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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 15:36 GMT
Umbro ready to score big profits
Michael Owen, David Beckham and Frank Lampard at the launch of the Umbro England Away Kit
2006 will be a big year for Umbro as England prepares for the World Cup
Sportswear maker Umbro says it expects an "exciting year" ahead as World Cup fever boosts demand for replica football shirts.

The England kit manufacturer has already received large orders for shirts with the famous Three Lions emblem adorning them.

However, sales were down 1.2% last year in the absence of a major football tournament to drive business.

Pre-tax, pre-exceptional profits rose 5.4% to 23m last year, Umbro said.

Profits were driven by strong demand for Chelsea shirts, fuelled by the team's successful 2005 season and the range of goods released to mark its centenary year.

'One love'

However, Chelsea's decision to terminate its kit deal with Umbro five years early in favour of Adidas will partially offset the surge in sales which the World Cup promises.

With the World Cup this summer, 2006 promises to be another exciting year f
Peter McGuigan, chief executive

Umbro plans to launch its 'One Love' global marketing campaign in the run-up to the tournament to help kick start the anticipated sales boom.

"With the World Cup this summer, 2006 promises to be another exciting year for the company and we are confident of increasing shareholder value," said Peter McGuigan, chief executive of Umbro.

The new red England away kit was launched recently in controversial circumstances after supermarket chain Asda put the shirt on sale - days before its official launch.

Asda said kit-maker Umbro refused to supply it with the shirt, so it bought 5,000 away shirts from surplus stock in Europe - known as the "grey market".

Umbro said there were little that could be done to stop this happening as retailers use the grey market as a way of stocking-up on numerous types of goods.

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20 Jan 05 |  Business
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