Earlier this month, Athletic Union president Tom Abbott sent out an email to the sports clubs of the University. It announced that the AU “have decided to submit formal notice to PlayerLayer that we will not be renewing our contract with them at the end of this academic year”. The contract providing kit to Saints Sport was due to expire in September anyway, yet this confirmed the hopes of some within the sporting community that there would be a change of kit provider. The Saint sat down with Mr Abbott to discuss the details and what we could expect for the future.
In the email, some of the reasons outlined for the decision were “increasing prices, poor customer services, stock issues and delays in delivery”. While Mr Abbott admitted they had initially been very generous with their Gift for Kit scheme, it was clearly apparent that the company did not see the returns in their orders. These price rises had led to some clubs having to pick up the bill, which was simply not fair. There were also several customer service issues. PlayerLayer had expanded rapidly since their initial contract signing with Saints Sport; they also have contracts with England Lacrosse and Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. As a result of this growth, they took on too much too quickly and this became evident. The wrong gear was being sent to the University or would be unavailable due to stock issues. They were also late to some deadlines, in one instance they were late to a 22week period for delivery. They also changed the fabric of some kits without notifying Saints Sport, which was not appropriate for some clubs.
With all these problems, a decision had to be taken, but Mr Abbott was not the only person involved in the decision-making. The director of sport and the business and market development manager also concluded that they should alert PlayerLayer that the AU would not be renewing their contract. As the paperwork dictated, they had to give six months’ notice. It was decided that this decision would be the fairest for all parties, as it was getting to the stage that clubs were not even using PlayerLayer gear. Before the decision was taken, the AU consulted many clubs about their experience with the kit, and the general feedback was either neutral or negative. Hence, once PlayerLayer had been made aware of this decision not to renew the contract, the AU promised to “keep [them] updated through each step of proceedings”. The general response since the email has been a positive one by the clubs and directors.
However, who the next kit sponsor will be is still up in the air. While the contract with PlayerLayer was still valid, the AU was not allowed to look at alternative kit providers. There will now be a tendering process in which the University must advertise itself to potential replacements. This could well take all summer, with a final decision not coming until after graduation. Mr Abbott assured that the clubs would be involved in the final decision process. In terms of potential suitors, the AU’s criteria are for quality customer service and overall price to come down, even if that means no Gift for Kit.
This does not mean, however, that PlayerLayer are out of the picture just yet. They are still the kit sponsors until September. In the email sent out to the clubs, Mr Abbott explained that “PlayerLayer have been invited to tender alongside other kit suppliers, as is their right to do so”. This means that theoretically, PlayerLayer could sign a new contract with Saints Sport over the summer. However, Mr Abbott said that PlayerLayer would have to give an improved offer with safeguards before they would even consider them again. For clubs still waiting for orders, the AU was assured that outstanding orders would delivered, and promised to be on time. Meanwhile, PlayerLayer will continue to sell non-sporting gear in the University shop.