Sporting goods retailer JD Sports Fashion is to acquire Irish sports brand Champion in a deal worth around EUR17m (GBP14.75m).

The retailer wants to gain a foothold in the Irish market while turning around the Champion brand, which has been hit by the country's recent economic difficulties.

JD announced it has exchanged contracts for the acquisition of 100% of the entire issued share capital of Champion Sports Holdings "for a nominal amount".

It has though agreed to advance EUR17.1m by way of a secured loan to allow Champion's outstanding indebtedness to be settled.

Peter Cowgill, eecutive chairman of JD, said: "We are very pleased to announce that we have exchanged contracts for the acquisition of Champion, which will give us an enhanced presence in the Republic of Ireland. By drawing on the current management team's expertise and local knowledge, we are confident that this acquisition will bring financial benefits in the future."

Dublin-based Champion was founded in 1992 and has 22 stores in premium locations in town centres and shopping centres in the Republic of Ireland. JD has a limited presence in the Republic of Ireland with only eight stores.

For the year ended 31 December 2009, Champion had a turnover of EUR54.0m but posted an operating loss of EUR1.8m.

"The performance of the Champion business has been adversely impacted in recent years by the decline in the Irish economy and an inflexible fixed property cost base which we intend to continue to address. However, the JD Board expects that the Champion acquisition will be earnings enhancing in future years after investment in the store portfolio and the realisation of operational synergies," a statement said.

Champion's management team, headed by CEO John Quinn, will be retained after the acquisition. Its completion is conditional on JD being satisfied with the terms of the approval of the transaction issued by the Competition Authority.