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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

Pega Sports: The player-created brand empowering clubs through high-quality teamwear

When it comes to Australian football, teamwear is usually dominated by a select few names. However, in the last couple of years, Pega Sports has begun disrupting the South Australian market. Front Page Football caught up with its Founder and Managing Director, Kosta Mantis, as he plots the expansion of his brand.

Front Page Football: Pega Sports MA Hawks

The Messinian Association Hawks are just one of the clients on the growing books of Pega Sports. (Image: Pega Sports)


To say 2023 was a busy year for Kosta Mantis would be an understatement. On the field, the midfielder was promoted to captain as his club, West Adelaide, was promoted to the NPL. He juggled this responsibility with his day job in Telstra's Digital Operations department while also being a father of two.


That would already be an overfilled glass for most people. Still, on top of that, Mantis was also in his third year of running a teamwear brand, Pega Sports. Mantis spoke to Front Page Football  about his life during that period when he ran his, at the time, after hours side hustle.


"It was quite difficult, to be honest," Mantis admitted.


"I obviously started four years ago when I was still working full-time at Telstra, not knowing the business would end up in this position, where I could have a strong platform that could keep growing because you just never know how it is going to end up. Luckily enough, it did with hard work, but basically, in the last couple of years, I had been working a day job, then playing and training at night before going home and doing emails and providing that high standard of customer service that I pride myself on.


"I think if you rang around and asked all the presidents, ‘What time does Kosta send you emails?’ They’ll probably laugh because those emails were being fired off at all hours of the night!"
Front Page Football: Kosta Mantis Pega Sports

Mantis, sporting a "Pega" captain's armband, faced an incredibly busy 2024. (Image: Adam Butler/80kms)


At the end of 2023, Mantis decided to quit his day job, feeling that his passion project had grown enough to support his family.


The idea came to Mantis in 2020, with most of the groundwork done during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Mantis discussed his reasoning behind the audacious move to compete against the big names dominating the sportswear world.


"I think it came to me because I’ve obviously been a player for quite a while, and I have played in a few different kits in the NPL and State League, wearing several different brands. I strongly believed some of these kits weren’t up to scratch, and I felt that there was a lot more that a brand could offer clubs," he explained.


"Number one is the quality of the garment and the fabric that the clubs are wearing, which is sometimes very hit and miss.


"Secondly is the designs, which I felt could be improved a lot; customising kits and designs for each club is really important at Pega Sports, whereas a lot of the competition, and where I have played in the past, if there were ten clubs with the same brand, it probably meant that those ten clubs somewhat looked the same just with different colours because they were offered template kits."
 

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Giving clubs the option to have a say in customising their kits is something Mantis sees as a "gap in the market", which Pega Sports covers. Mantis employs in-house 3D designers who have great experience in the European football landscape to provide his clients with products that meet their needs despite their status in the game.


He provided the 2024 Messinian Association Hawks training top as an example. While it would be easy to lead an amateur club like that down the path of a template, Mantis prides himself on getting clubs to think about what they really want from their jerseys.


With the Hawks playing their last year at Torrensville's Kings Reserve, Mantis discussed how a proposed training top was completely transformed because of a club member's idea during the production process, which involved honouring their long-standing.


"It’s what our brand is all about, customising a kit that represents the DNA of a club," Mantis shared.

"The clubs are paying for a jersey; they’re paying for a service, and that service, for me, is how we can make that garment represent that club in the best possible way. When you open up that lens for the clubs, you often get those clubs thinking in a different mindset as well.


"We had created a couple of designs that were really nice for a training jersey, and then someone at the club had an idea about it being their last year at that location (Kings Reserve) and what could be done. We went away and worked with our designer.


"We got a map of Torrensville, where Kings Reserve is situated, and we thought about how we could incorporate that into the shirt. We pointed off where we thought the area ended, and we placed the location of Kings Reserve, where their home ground is, on the heart, and then aligned the logos next to it.

"It has now gone into production, so we cannot wait until that is produced, and we should have the real-life version in a few weeks."

