Who wore the first sponsored shirt in an English League match?

Everyone knows that Liverpool were the first professional team to wear a sponsored shirt in a league match – but were they?

liverpool and everton in their 1979-80 sponsored shirts

I’ve been doing a bit of digging around, and as far as I can tell although the Reds were the first English professional side to sign a shirt sponsorship deal (that was permitted by the FA), they were actually beaten to the post to be the first side to wear their newly branded shirt in a Football League game.

Who were the first? Well, you just need to look a few miles away to the blue half of the city…

Liverpool’s deal with electronic goods company Hitachi was signed in July 1979 initially as a one-year contract worth £50,000, in preparation for the 1979-80 season. Shortly afterwards neighbours and rivals Everton followed suite and signed with Danish tinned meat producers Hafnia.

The 1979-80 season kicked off on Saturday 18th August with Everton proudly sporting their Hafnia shirts at home to Norwich City (a game that the Canaries won 4–2).

But…Liverpool didn’t play their first league game until Tuesday 21st August, three days later, against Bolton in a 0–0 draw at Anfield.

So although Liverpool did wear their new Hitachi shirts on that first Saturday of the 1979–80 campaign, it was actually only in an away friendly game against a League of Ireland side (incidentally, it seems the first Hitachi-sponsored match was in a friendly against Borussia Moenchengladbach on the 1st August) and it was actually their near neighbours Everton that became the first team to wear a sponsored shirt in an official league match!

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