Soccer-UK minister urges Nike to rethink $150 England shirt

LONDON, April 2 Wed Apr 2, 2014 5:52am EDT

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LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - Britain's sports minister has urged Nike to cut the cost of England World Cup shirts after a price tag of up to 90 pounds ($150) prompted a backlash from supporters.

"I understand fans' fury. It can't be right to ask them to fork out 90 pounds for a shirt, particularly when new England kits seem to be launched so often," sports minister Helen Grant said in a statement.

"Loyal supporters are the bedrock of our national game and that must not be forgotten. Surely this pricing needs a rethink," she added.

The launch of the new England kit by U.S. sportswear company Nike has been branded a "rip off" by British media and fed into a debate about whether soccer fans are being fleeced for their loyalty to club and country.

Nike points out that the top price applies only to a limited edition shirt which is an exact copy in terms of material, fit and finish of what the England players will wear in Brazil.

A more basic replica shirt intended to make up the vast majority of sales has a recommended retail price of 60 pounds.

Leading British sports retailer Sports Direct is offering the basic version online for a discounted price of 47.99 pounds, sacrificing part of its profit margin in an attempt to boost sales.

Although attention in Britain is focused on Nike, its German rivals Adidas and Puma are charging fans similar prices for national team shirts they are supplying at the World Cup.

The England shirt is usually a big seller with fans who take pride in wearing the national team jersey during major tournaments.

($1 = 0.6011 British Pounds) (Writing by Keith Weir, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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