Manchester United are under pressure from sponsors adidas to arrest falling shirt sales — but the German kit producer was not behind chief executive Ed Woodward’s departure from the club.
Woodward announced his intention to leave two weeks ago as the fallout from the ill-fated European Super League intensified.
There have been suggestions within football circles that the Germans may have been responsible for Woodward’s departure, due to his role in the ESL farce and lack of trophies in recent seasons.
Manchester United are under pressure from sponsors adidas to arrest falling shirt sales
Sources close to adidas — United’s largest sponsor — have suggested they were disappointed not to have been briefed by United chiefs over their ESL plans.
However, they insist they had no part in Woodward’s announcement that he would leave Old Trafford in the summer after 16 years.
The Mail on Sunday has learned adidas were fully briefed regarding ESL developments — largely due to the fact they own an 8.3 per cent stake in Bayern Munich.
Dr Jan Heinemann sits on the Bayern board as deputy chairman, and also serves as general counsel and chief compliance officer at adidas. The German champions turned down an invitation to join the ESL.
The German kit producer was not behind chief executive Ed Woodward’s departure
Football insiders have been aware of rumours that Woodward was preparing to leave United in the summer for several months.
United’s lack of trophies has coincided with falling shirt sales.
The club have not picked up a trophy for four years, since winning the Europa League and League Cup double in 2017 — the longest spell without silverware since the late 1980s.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are favourites to win the Europa League on May 26 after hammering Roma 6-2 in their semi-final first leg this week.
Club figures show payments from adidas to United have fallen by £1.2million since 2018
Nonetheless, official club figures show payments from adidas to United have fallen by £1.2million since 2018.
The deal with adidas was worth £79million to United in 2018, but this fell to £78.8million in 2019 and £77.8million last year.
United have fallen behind arch- rivals Liverpool in the annual shirt sales stakes for the first time, with Jurgen Klopp’s side enjoying a sales boost after winning recent Champions League and Premier League titles.
The two sides meet this afternoon at Old Trafford.
Figures produced by veteran analyst Dr Peter Rohlmann, show United’s sales have fallen by 100,000 since 2019.
United have fallen behind arch- rivals Liverpool in the annual shirt sales stakes for the first time
United sold 1.8 million shirts in 2019, but this fell to 1.7million last year and sales are expected to remain at the same level again this season, according to Rohlmann.
Liverpool’s sales have increased by 450,000 during the same period.
The Anfield club sold 1.5 million shirts in 2019, with sales rising to 1.7 million last year and 1.95 million shirts sold this season.
Reports have emerged in Italy that United have been in touch with Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent over a return to Old Trafford from Juventus, a move that would significantly boost merchandise sales, despite the global icon being sponsored by Nike.