(Adds response from Nike)
By Keith Weir
LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) - Britain’s sports minister urged Nike on Wednesday to cut the cost of England World Cup shirts after a price tag of up to 90 pounds ($150) prompted a backlash from supporters but her plea went unheeded.
U.S. sportswear company Nike responded by saying that the vast majority of its shirts would be on sale for 60 pounds. It stressed that the top price which has generated so many negative headlines applied only to a limited edition of the jersey.
“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 Nike’s new England kit 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 would like to emphasize that the England replica shirt has always been available to fans at 60 pounds RRP (recommended retail price),” Nike said in a statement.
“There is also a limited number of the shirts at 90 pounds RRP which represents less than 1 percent of the stock available at retail,” it added.
The more expensive shirt is an exact copy of what the England players will wear in Brazil in terms of material, fit and finish. The cheaper shirt is a simpler replica aimed at the mass market.
Leading British sports retailer Sports Direct is offering the cheaper 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 and Toby Davis)