Football Kit Five Point Plan

Posted by John Devlin

I’ve had this post drafted for a while but Thursday night’s farce at Tynecastle where the home side, Hearts, were forced to wear their away strip at home against Liverpool has prompted me to complete it.

The main reason for this bizarre situation comes from the fact that all three of Liverpool’s kits managed to clash with Hearts’ maroon jersey. The core of the problem though lies in the fact that the Reds’ dark purple third shirt is, at a glance, very similar in tonal value and hue to their black away kit. An issue that I refer to below.

For this to be happening in this day and age with kit awareness and design sophistication at a peak is quite frankly ludicrous. For a club like Liverpool to employ a kit manufacturer who can’t even concoct a solid, usable, array of kits beggars belief.
I sense things are changing a bit in the football kit world and a few issues have crept in that may be threatening to the whole culture of football strips and the relation between the shirts worn on the pitch and replica sales and what determines this.

In my view the tail is now wagging the dog and unless common sense is brought into play the entire replica shirt boom is in jeopardy as fans realise what is going on. A kit shouldn’t exist just to sell replicas – end of story. If plenty of replicas are sold then thats great. More money for the club – vital in this day and age – and its a situation that with right management could exist as long as football does. Supporters want to be able to dress the same as their heroes on the pitch. But don’t design and produce a shirt SOLELY for the replica market – especially if due to poor consideration or lack of design/colour knowledge it doesn’t do its job on the pitch. This is what happened at the Hearts/Liverpool match this week.

I’ve drawn up a few points that I think should be put into place to re-evaluate kit design and bring it back on track in terms of its position and club integrity in football, improving visibility of players on the pitch and also its relevance and, more importantly, fairness to the replica/leisure wear market.

Many of these issues have been discussed elsewhere on the site…

1 Wear your home kit wherever possible.

This is the core of a club’s identity. If you’re playing away from home and there’s a clash wear your away kit. If there’s STILL a clash, then wear your third kit. Always wear your home kit at home and don’t change elements of it at all unless there is a clash (witness Man Utd donning their ‘night time’ white socks away at Everton recently despite being no clash). Maintain the integrity of the uniform and don’t change on a whim.

2 Ensure your home, away and third kits are all sufficiently different in colour to each other.

Each kit has to serve a purpose on the field of play – that’s it’s job – and should not exist in its own right purely for marketing a replica version. A team should realistically need no more than three kits per season. This should cover every eventuality and a sensible range of colours would accommodate this. We’re seeing more and more examples of home/away/third kits that are in the same colour (albeit a different shade) or tonal value as each other. Sell a leisure/off-field shirt for supporters to buy if you want to produce a different design in another shade of the colour.

3 Each kit should last two seasons.

This feels to me to be the natural lifespan of a kit. The longer period will allow kits to become more memorable and iconic. Too many good designs are wasted after just one season, condemned to the back of the kit cupboard. Plus imagine the excitement and anticipation each time a new kit is launched. I guarantee it will be more than exists now. It will also be a massive gesture to complaining parents who have to buy kits for their children. Too many clubs now launch three new kits per season (with at least one thats seldom worn) with many simple off the shelf teamwear kits with no special link to the club or bespoke quality. Change for change’s sake. Even to someone who loves kits as much as I do this does feel a tad excessive. To ensure at least one new kit is launched per season and provide steady income we should revert to the old trend of this year’s away kit becoming next year’s third kit. More practical and less wasteful – and no more old-hat £15 shirts at Sports Direct just months after a new kit has been launched. Kits are iconic and special and should be given more value.

4 Allow secondary sponsors on the kit in England’s top flight.

It happens throughout the football world – and even in the rest of Football League. Why not the Premier League? Is the league so high and mighty that it doesn’t want to demean itself by ‘excessive’ sponsorship/commercialism (yet it happily allows more than one manufacturers logo and permits the launch of three kits every year!) This rule could also bring in valuable revenue that may be lost by giving each kit a two-year lifespan. However – the only other rule I would make here is that the secondary sponsor should either be another brand, an additional logo of the main sponsor or an additional (possibly also enlarged) logo of the kit manufacturer.

5 Make new kits sufficiently different from the previous design.

Maybe a trite ‘Daily Mail’ style point but lets make kit design really exciting and interesting again. Even introducing a different collar design makes a massive impact to the shirt’s overall appearance and really helps make each shirt unique and special. Its a simple point but adds real value to each new design when it comes out. The anticipation for a new kit that, in my view, has been dulled slightly by the one-year cycle, will return and seeing a real innovative design move-on and a new style could increase sales.

Well….this is my five point plan that I believe could really rejuvenate the kit world and the replica kit market. I’d be interested to hear your views…