IT’S clear that kit companies and football clubs are desperate to shift more units this season, perhaps making up for a 63% drop in demand for Premier League shirts over the past year. Given the economic damage done to club balance sheets during the pandemic, the need to drive commercial revenues has meant that the 20-21 season will look more eye-catching, migraine-inducing and eyebrow-twitching than ever before.
It’s hard to imagine a 65 year-old fan wearing some of the trippy shirt designs being churned out this summer: the Premier will be awash with “fluorescent yellow”, “tessellated triangles”, “barcodes”. “neon blue slime” and washed-out pink. Not to mention the little black numbers being adopted by clubs wanting to suggest the football shirt as night club attire.
Thankfully, some good taste has been retained. While shirts like Manchester United’s black chevron meets TV interference and City’s psychedelic nursery print are frankly a grim warning for the future, Wolves have revived old gold and Burnley’s claret and blue is the equivalent of sensible shoes. Everton’s fans will like “Ball-era yellow” and indeed, the new blue home kit.
Kit sales are vital for a club’s commercial revenues. Manchester United are the world’s top club by shirt sales. In 2018-19, they shifted 3.25 million shirts, only Real Madrid sold for than three million, with Bayern Munich selling 2.6 million and Barcelona just under two million.
The virus has severely impacted shirt revenues, demand (according to Love the Sales) but you may wonder if the new designs are deliberately aimed for abnormal times, their boldness may be provisioning for another lockdown, a more remote audience and the coming globalised generation. If you are not able to see them in person, they have got to look startling to appeal to online retail consumers.
Or it could be that the designers are becoming more adventurous because they are bored. Let’s face it, a traditional red, blue or white shirt is limited. Once you have one, you don’t need another until it wears out. By making shirts that tweak the style, introduce features and even change the tone, fans will clamour to have the new version. But again, there’s only so much you can do with a club’s first kit so the answer is to make the second kit more innovatIve (if that’s the right word). And to really squeeze the fans, a third kit can be produced that can be so bold it evokes animal prints, hangovers, illegal raves and urban art. The second and third kits represent a pure opportunity to monetize the supporters.
And they moan. They accuse the club of money-grabbing and over-commercialisation. But, they buy them, wear them everywhere they go and kiss the badge. If you feel your club is abusing loyalty by churning-out new strips, then it is simple – do not buy them.
It is astonishing how some kits that appalled us have become iconic. Arsenal’s bruised banana is one such shirt. At the time, it was considered awful by most fans, but it also represented a glorious time for the club. Coventry’s brown kit has never stood the test of time, but then they never won the championship in it!
It is possible that the real age of the crap kit may be upon us, a reflection of the times we are living in. Will someone produce a shirt with the covid-19 virus image embedded in its weave?
Photo: PA Images