Sign of the Times?

Posted by John Devlin

West Ham West Brom sponsorless shirts football jersey kit xl holidaysOne for pub quizzes of the future – ‘what was unusual about the Premier League fixture between West Brom & West Ham in September 2008?’ Of course…both sides played without a shirt sponsor’s logo – to my mind the only time this has happened since the Premier League’s formation in 1992 (apart from of course the ‘tribute’ Manchester derby last season).

Anyone following the sad demise of XL Holidays this week will no doubt be aware of the implications it has for West Ham, the side who the firm just recently signed a multi-million pound sponsorship deal. The rumours were that the side were going to sport the XL logo in the WBA game to fufill contractual requirements before removing it for future matches. It is relatively rare, certain in the top flight of English football, that a company who can afford to sponsor a shirt hit severe financial difficulties that threaten their existance mid-season. The only previous examples I can recall were:

Allsports who sponsored Charlton’s shirts until midway through the 05–06 season until they went bust (the shirts taken over by Spanish property company Llanera who ironically also hit problems a couple of seasons later);

First Advice who collapsed shortly before the start of the 03–04 season, although curiously Manchester City carried on sporting the company’s brand on their jerseys throughout the season (it seems it would have been more costly and politically problematic to alter the shirts – apparently a stock of 100,000 replica ‘First Advice’ home shirts still existed – Thomas Cook were lined up to sponsor the away shirt for the 03–04 campaign but this never materialised);

and Newcastle Utd sponsors Northern Rock whose fiscal problems were well documented last year. The company were actually taken over by the government at the start of 2008 and yet their shirt sponsorship deal with Newcastle continued – effectively meaning that the Government were spending tax-payers cash in supporting a football club. Understandably this move created some degree of controversy.

west bromwich albion wba sponsorless shirts advert umbro 08-09West Brom’s situation is different though – they have simply been unable to secure a sponsorship deal yet for this season – despite the club’s unashamed campaign to attract a suitable partner. Replica shirts are being sold without a logo although supporters will be able to return the shirts to the club for a sponsor’s logo to be added once a deal has been confirmed. It will be interesting to see just how many supporters take the club up on this offer.

The Baggies are not the first Premier League side to struggle to secure shirt sponsorship however  – West Ham played most of 97–98 without a sponsor before Dr Martens stepped in (did you see what I did there!) towards the end of the season and both Sheffield Wednesday and Wimbledon played with ‘empty’ shirts in the early days of the Premier League.

One business sector that hasn’t yet been affected too much by the recession and can still be seen frequently as shirt sponsors throughout the land is that of online betting/poker companies such as www.partypoker.com who have sponsored Leyton Orient since 2007.

Although the purists may be pleased, sadly (financially at least – shirt sponsor deals are vital to football clubs these days), sponsorless shirts may become more common as the (and I hate to repeat this over-used phrase) ‘Credit Crunch’ bites. With many airlines/holiday companys rumoured to be in trouble several clubs may be affected and with most companies being more cautious with their pennies shirt deals may be some way down their list of priorities. The West Brom/West Ham game may prove to be the first of many.


16 Responses to “Sign of the Times?”

  1. True Colours Football Kits » Sign of the times Says:

    [...] With the financial situation worsening what is its implication for football? I’ve written a new article which was posted on Sunday concerning the West Brom/West Ham match. Now it seems AIG are in trouble spelling problems for Manchester Utd. You can read the article here: http://www.truecoloursfootballkits.com/articles/sign-of-the-times [...]

  2. Rich Johnson Says:

    I watched the highlights of this match the other day and I have to say, the West Brom shirts loooked great with no sponsor. Very classy and very retro, especially given the styling of the shirt. The idea of a premiership club being without a sponsor seems almost ludicrous these days, but I guess more clubs will find it increasingly hard to get the deal they want in these ‘differently affluent’ times. As everyone tightens their belts, so it must follow that the sacred land of the premiership must follow.

  3. John Devlin Says:

    I agree Rich, I think both WBA kits look great – even more so without a sponsor.

  4. Rich Johnson Says:

    This whole incident reminds me of the FA Cup final in 1987 (C’mon City!) when Spurs unveiled their brand new kit…half of them missing the sponsor’s (Holsten) logo, something to do with the kit having been rushed I believe.

  5. Weston Says:

    Now with AIG being bought out by the US government, you may see ManU without a sponsor!

  6. AtlantaPompey Says:

    WBA v WHU was fascinating to watch. Also Liverpool played yesterday in the Champions League with a shirt sponsor. What happened to Carling? Are they not allowed to wear it because of the Heineken sponsorship of the Champions League?

    So the US govt owns 90% of AIG. Does the shirt sponsorship continue? Do they change AIG to USA? What happens next?

  7. Shane Says:

    Might as well just plaster a huge American flag across the kit instead.

  8. Dan King Says:

    could it also be that no company wants to pay PL sponsorship money when Albion will most likely not be there next year?

  9. flems Says:

    Ahhh, how fitting, US Taxpayers forking over the bill for the jersey sponsorship of Man Utd – truly a microcosm of Bush’s disastrous Presidency for us Yanks. The Republican party here truly does embody Man Utd, minus the blinding talent and ongoing success of course. Rot on Republicanism – way to ruin our country.

  10. amir Says:

    re:AtlantaPompey question
    Alcohol sponsorship/publicity is banned in France during sporting events. So companies either have to ‘hide’ their name eg. Heineken=Champions Planet or H(euro rugby union cup) / Famous Grouse(Scottish RFU sponsor)=TFG
    or have kits with no sponsor eg. Liverpool yesterday and Rangers last season.

  11. Denis Hurley Says:

    The best way around the French ban was when the Welsh rugby team changed the ‘Brains’ on the front of their shirts to ‘Brawn’!

  12. AJ Says:

    “This whole incident reminds me of the FA Cup final in 1987 (C’mon City!) when Spurs unveiled their brand new kit…half of them missing the sponsor’s (Holsten) logo, something to do with the kit having been rushed I believe.”

    Apparently that was deliberate. Some of the Spurs players had a dispute with Holsten and refused to wear the logo on their shirts.

  13. Rich Johnson Says:

    Really? surely the club would force them to? And they’d worn the logo all season…

  14. John Devlin Says:

    I’ve never got to the bottom of the 87 Cup Final kits. I was always under the impression that the shirts were literally hot of the press (or loom) that only a handful of sponsor logos were applied. I can’t believe the players had a dispute with Holsten. Anyone else cast any light on this?

  15. Rich Johnson Says:

    This was my understanding too. I’ll have to dig my 87 cup final video out and see if anything was mentioned…

  16. AJ Says:

    According to the answer to a recent question in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/jan/21/the-knowledge-footballers-religion):

    “Spurs had the kit delivered, prior to kick-off, direct to Wembley so no one was aware of the error until the afternoon of the game. Unfortunately, a printing error at Hummel’s factory meant that only half the shirts actually had Holsten on them. It was too late to change the kit and Spurs had to play looking a tad daft.”

    But I’m sure I remember an article in the Sunday Mirror the day after the final which said that some of the players didn’t have the Holsten logo on their shirts because of a dispute with the company. Maybe the paper just made that story up!