Tom Knight, who acted as chief executive of JJB Sports until 2007, and Colin Ross, a former top executive of Adidas, Umbro and New Balance in the U.K., have set up a new 50-50 joint venture in the U.K., called Rossco Sportswear, to develop and market Dunlop footwear all over the European Union, starting with the Spring/Summer 2010 collection.

International Brand Management (IBML), the subsidiary of Sports Direct International that owns and licenses the Dunlop brand, has signed a 10-year licensing agreement with Rossco. Like the previous deal with Marco, the German company that held the Dunlop footwear license for the past 10 years, the agreement does not cover rubber boots. Marco also had a license for Dunlop clothing, but Rossco has no plans to handle that, either.

Rossco’s first collection will be launched at the Bread & Butter show in Berlin next July. Led by the iconic Dunlop Greenflash, the range will be positioned as before in the casual segment of the footwear market. It will not include athletic performance shoes. Prices in the U.K. will have to be increased because of the devaluation of the pound sterling, but they will be kept at a similar level as before in the eurozone.

Rossco will take care of British customers and of large European key accounts directly, offering some special make-ups to them. The distribution of the line in Germany, Austria and Switzerland will be done by Joachim Evers, former managing director and partner of Marco, who has left that company. The Italian market will be covered by Marinelli, which also has CAT footwear. Rossco is talking to other prospective distributors and agents in France, the Benelux countries and other parts of Europe.

Germany and the U.K., a country where the line was previously distributed by D.R. Shoes, were previously the two biggest markets for Dunlop footwear. Marco generated sales of up to €10 million year at peak with the line, but they fell to between €3 million and €5 million lately. The contract with IBML fell off basically because the licensor wanted to increase minimum royalties and Marco felt they were too high.

The future of Marco is uncertain at this stage. While the German company also sells safety shoes, Dunlop footwear was its core business. An official of Marco said its future would depend on discussions going on with IBML.