The Top 14 is one of the best leagues in the world, but while the teams are star-studded and the riches on show plain to see, the one thing the French top division is perhaps lacking is the heavy presence of blue-chip kit brands – asides from Toulouse and Nike and Brive with Adidas, the other teams in the league are primarily supplied by second or third tier brands such as Macron or Kappa.
But all that might be about to change in a seismic way.
According to a report in Sports Buzz Business, 2021/22 will see the two biggest sportswear brands on earth reassert themselves in the Top 14 and in rugby in a big way. According to the report, Hungaria Sports will lose its two Top14 teams in Toulon and Champions Cup semi-finalists La Rochelle, with Nike taking over in Toulon and Adidas taking over on the Atlantic coast.
What’s more, the same report also indicates that Racing 92 might join Toulon and Toulouse with Nike, ending their multi-year deal with Le Coq Sportif and reuniting the Ciel et Blanc with the kit supplier they worked with back when the Racing Metro club first returned to the Top 14 in 2009.
This is great news for rugby fans for a variety of reasons – not least that given the stunning kits Nike has produced for Toulouse and Saracens this season, the thought of them having another black and red kit to get to grips with is exciting. It also gives the post-Boudjellal era of the club a sense of the big time again, though given how the club’s last relationship with a big name sports brand ended, maybe that’s not the best?
And for Racing, well as we’ve said on many occasions, they already have the most beautiful jersey in all of rugby, and the chance for Nike to get their teeth back into it again is exciting – not least because it will enable them to continue to effectively make Argentina jerseys if as expected Canterbury takes over from Nike with Los Pumas next year.
Adidas have done some very nice, albeit quite samey and safe things with Brive in the last five or six years, but there’s a sense that Adidas have not exactly been expending the same energy design-wise as they have with Munster, Leinster and Harlequins.
La Rochelle however, fresh off their first Champions Cup semi-final and with a squad packed with exciting French and international talent, should offer a much more enticing concept for Adidas’ marketeers – even if they just return to some of the classic hooped designs of La Rochelle’s Canterbury days, that wouldn’t be the worst thing…
Either way, with the potential for more than a third of the Top 14 running out in a top-tier brand in 2021/22, it’s an exciting time for French rugby.