Football kits of old, dating back to the 1800’s and the early 20th century were always the staple of a team. Very rarely changing in design, unmarred by sponsorships, advertising and “modern/progressive” artworks that you see today in the 21’s century.
In days gone by kits didn’t have numbers, let alone hugely contrasting designs. And whilst some modernisations and techniques used today are an absolute necessity and have changed the sports clothing industry for good, the sheer volume of detail and competition in 2020 has lead to a monopolisation, an exploitation of the fans and a lack of simplicity with football.
We see kit manufacturers from New Balance to Umbro, Nike, Adidas, Kappa… the list goes on. Every year these companies churn out hundreds of new team-wear designs, ever so slightly different from the last, for the sake of revenue.Embed from Getty Images
Many teams consistently change their kit’s core concepts on a seasonal basis. The effect this has is damaging to the industry, whilst financially lucrative for both manufacturers and for clubs, it leaves supporters behind yet another transparent screen – distancing them from the club they support. A young FC Barcelona supporter will always be one step behind, with a new home kit style released every year. “€60.00 for your brand new Barcelona strip”. The countless shops throughout Catalonia proudly present the new design. But the young children from the towns surrounding Barcelona can’t afford a brand new €60 shirt every season.
Clubs monopolise this aspect of the sports industry, and leave supporters consistently a step behind, exploiting their constant desires to “keep up” with the new club releases. With Barcelona alone, sometimes the differences between one kit and the next seasons’ is purely the name of a sponsor.
In 2008, Blackburn Rovers released their new set of strips, a traditional Rovers half and half kit, with a sponsor, 24Bet. The following year, an identical kit was re-released with a new sponsor, Crown Paints. This kind of tactic isn’t new, it’s not unique and it’s practises like this which have ruined the modern game.Embed from Getty Images
The answer to this problem however is not a simple one. There’s now a worldwide expectation on almost every club to release a new kit every season. However, with COVID-19 affecting many clubs we could see some opt to retain this seasons shirt heading into a 2020/21 season (whenever that takes place). That’s a positive step, albeit enforced. At non-league level in England, many clubs keep the same kit for two, three even four years at a time.
Not even taking into consideration some of the vast deviations that clubs have taken between now and the time their first kit was ever produced, it’s easy to see why so many are stepping away from yearly purchases. Some clubs, Blackburn, Southampton, Bristol Rovers, they stay very exact, some minor changes but the simple designs of their kits have been the same since the 1800’s, early 1900’s. Some teams however in recent years have changed colours, badges, designs and almost everything about the team.
In 2012, contraversial club owner Vincent Tan decided to change Cardiff City’s home kit from Blue… to Red. The most clear, obvious and obnoxious change one could make.Embed from Getty Images
“The change of colour is a radical and some would say revolutionary move which will be met with unease and apprehension by a number of supporters, along with being seen as controversial by many,” said then Chief Executive Whiteley.
However, thanks to the supporters pressure, the kit was finally reverted back to its original colours some seasons later. Luckily, those Cardiff fans weren’t alone, fans from all over the world stood in shock as the move was made against their wishes, many signed petitions and valiantly fought the decision. It gives hope that as we enter a new decade, maybe supporters will be wiser to the exploitation techniques that many football clubs are using against their own loyal fans.
But then we come to an equally measured issue, sponsorships and advertising. Within the last few seasons, the Premier League took the bold step of announcing a relaxation of advertising rules for clubs in their divisions, the Premier League, Premier League 2 and the PL Cup. Sleeves sponsors, slightly larger front of shirt sponsors and shorts sponsors all now permitted by the governing body of the league. Everton don the mobile app, “Angry Birds” on their sleeves, whilst Wolves can be seen with a giant Black and White “JD” logo on theirs. This relaxation was met by executives and financially inclined interest with joy, but for supporters, this is not a positive step.
Moving towards the kind of thing we see in France and some other European countries, teams become brands and not teams. Red Bull have purchased a plethora of clubs, quite literally putting a brand name into a clubs name. RB Salzburg, RB Leipzig etc.. It’s a travesty for true, local football supporters.
The powers that be have to put their foot down and start to regulate both advertising and exploitation soon. Supporters are being duped by big wigs in suits that don’t care for their local areas and the town/cities interests.