di·vest [dih-vest, dahy-]
verb (used with object)
a. to sell off: to divest holdings.
b.to rid of through sale: The corporation divested itself of its subsidiaries.
Me neither. Put simply, Nike are going to try to sell Umbro as they're losing money.
Now, I'm about to argue pretty convincingly that I saw this coming, quoting myself seemingly spotting warning signs and melodramatically prophecising.
Don't believe a word of it. It came as as much as a shock to me as it did anyone. What I actually predicted, wrongly, was that Nike (the brand) would take the England contract from Umbro - something that the FA may or may not have vetoed - and whilst I was somewhat vindicated by Manchester City going down that route, along with some Brazilian sides, and did question "whether or not Nike have had enough of allowing Umbro to continue..." it was solely in reference to the Three Lions.
My main worry was not business-related. My fear that Umbro had "jumped the shark" was from looking at the company from a design standpoint, particularly in light of the recent England Home kit release, which disappointed.
And, we have to assume, the sales of that shirt have been disappointing too. Umbro, and particularly the Tailored By direction, have been unfortunate in presiding over a period which has seen their England poster boy, John Terry, tear up his own image - repeatedly - and the team perform at best underwhelmingly and at worst shambolically. The recession wouldn't have helped much either. Nontheless, if you'll forgive the CJ-ism, Nike haven't got to where they are today by shirking ruthlessness. Perhaps the England release in the lead up to Euro 2012 was the last chance. With JBB and Sports Direct currently selling the dilophosaurus-styled shirt for around £25, it seems Umbro didn't take it.
There couldn't be a worse time to lose direction in design and, particularly, marketing. The current England Away kit release focused on the David Haye launch - a brash approach which seemed at odds with the thoughtful design process which was brilliantly based on the England cap. The shirt currently retails, with Euro 2012 only a few days away, at £15. In the Home shirt, to take one of the most heartening elements Tailored By gave us, the beautifully embroidered and coloured England crest, and replace it with monotone red smacks of one temporary campaign making way for another. Maybe people saw through it.
With Under Armour rumoured to be a contender for the place in the Nike family which Umbro will vacate, it could also be that Nike are shifting away from the timeless and traditional and towards the scientific and technological. (The irony would be that, whilst not a specialist like UA, Umbro actually produce excellent baselayers which, almost uniquely, are made with pale badges and gaping necks so as not to interfere excessively with the external look of the playing shirt.)
Whatever the reasoning, here's hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel. The industry and football shirt-buying public should forever be indebted to the shift Umbro created across the board via Tailored By and, with their 2011-12 Athletic Bilbao Away shirt bettered by no one, some of their releases remain on a par with the best of adidas and Nike. If they can restore that direction to design and marketing they'll surely live on, thrive, and raise the bar again.