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Friday, May 17, 2024

Is There a Sneakerhead Culture for Soccer Jerseys? PE Firm Thinks So

  • The Chernin Group invests $38.5 million in a U.K.-based seller of vintage jerseys.
  • The investment company is projecting an explosion of U.S. fan interest in soccer.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

One of the foremost investment firms in sports sees a big opportunity to build a new sneakerhead-type fan culture around soccer jerseys, and it is putting some serious money behind the notion.

The Chernin Group—which has invested in entities such as Barstool Sports, the Premier Lacrosse League, the Action Network, Collectors, and Dapper Labs—has put $38.5 million into Classic Football Shirts, a U.K.-based seller of vintage jerseys. Founded in 2006, Classic Football Shirts has steadily built a global business specializing in match-worn, hard-to-find, and other coveted jerseys. 

Expanding the company’s U.S. business, currently accounting for just 15% of sales, is a particular focus of the investment. The Chernin Group sees several macro-level trends and upcoming events fundamentally aiding that effort, including the forthcoming 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics that will be held in North America, the ongoing growth of MLS and the NWSL, FIFA’s developing moves to start allowing European pro leagues to play official matches outside of their own home territories, and the ongoing boom in sports collectibles.

“We fell in love with football culture, the fandom around the game, and the connective tissue between teams and fans,” TCG partner Greg Bettinelli told Front Office Sports. “We also believe we’re about to see an unleashing of interest in North America in the sport through all these events that are happening.”

Bettinelli previously invested in GOAT, a high-end marketplace for sneakers and apparel. Classic Football Shirts operates primarily online and has a sizable social media presence. But it also has physical locations in London and Manchester, U.K., opened a pop-up shop this week in New York, and is now planning permanent U.S. stores both there and in Los Angeles.

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