I was at the Villa Supporter Consultation Meeting on Saturday 18th September before the Bolton game.
The Merchandising Manager John Greenfield took the time to come up and pass on all the information he could with reference to the problems with our replica kits which as you all know, are not available and won’t be until November.
First off John made it clear the club realise the fans aren’t happy and added that they also are very far from happy, in fact the whole situation I think has been an unfair embarrassment for them. I say unfair because they have a top kit manufacturer who have let them (and us) down very badly.
John passed on his apologies and said that at least four times during his talk. He also said in his 30 years at the club, he has never known a situation like this or not had the kit out there or there abouts at the start of each season.
From the comments passed I could see that they are as disappointed as us the fans and are disappointed FOR the fans and are not resting on their laurels with reference to what has gone on. They have been let down. This is a situation out of their control and they had to take the decision not to try to sell the kits with the problems, as it was explained, 6 sales might be fine, then another 12 might need to be returned due to the fabric snagging.
The club therefore made the decision NOT to sell and that they never would sell under par quality shirts to the fans.
The delayed kits had been expected on September 16th, just 6 days before that Nike communicated there might be a problem following a random check. The shirts were pulling/snagging.
Again, I have it in my notes underlined again, the club apologises. But they just could not sell them. I believe Celtic have had a similar problem, they have been selling theirs and they have had between 22 and 25% returned. I think (correct me if I’m wrong…!) that that would have been a far worse situation?
They also made it clear they have heard the complaints from fans and they know they are fully justified as fans want their kits. John pointed out the Club also WANT to be selling the kits, this is a loss of revenue for the club and lets face it, the timing (with what was going on manager wise) just could not have been worse for them or us really. However sometimes these things are out of your control and this is one of those times. They have a partner in Nike who you would think would be able to guarantee delivery of a shirt, that is their stocking trade, well, their shirt trade really.
So why can the players have shirts?!?!?!? Their shirts are made in a different factory. Simple as that.
The one thing John and the club have insisted on is the new shirts are made nearer to home, some in Europe and others in Morocco (the Nike ones were originally being made in Sri Lanka).
John again apologised and asked the fans to bear with them, especially when it comes to any compensation or ways to appease the fans who will be buying the shirts a few months into the season.
They are already looking at selling at £5 less than the rap Nike are saying (£50) The mark up for the club isn’t actually that great, especially when you take off season ticket holder/Lions club member discounts etc.
The contract runs with Nike until 2012 (so 2010/11 season and 2011/12 season)
I’m getting soft in my old age I’ll admit but I feel as sorry for John Greenfield and his staff (+ the Club as a whole) over this matter as I do for us the fans. They had got a great deal with a top (ahem) shirt manufacturer and have basically been very badly let down. This makes them look bad when it is simply not their fault.
(Feel free to pass this feedback on to mates/email/other forums/sites etc)
The one thing that you can say is they have not run and hide, John was straight up to the SCG to explain these things, it would have been so much easier for him to find a corner of Villa Park to hide I’m sure!