Kitting out your teams

It is what it is?

As an international school principal, there were a number of recurring problems that never seemed to get solved to anyone’s complete satisfaction, writes Andy Homden. Finding reliable suppliers for sports team kit was one of these. 

The power of the system

Lead in and delivery times always seemed to be lengthy. Wherever we placed an order, we invariably found ourselves at the end of a long supply chain, involving different manufacturers, finishers and middle men. With the high student turnover typical of an international school, my PE staff really wanted to order at the beginning of a new year, not at the end of the old one. Minimum order sizes also tended to be an issue – a team needs 15 sets of kit, not 150!

Things got better as the years went by, but it was always hard work. The system is what it is.

A real alternative?

If you have defeated the system  – well done! Even so, you might want to try an alternative. Earlier this year we met the people at O’Neills, the Irish-based sportswear manufacturer.  I thought they only really supplied kit for “Gaelic Games” in Ireland. Not so, it seems.

“Soccer, is now very important to us,” explained O’Neills Export Manager Cristina McCusker,  “and now we supply specialised kit for rugby, netball, basketball and athletics to clubs around the world as well as to schools in the UK.”

21st Century production and distribution

I was really surprised to find that they had such a large factory in Northern Ireland, employing over 500 people! Why hadn’t they outsourced production like everyone else to a country where costs were meant to be lower?

“Because we want to control the quality” says McCusker “and by investing in the latest high tech machinery, cutting out the middle men and supplying customers directly, we keep costs and minimum order sizes down. We can also speed up deliveries.

We weave and dye our own cloth, then cut, stitch and personalise team strips before dispatching door to door around the world – to Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia.”

What schools want

A growing number of UK schools, like Manchester Grammar School, have seen the advantages and have now changed to O’Neills kit for all their teams.

“The schools we supply” explains McCusker, “seem to appreciate the low minimum order size (12 – 20), the way we listen to them and the fact that they can top up during the season with individual orders on line when new students arrive. Parents can order supporters’ shirts too – individually dispatched from the factory.”

Need 2017 – 2018 kit quickly?

What about getting strips ready during the school year?

“We can design it immediately, set everything up and then prepare an order for dispatch once sizes are known at any time. We pride yourselves on the speed of our turn around.”

There was one more surprise. McCusker smiles:

“We also supply Aussie Rules strips to teams in Australia”

Enough said!

O’Neills are offering a free design service to schools in the UK and overseas. To see your school colours in an O’Neills design email Cristina on or telephone O’Neills on +44 287 188 2320

There’s also more information about their service for international schools here:

O’Neills International

Andy Homden



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