Replica Jerseys vs Supporters Jerseys

Posted by John Devlin

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I encountered a curious phenomena when I purchased a shirt from New Zealand domestic side Youngheart Manawatu (what a great name!) who hail from the Manawatu region of the country where some of my family now live.

Umbro supply the club who play in the New Zealand Football Championship and finished runners up in the 08-09 season. New Zealand Pharmaceuticals are their primary sponsor.

The shirt I bought was not a replica as such but was officially branded a “Supporter’s Jersey”. The shirt itself featured the main sponsors logos, club badge and of course was an official Umbro product. But although it is a proper, authentic football shirt (and one I recognised as a standard Umbro template from a few years back as worn by the Republic of Ireland amongst others), its NOT the one the team plays in. So what exactly is a Supporters Jersey?

youngheart-supporters1It seems they are pretty common in rugby (especially down under) where replica jerseys tend to be pretty expensive and very much modelled for athletic performance. A supporters jersey allows fans to wear official, branded clothing without squeezing themselves into expensive, tight fitting replicas of the kit the team wears. For example, the latest Nike England rugby shirt is designed for the match itself; tight fitting, minimalist neck design, lightweight with various touches designed to enhance performance. However, there is also a supporters jersey, far more baggy, casual, comfortable, branded and with an old-fashioned button up neck – very similar in fact to the current England football shirt.

In New Zealand the situation surrounding supporters jerseys is slightly different. Football is very much a minority sport with a small but devoted following. Replica jerseys from either football or rugby out there are hideously expensive, we’re talking about £60-£70 each. On speaking to Youngheart Manawatu’s marketing people it seems they wanted to produce branded clothing for supporters but realised that most fans would probably not want to pay top dollar for a replica – apart from the cost, there just isn’t the culture of fans wearing strips exactly the same as the team. So instead they secured a bulk order of old stock from Umbro (in the same colour as the team kit of course) and branded it with the respective logos  The cost was approx £15 therefore making a highly affordable and official way to show support for your team.

Its an interesting concept and I wonder if it will ever make its way into mainstream football? Currently there is a plethora of training shirts, polo shirts etc that supplement any club’s team kit – but its still the replica jersey that is the pinnacle of supporter clothing.


9 Responses to “Replica Jerseys vs Supporters Jerseys”

  1. Rich Johnson Says:

    I’ve seen quite a few of these in recent years; a few national teams have something similar…maybe not always called ‘supporters’ jerseys, but often just T shirts with a near replica of the home jersey. In Euro 2008, Russia had what was called a ‘kick off’ shirt, which was almost identical to the replica jersey, but had a simpler neck design and was about half the price. Never quite understood what that was about. For me, it has to be the official replica…just seems wrong otherwise. Really annoys me on ebay when you see a shirt that’s clearly not a replica, but is claiming to be…then again, caveat emptor n all that.

  2. Jose Angel Says:

    You’re right, Rich. There are some European national teams ‘double shirted’. Last summer, for example, I bought in Nuremberg a supporter’s shirt of the German national team for my son. A shirt which was cheaper than the replica shirt. I thought that it was a marketing policy by Adidas, but surprisingly I can’t find in Spain official Adidas supporter’s shirts of the Spanish national team. Maybe they want to sell here only the replica shirts. And they cost almost 60 euros, junior sizes.

  3. Andrew Rockall Says:

    I think this may catch on. I have chosen to stop buying Spurs replica shirts each season and buy a retro shirt from the 70’s. This way my shirt isn’t one year or two years out of date just a classic Spurs shirt.

  4. Rich Johnson Says:

    I have an adidas T-Shirt from 1988 which is the exact same as the German one from Euro 88…albeit with no badge on. don’t think it was intended as a supporters shirt as it was just in their range of sportsware that year…can’t imagine that happening now without it being an ‘official’ ‘supporters’ shirt. I wonder if this is becoming more prominent to try and stop the proliferation of fake shirts…people buy fakes cos the price is low, but would they prefer an ‘official’ shirt for the same price, even though it’s not a replica?

    Speaking of the high cost of replica shirts, whatever happened to the price of shirts supposedly coming down dramatically? I’m sure it was about 10 years ago now that the OFT declared shirts were too expensive…since then, they’ve stayed mostly the same price.

  5. Austin Gray Says:

    I have noticed that supporters shirts are particularly popular in Turkey – at least among the big three clubs there. Two years ago, when Besiktas was still sponsored by Umbro, I ordered a Supporters shirt as a point of comparison. It was undoubtedly an Umbro product. It was sold on their website for roughly £20 (as opposed to the players shirt, which they sold for about £45), and it arrived with proper Umbro tags. It looked almost identical to the official shirt, but the main sponsors logo and the club badge were both printed on the shirt. After a few washes, the colours started to bleed ever so slightly. In retrospect, I think I would have been happier paying the extra £25 for the real thing.

  6. AA Says:

    Nike does that as well – e.g. there are Barcelona “supporter’s” (lower grade materials but same template) and replica jerseys (still not what player’s wear!), plus some teams like Valencia issued another version which was exactly what the teams use, including a tighter fit. Canterbury did the same, issuing Elite versions (real player’s versions) and replicas from different material as well. Same for adidas with their Climacool replicas and Formotion player shirts that are available sometimes as well and Kappa with Clone (lower grade) and Kombat (player’s version) ranges. Puma also has different grades (single/dual layer) and none of the generally available shirts are player’s version which has taped seams and non-plastic logos.

    So I guess it’s already in the mainstream football for some time!

  7. Eric Kay Says:

    I have seen these a lot too. Maybe they are trying to make an extra shirt for fanatic fans and collectors to buy?

  8. Rich Johnson Says:

    Good point regarding the different versions of replica jerseys AA. First became aware of this with the Climacool / Climalite versions of the kits Argentina wore at the 02 WC. You could get a ‘players version’ in a presentation box and it was the proper dual layer version with flat plastic badges. Also, Italy’s Confed Cup kit from this year was clearly dual layer, but the replica versions just had a tiny strip of white material stitched on the hem so it looked the same.

  9. John Devlin Says:

    Investigating the differences between replicas and official jerseys is something I really want to explore. What I find ironic is that when replicas first came out the badges were always cheap iron-on/vinyl style transfers while the official kits had embroidered motifs. Now its the other way round!!

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