Following Adidas and Nike’s sponsorship battle over the Germany football kit, South Korea is the latest sparring ground between the two leading football boot brands, as they compete for the rights to supply the national team’s football kit.
Union leader, Kim Jung-Hoon, who has called the KFA’s current deal with Nike “a slave contract,” has threatened resistance should the bidding be managed unfairly. “There are suspicions that KFA executives are leaning toward a certain company, instead of keeping the competition clean and fair. The KFA seems intent on granting Nike the exclusive rights and has been effectively blocking other companies from joining the bid,” Kim said.
The KFA maintains that a bidding war doesn’t even exist at this point. Nike, which has sponsored the South Korean football squad for the past 12 years, is enjoying status as a preferred bidder, meaning that the football association will not negotiate with another company unless talks fall through.
Nike currently pay the KFA a total of 15 billion won ($16.3 million) over a five-year contract that expires at the end of 2007. The football boot brand have already opened discussions over a contract renewal which would net the KFA 20 billion won over a four year period. The KFA have however turned down Nike’s initial offer and asked for a four-year deal worth 25 billion won.
Adidas, meanwhile, has already promised a four-year football shirt sponsorship deal worth around 29.3 billion won. However if Nike agree on the 25 billion won deal, the Adidas offer will be cleared from the table.
Union officials suspect the KFA is being held to ransom by Nike due to the “blackout option” in past deals. The option called for national team players to erase the logos on their football boots with black markers if they were not Nike boots. According to Kim, there have been more than 100 violations of this clause in the past five years, and the amount of annual fines could be more than the 3 billion won the KFA gets from Nike every year.
Kim suspects that should Nike fail to resign with the KFA, it could threaten to sue the football body over the sponsorship violations. “The blackout option is basically why we call the past deal a slave contract. Conventionally, football shirt sponsorship deals don’t include the football boots chosen by players,” Kim said.
The KFA have played down the whole saga, however, they are believed to have demanded that Nike lift the blackout clause from the new deal.