Nike and Australian soccer’s governing body, Football Federation Australia, unveiled its national team’s new 2020 kit on Thursday, and the world took notice, but probably not for reasons the team was hoping: Though Nike manufactured jerseys for the women’s players, not all are available to female fans.
According to the team’s announcement, the uniform home and away kits for the Westfield Matildas (the Women’s National Team) and Caltex Socceroos (the Men’s National Team) were streamlined to present a singular image of Australian soccer in tournaments leading up to the FIFA World Cup—to be played in 2022 by the men and in 2023 by the women.
Yet despite aligning the look of the jerseys for the men’s and women’s teams, there are some noticeable disparities in their availability. While the home jerseys will be available in both men’s and women’s sizes, the away jerseys will not.
Pictures in the announcement include women’s national team footballers in both the home and away kits, and Twitter was ready to respond. Several users asked Matilda’s account if they could purchase the away kit in women’s sizes, only to have the team reply that the replica teal and blue jersey set would not be universally available.
“Unfortunately, the new national teams [sic] away kit will not be available in women’s sizes. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and can assure supporters that this will be rectified for the next kit release due in 2022,” the team wrote.
As one disappointed user pointed out, “I fear that will be a huge missed opportunity for merchandise sales.” Others were much less practical about the inequity, writing things like, “Wait, @Nike, I am sure I am misreading something. The away jerseys for a ‘Women’s national team’ is not available in women’s sizes??? Seriously?”
“A women’s team kit is not available for women? This is an actual thing you just said in 2020?” asked another.
"But you can stop our away kit" pic.twitter.com/QnTByR7h0f
— Luke Millar (@Ekulkun) September 18, 2020
Football Federation Australia’s 2019 financial reports reveal that “merchandising and other income” generated almost 7.8 million Australian dollars—or almost $5.7 million USD—for the association. That’s more revenue than FFA reported in events, gate receipts or licensing and affiliation fees last year, the first year merchandise was even listed as a revenue stream in the reports.
Nike sponsors dozens of professional and national soccer teams across the globe. International clubs Chelsea FC, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris Saint-Germain—all of which have matching kits for their men’s and women’s teams available in men’s and women’s sizes for purchase—and many others are on the shoe giant’s roster, as are dozens of national teams, including the U.S. women’s and men’s squads. When the new Team USA kits were unveiled earlier this year, U.S. Soccer said all jerseys would be available in women’s, men’s and youth sizes.
The Matildas have recently served as one of the public faces of equality in soccer. In 2019, Australian women’s national soccer team members secured equal pay to their male counterparts in their new collective bargaining agreement with the FFA. The governing body and players’ union agreed to a four-year deal that remedied the gender pay disparity between the two clubs. Despite the progress made, fans aren’t pleased with the merchandise dilemma or the wait until 2022.
It remains to be seen if the kit will be available sooner, and neither Nike nor FFA have offered additional comment.