Front Page Football: Pega Sports Messinian Association Hawks

Despite being an amateur club, the Messinian Association Hawks were provided with significant autonomy by Pega Sports during the design of their 2024 jerseys. (Image: Pega Sports)


Mantis began with three clients: St. Paul's Old Scholars, Mercedes Old Collegians, and Stirling District FC. Since then, Pega Sports' client list has grown exponentially, and it currently boasts over 30 clubs and a growing number of schools and businesses.


Mantis expressed his gratitude to the first three clubs that took the plunge to sign up with the startup brand.


"We knew that our quality was high, but for them we understood that it was somewhat of a risk, going with a new teamwear brand that had no clubs and no history. Once they came on board, we then had a platform to go after the next set of clubs, reference points, and referees," he said.


"Those three clubs we started with are still with us today and very happy. It is very nice to know that those clubs have stayed with us for four years now. We have a really high retention rate at the moment, and it is all going really well."
Front Page Football: Pega Sports Stirling District FC

Stirling District was one of Pega Sports' first clients, and they provided the brand with a glowing testimonial. (Image: Pega Sports)


As business continues to thrive, Mantis is proactive about exploring avenues for expansion. Partnering with the South Australian Amateur Soccer League and providing Adelaide United with grip socks have been important to the business in the past couple of years. However, the business's Managing Director is keen to continue branching out.


Pega Sports entered the European market after striking an agreement to produce the off-field range for Greek Super League 2 club Kalamata FC.


"Another important one was a second-division side in Greece, Kalamata. We struck an off-field partnership with them this year, and we are doing all their off-field merchandising, including beanies, caps, hoodies, and more. There is scope there to do more and ultimately their on-field in the future, as they embark on promotion to the Greek Super League," Mantis said.


"I think in 10 years time, I’ll look back, and it will probably feel bigger than it does right now, but when you are actually in the day-to-day of it, it’s just very much business as usual. It is quite incredible that we have been able to establish a connection with a club on the other side of the world, one that is a professional club looking to go into the first division of Greece, where they will be competing with clubs that are playing in the Champions League."


Moving into Europe is a big step for any Australian brand. However, Mantis wants to increase Pega's footprint in Australia too.


Having developed a strong reputation behind a track record of satisfied clubs and customers, Mantis sees Pega Sports' next stage of growth interstate.


"It just goes to show that if you run your business right and you always put the customer first, good things will come from it," Mantis said.


"Right now, there is no reason we can't move interstate, and that will be a focus in 2024. We are going to move into the Melbourne market and hopefully get some clubs on board, and show them what we can do.

"There’s lots happening, and I’m not resting on my laurels; I feel that the brand has huge potential, and we will continue to grow in the right way, and that is by staying true to our values and supporting our clubs with the utmost respect and care."

Front Page Football: Pega Sports Kalamata FC

Pega Sports has produced Kalamata FC's off-field range for the 2023/24 Greek Super League 2 season. (Image: Pega Sports)


As his brand grows, Mantis is proud to see athletes wear and swear by his products. Retaining his customers gives him reassurance that Pega Sports is on the right path as it continues to compete with the bigger brands on the market.


"When clubs stay with you for three to four years, it’s a sign of trust in your product and your service. It gives me reassurance that we are on the correct path and are providing great services and prices to these clubs and athletes, so it is a proud moment," he said.


"When you think about it, we started from nothing, and we have grown super-fast; we are local, we are from South Australia, and now I am privileged to provide high quality apparel for clubs in our football community. A community that I have been involved in since the age of four. We are competing with some big brands, and we are doing quite well."

Mantis hopes to represent some of the country's biggest clubs in the coming years, reiterating that Pega Sports has the quality, supply line, and networks ready to scale up production.


Despite the lofty aspirations, Mantis remains eternally grateful to the grassroots clubs that helped Pega Sports become what it is today. He wants to make a conscious effort to provide his original clients with the same quality service, regardless of where the brand ends up.


"I am really conscious of the grassroots football clubs that have supported us and still support us and have chosen Pega Sports over another brand that might have had a bigger name at the time. I will make sure that those clubs receive the service and quality they got in years one, two, and three, and they will receive that service and quality forever.

"You always need to remember where you came from and make sure that you do all the right things at the bottom because if you do the things well there, it breeds success and growth everywhere else."


The Pega Sports showroom is located at 159a Marion Road, Richmond, Adelaide, South Australia, where Kosta Mantis is available weekdays from 10am to 3pm


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