Akuma, one of a newer breed of vendors that specializes in made-to-order kit which buyers design online, will underwrite the union's 'national panel' referees and be the exclusive supplier to other officials in Super League matches during the 2010 season, Boulder said last week in a press release. Top officials contract with the club competition to cover the slate of 63 matches.
Though one could argue pact is a splinter deal that complicates the overall apparel strategy, arrangements for national team gear have not well at all. USARFU has been sued by Kooga, its partner from 2004-06. Then, having jumped to Canterbury, the union found its supplier declared bankruptcy this summer; in August Canterbury was purchased for $11 million by a British clothing and footwear retailer, which ironically had earlier snapped up Kooga. Meanwhile, 2007 jersey sponsor Bravia did not renew.
National team equipment is considered one of the easiest categories of inventory that sports organizations have to sell, and also one of the most lucrative. Beyond fees for licensing the mark, agreements usually include a percentage of gear sales, which means the manufacturer is using its distribution channels to market one's brand and products.
Akuma's North American operations are managed by Steve Winyard, once a prop second row in England's premiership competition.