COLLINGWOOD is spending $36 million on new training facilities, wants to amass 150,000 members in five years and aims to dominate the AFL, but now the club is expanding its empire even further by taking over production of football's most iconic brand, its black and white jumper.
The Magpies will become the first major Australian sports team to make its own kit, after severing a long-term sponsorship agreement with international manufacturer adidas.
Collingwood has gone into partnership with a Melbourne-based company that will make the famed guernsey in China — with the club taking a share of all profits from merchandise sales.
Adidas was told last year that its 13-year association with Collingwood would cease at the end of 2012, with players expected to wear the new jumpers, shorts and socks from next season.
The deal is believed to have been approved by the AFL, which is required to sign off on all new licensing agreements.
Collingwood's foray into the rag trade coincides with an aggressive push to consolidate its financial dominance by increasing membership to 150,000 by 2017.
Chief executive Gary Pert estimated last week that Collingwood had 1.5 million supporters around the globe, when the club announced a new $50 non-game-day package to expand the Magpie Army.
Collingwood also recently unveiled a $36 million redevelopment plan for Olympic Park, including a $10 million upgrade of the Westpac Centre and a new community centre, with $10 million in funding from the federal government.
Neither Mr Pert nor the club's media manager, Nick Hulett, returned calls by The Sunday Age yesterday about the new venture into sportswear.
The club is believed to have signed a confidentiality agreement with adidas over ending its contract, and was not planning to make an announcement until later in the year.
Rob Mills, director of sport marketing firm Gemba, said Collingwood's decision to make its own uniform would capitalise on the club's lucrative brand and legion of loyal fans.
He said most sport garments were now made in Asia, and defended the club's decision not to source a local manufacturer.
"I would expect the company involved has rigorous processes in place to ensure that production complies with a wide range of quality and human rights guidelines," Mr Mills said.
He said other AFL clubs had proposed to make their own uniforms about five years ago, but had not proceeded.
One AFL insider questioned the wisdom of the uniform deal, pointing out that other sporting giants such as Real Madrid or Manchester United had not gone down that path.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has a penchant for innovative sponsorships and has been a keen observer of the rag trade.
He previously struck a deal with designer Giorgio Armani to outfit his players and attended the 30th anniversary of the designer's fashion show with his former model wife, Carla.