Leicester City has grabbed headlines across the globe after arguably pulling off the most remarkable triumph in team sports history by claiming the English Premier League title on Monday. Yet, fans, old and new, looking to show their support for the fairytale side are likely to be in for disappointment.
Residents of the nondescript city in England’s East Midlands will have awakened on Tuesday still pinching themselves after their local team pulled off a 5,000-1 triumph to seal the first championship in its 132-year history. And they will have been confronted not just by the signs of the huge party that unfolded the night before, but by all the empty racks where Leicester shirts once hung.
— Betfect (@betfect) May 3, 2016
In local sports stores, Leicester City’s jerseys this season have been sold out for more than three months as fans got swept up in the Cinderella story. A club that was in the third tier of English soccer just seven years ago and that looked certain to be demoted from the Premier League last season has claimed the ultimate prize in soccer’s richest league.
David Chatwani, who runs Leicester City’s official sports store partner, JC Sports, told the Leicester Mercury in March that they had sold 3,000 shirts this season, roughly twice the number sold in the last campaign, when the team needed a great escape to avoid the drop. Meanwhile, sales for the jerseys of the traditional big clubs, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, have dropped significantly as fans latch on to their home team.
It is clear that the triumph was as unexpected for retailers and the team’s jersey manufacturer, Puma, as it was for the soccer pundits, many of whom had tipped the club to be sent back to the second-tier championship.
And it is not just in Leicester where where the team’s jerseys are in short supply. In Thailand, the home of the club’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, head of duty-free magnate King Power, there are also reports of Leicester shirts having been long since sold out. In a part of the world where the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United have long reigned supreme, Leicester is making its mark.
It is a similar story of limited supply and growing interest in the United States, with little distribution for merchandise. At an Upper 90 soccer store in New York City, that issue had to be partially resolved by a very personal delivery of jerseys.
Raluca Gold-Fuchs, the wife of Leicester City bargain-signing left back Christian Fuchs, resides in New York and heads event-management company RA Entertainment. When walking into Upper 90’s Manhattan store last December, a time when many were still struggling to take Leicester’s title bid seriously, she made a discovery she felt needed to be corrected.
“Christian Fuchs’ wife came in and she said, ‘Why don’t you have any Leicester City shirts?’ And she said, ‘I’ll bring you back some,’ ” recalls Robbie Baum, manager of the store’s Brooklyn branch. “The team were on a break and Christian actually came to the Manhattan store and dropped off a bunch of both the home and away kits for us. It was enough that I think each store got a couple of each sizes, a few dozen in total. At this point, we’ve totally sold out.”
— Upper 90 Soccer (@u90soccer) January 5, 2016
With just two weeks left in the season, there is no prospect for more of the jerseys being produced anytime soon.
“Puma didn’t exactly foresee them having the season that they did, so they didn’t produce a whole lot of them, as far as I understand it,” Baum said. “Puma’s completely out of it.”
Next season, though, promises to be a very different story. Once a poor relation to the brand’s other club partners such as Arsenal and German big hitters Borussia Dortmund, Leicester’s shirts for next season have already been teased, while Puma’s social media feeds have been making the most of their link to the biggest story in the sports world.
— PUMA Football (@pumafootball) May 2, 2016
The club has already made plans to capitalize on its newfound fame, too. In March, it was announced that Leicester City will take part in the glamorous preseason competition, primarily based in the U.S., the International Champions Cup, when they take on French champions Paris Saint-Germain in Los Angeles.
And next season, the club will be boosted by debuting in the biggest club competition on the planet, the Champions League, when their shirts line up alongside the likes of European giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.