Canberra's ONTHEGO Sports to kit-out English football team Sheffield Wednesday
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Canberra's ONTHEGO Sports to kit-out English football team Sheffield Wednesday

When founder of Canberra sports apparel company ONTHEGO Sports, Mick Spencer, said last year he expected "rapid growth" for his company in the coming 12 months, not even he could have predicted just how rapid.

Spencer has just signed what is believed to be a multi-million dollar deal with English football club Sheffield Wednesday - an order of more than 70,000 royal blue and white sports items, including technical apparel and merchandise. Sheffield Wednesday competes in the Championship, the second tier of the English Football League system.

Mick Spencer, founder of Canberra sportswear company ONTHEGO, who have just secured the contract to kit out English team Sheffield Wednesday.

Mick Spencer, founder of Canberra sportswear company ONTHEGO, who have just secured the contract to kit out English team Sheffield Wednesday.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

Not only is it ONTHEGO's first major UK deal, it's also a deal that's bigger than the company's entire annual revenue of two years ago.

"The initial order is over 70,000 units and it's across all the players' on-field gear - everything they wear on the pitch, from their compression under their shirts to their shirts, shorts and socks," Spencer said.

ONTHEGO Sports founder Mick Spencer in the Sheffield Wednesday dressing rooms last week. He flew to the UK for Sheffield's first home game.

ONTHEGO Sports founder Mick Spencer in the Sheffield Wednesday dressing rooms last week. He flew to the UK for Sheffield's first home game.

Photo: Supplied
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"Then there's the training gear as well, training apparel, the training base layer, and we'll dress all the staff and officials too.

"And that's not to mention the retail. The good thing about English football is you can buy exactly what the players wear on the field - there's no difference in the products.

"So we're looking at about 15,000 home jerseys and 10,000 away jerseys, and they'll be available in Sheffield's online store."

Spencer said his "in" with Sheffield Wednesday had come via a UK contact he'd met in Canberra at a Brumbies event.

"I'd been discussing with him that I wanted to start looking at UK opportunities and he had just heard on the grapevine that Sheffield was in need of a new apparel provider, and quickly," he said.

"He connected me to Sheffield's chief operating officer Joe Palmer and I could see from afar their problems - I could see how we could help them pretty quickly.

"It's what you work hard for right? It's cool because it's quite a high profile team and it's also helping us build the football category and it's just opened us up to a massive new global market."

Spencer has had a steadfast vision for ONTHEGO Sports since he launched the business out of his parents' garage in O'Connor in 2012.

He started with just $150 in the bank and has worked 18 hours days for five years to build a company that now supplies custom sporting gear to Hockey Australia, the NRL, Cricket Australia, World Rugby, and the Department of Defence.

Spencer described his company's swift entrance into the UK football market as "just the beginning". He said ONTHEGO's business model had the potential to disrupt the traditional apparel model that united high-profile teams with big brands through sponsorship.

"Technically in the industry a bigger brand will give a team a cheque to sponsor them but then they'll charge them through the roof on all the pricing - and the club will have to wait six months for delivery on everything," he said.

"What we've established is more of a dedicated partnership model, whereby we wouldn't give them any cash, but they buy product at a more effective price and they'd get it a lot faster.

"We can actually be a lot more nimble than the bigger players to give the customer what they want.

"We've just signed a confidentiality agreement with one of Spain's biggest teams, we're in discussion for the 2018-19 season."

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Bree Winchester

Bree Winchester is a senior life and entertainment reporter at The Canberra Times

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