US sportswear giant Russell Athletic is to target Rugby Union so it can muscle in on the increasingly competitive sports market.
The company plans to acquire contracts with rugby clubs in the first two divisions of the league.
The biggest kit supplier in first division rugby is currently Cotton Oxford, which supplies kits to eight of the 12 clubs in the division. The remaining clubs have kit deals with Nike, Cotton Trader and Adidas.
Russell Athletic believes this increased presence in the UK market will lead not only to a growth in replica shirt sales, but to a higher presence in the leisure market in general.
Russell Athletic European marketing manager Mark Low says: “Rugby is a sport that fits in with our collegiate image.”
In the US, the company kits out the National Football League as well as Major League Baseball.