The bumper deal with Adidas, which will be worth between £3m and £4m, represents a 35 per cent increase from the last partnership with JJB Sports.

The cash injection from the global sports manufacturing giants is a significant good news story for the game in the province at all levels and the IFA is also set to announce new sponsorship packages for the Premiership and Irish Cup.

While the international side may be struggling to get their mojo back, having slipped to 102 in the Fifa World Rankings, it seems that lucrative commercial deals can still be struck.

The Germany company have signed up to a four-year deal, with the investment filtering down to every aspect of the game from grassroots, to disabled football, youth teams, the women’s game and international side.

The new Northern Ireland home jersey is set to be unveiled on Thursday next week, when supporters will be able to make pre-orders in stores.

Vauxhall, which is now in the third year of a four-year deal, will remain as a sponsor until 2013.

But supporters, who can recall the glory years of Northern Ireland’s World Cup adventures in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals while wearing the famous three stripes, will be hoping this reunion sparks a return to happier days.

Irish FA head of marketing Geoff Wilson said he was thrilled negotiations between the parties secured a positive result.

“The contract is signed, sealed and delivered to commence on August 1 for four years and we are delighted,” he said.

“The new Northern Ireland home kit will be revealed next week with the famous three stripes on it and it will have a real distinctive look and feel to it. It’s an interesting and exciting design which I’m sure the fans will love.

“I think this sponsorship deal shows the IFA is moving in the right direction and it is fantastic to have Adidas as one of our partners. We have worked with Adidas for a number of years and perhaps the 1982 and 1986 partnerships we had will be a good omen for the future.”

Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said: “Adidas was synonymous with the Association during our most successful period ever and I’m sure our supporters will be absolutely delighted with the news that we are to be reunited with them. Who can forget our game against Spain in the 1982 World Cup and playing in that iconic adidas shirt?”

Adidas representatives have clearly looked at the redevelopment plans for Windsor Park and decided that the time was right to renew the partnership.

Those plans are bold and ambitious and it’s hoped that a new improved stadium will inspire Michael O’Neill’s players to new heights.

The new partnership even includes a ‘ball deal’ with the domestic game.

“The first balls have been delivered this week with more to come next week,” added Wilson. “I think it’s a clear statement from Adidas that they are committed to football in Northern Ireland and seeing it prosper.”

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