SPORTSWEAR BRAND NIKE has caved in to public outcry and consumer demand and will produce a replica retail version of England goalkeeper Mary Earps’ shirt.
Nike had angered players and fans by choosing not to retail replica goalkeeper shirts for the Women’s World Cup, a tournament that captured the imagination across the globe. The decision left supporters unable to purchase the star’s kit during England’s run to the final and persisted despite Earps’ starring role in the tournament—she saved a penalty in the final and won the WWC’s Golden Glove award for best keeper.
But the sports brand has been forced into an about-face, releasing a statement yesterday confirming that ‘limited quantities’ of women’s goalkeeper jerseys for England, the US, France and the Netherlands teams will be retailed—yes, still no shirt for poor Mackenzie Arnold fans. “We recognise that during the tournament we didn’t serve those fans who wished to show their passion and support to the squad’s goalkeepers,’ the statement reads. ‘We are committed to retailing women’s goalkeeping jerseys for major tournaments in the future.”
Nike’s initial refusal to produce the goalie’s shirt, as it does for the other Lionesses, had drawn outrage on social media. Former English swimming world champion Karen Pickering wrote on X: “Loved seeing Mary Earps winning the Golden Glove. Can we buy her shirt yet???”
Meanwhile, former England men’s goalie David Seaman posted: “Bet @Nike are regretting not selling the #maryearps shirt now”, accompanying his message with an eye-roll emoji.
Earps described the omission as “hugely hurtful”. The goalkeeper has previously spoken of her dismay that fans cannot buy her England shirt, with the same situation occurring during last year’s Euros.
In an interview on the eve of the World Cup, Earps said she had only found out about it when the outfield kit went on sale and none of the promotional pictures taken of goalkeepers were used as part of the tournament’s marketing campaign. She said she had even offered to pay for the shirts herself.
How did this happen? How did a seemingly savvy global conglomerate get this so wrong? How could they miss the opportunity to cash in on the Lionesses’ WWC juggernaut?
Why didn’t Nike produce Mary Earps’ replica shirts in the first place?
Good question. This controversy had been brewing for a while but went into overdrive after the final last Sunday. Earps was told her kit was not sold last summer for England’s Euros’ triumph due to manufacturing issues and that the issue would not happen again.
However, unlike the home and away jerseys, fans were still unable to get their hands on the goalkeeping kit prior to the WWC as reports say it was not part of Nike’s commercial strategy.
Before the tournament Earps told The Guardian: “It is something I have been fighting behind closed doors. I have been trying to go through the correct channels as much as possible, which is why I have not spoken on it publicly—even though I have been asked a lot about it over the past few months—because I have been desperately trying to find a solution with the FA and with Nike.”
Why does the lack of a replica Earps goalkeeper shirt matter?
Sometimes it pays to look at things through a kid’s eyes. Let’s say you’re a little girl or boy in an English village. You just joined watched the Lionesses defeat the Matildas in the semi-final. You watched her save a penalty against Spain in the final and repel countless strikes from the Spaniards. You like the way she goes about her business. You like the cut of her gib. Mary Earps is your new hero. You want her shirt.
Of course, you don’t have to be a kid to want to wear players’ shirts. And it almost goes without saying that the England men’s World Cup goalie kits have previously been available, although admittedly their numbers are limited in comparison to rest of the team’s shirts.
Why wasn’t Mary Earps’ shirt considered as marketable as the rest of the team’s kits?
There is a perception that being a goalkeeper, while carrying a huge responsibility, is not a glamourous position. Of course, in a vicious cycle, if the goalie’s shirt is not available it’s hard to aspire to wear it, or for the position to be considered ‘glamorous’.
While it may well be that goalkeeper shirts are less in demand than, say, a striker’s shirt like Sam Kerr’s, Earps has previously argued that her Manchester United shirt was the third-best selling last season.
“So, what you are saying is that goalkeeping isn’t important, but you can be a striker if you want,” she told The Guardian. “That is why the participation rate is so much lower. It is a very hard position to play but it is not facilitated and it is a massive way of excluding a huge part of the demographic. That is why I am so passionate and desperate to change that. Big businesses don’t do enough.”
Can you buy a Mackenzie Arnold replica shirt?
No, you can’t. While Nike is now producing goalie shirts for England, the US, France and the Netherlands, it didn’t include Australia, which seems odd given we were the tournament hosts and Arnold played such a crucial role in the Matildas’ success.
“Obviously, it would be really cool to see kids—or anyone really—with the goalkeeper jersey on, especially seeing how well goalkeepers have done throughout this whole tournament,” Arnold said during the tournament. “In terms of why they don’t sell them, I’m not too sure.”
Did Nike underestimate the impact the WWC would have on consumer demand?
Quite possibly. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the company looked at previous sales of women’s goalkeeper shirts and made a ‘business decision’. In fairness to them, did anyone predict how big this tournament would be, how much it would capture the imagination and the zeitgeist and how huge stars such as Earps and Arnold would become? Both are now household names in their respective countries.
You could argue that in a knockout tournament, in which many games were always likely to be decided by penalty shootout, that goalies would command significant attention, and therefore represent a lucrative marketing opportunity. But such is the nature of the position and the responsibility it carries, that in many instances in the past goalies have been vilified for their errors in big tournaments—David Seamen’s blunder against Brazil back in the 2002 World Cup comes to mind. It’s hard to imagine many fans wanted Seaman’s shirt in the aftermath of that game. Refreshingly, in this tournament goalies have been justly celebrated for their efforts and contributions to their team’s successes.
In truth, the magnitude of this tournament has magnified the many discrepancies that remain with the men’s game. Excuses about “financial strategy” just won’t wash anymore. If you can buy a men’s goalie shirt you should be able to a women’s one. After this, and NIKE’s subsequent backflip, it’s difficult to see a company making the same mistake again.