RICHMOND and Carlton topped the competition for sold on-field apparel last year, with the clubs combining for more than a quarter of the AFL's sales in one of football's most important off-field battlegrounds. 

In AFL data released to clubs, the back-to-back premiership Tigers capitalised on their success by accounting for 15.14 per cent of sales of on-field wear – including jumpers and all matchday wear from players and coaches – which placed them at No.1 in the competition, considered a likely outcome given their success and fanbase.

But despite finishing 11th last season and missing the finals, the Blues surprised to be second on football's unseen ladder, tallying 11.73 per cent of sales in a huge tick from the club's growing supporter base, which last week hit a new membership record.

Both clubs are sponsored by Puma, with one of the world's leading sports brands locking in long-term deals with the Victorian powerhouses.  

Richmond signed with Puma ahead of the 2017 season for five years and have partnered the club through its golden three-flag era, while the Blues agreed to a landmark 10-year contract with Puma ahead of 2020.

With an ability to quickly deliver high quality gear within Australia, the clubs jumped on positive sentiment ahead of the season and then throughout, including the Tigers' special premiership jumper following their Grand Final win over Geelong.

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Together the clubs combined for a mammoth 26.87 per cent of apparel sales around the competition, with West Coast (7.97 per cent) in third position overall, Geelong fourth (7.7 per cent) and Collingwood fifth (7.69 per cent).

Newest clubs Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, with two of the smallest membership bases, were at the bottom of the list but a surprise was Hawthorn, which placed in third last position with 2.52 per cent of sales.

"We're pleased to see Richmond and Carlton leading the charge for on-field sales. It's testament to the passion of the supporters of these two iconic clubs," general manager of Puma Oceania Pancho Gutstein told AFL.com.au.

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"We are incredibly proud to partner with both clubs and to welcome GWS to the Puma family for the 2021 season. And while the numbers are good, our motivation comes from working to continually provide the most innovative on-field gear for the clubs, the best service and the most stylish fan wear for their supporters."

The Blues' decade-long commitment with Puma shapes as one of the last of its kind signed just months before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the global economy.  

The effects have not spared apparel arrangements for AFL clubs, with an off-season of changeover among the competition. It particularly impacted clubs who had been tied to ISC, which last year officially withdrew its support of AFL clubs amid the pandemic. That created a domino effect amongst the League as rivals scrambled for replacements throughout last season.   

Eight clubs – Fremantle, Collingwood, Sydney, St Kilda, Port Adelaide, Adelaide, Gold Coast and West Coast – were still linked with ISC last year but have moved elsewhere with some deals (including the Magpies' move to Nike) already in the works.

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The Swans also partnered with Nike, the Dockers joined forces with Burley Sekem and St Kilda and Gold Coast added to New Balance's imprint with the AFL. Port Adelaide signed with Macron, an international sportswear brand largely associated with European soccer and the Crows are now with O'Neills, who have a base in Adelaide but come from an international background. West Coast crossed to Castore.

The Giants jumped from XBlades to Puma's stable.

Delays in shipments have meant the Eagles have been training in ISC attire over the pre-season but the Castore apparel is expected by the end of this month, while Collingwood players have been pictured taping over their old training jumpers as they await the full Nike supplies in the next week. 

Callum Brown - with tape on his jumper to hide the old sponsor's name - during a recent Collingwood intraclub match. Picture: Getty Images

Adidas (Hawthorn), Under Armour (Essendon), Cotton On (Geelong), ASICS (Western Bulldogs) and Canterbury (North Melbourne) are other brands tied to AFL clubs.

Victoria's state lockdown for much of the football season impacted retail dollars last year however clubs reported healthy online jumper sales, with the desire for apparel not dipping as much as commercial executives had originally feared.