Football, football, football. The end of the season is upon us, and what an end in England, with Man U and Chelsea going to the wire for the Premier League and the Champions League, an FA Cup which could go Welsh, and a poor nothing for poor Arsenal. My team, Spurs, we already finished our season with a League Cup, while in France, Paris St Germain could get relegated, at which I will laugh because I also support Marseille. The really exciting thing about this time of the footy calendar though is not all the trophies, relegations, sackings and transfers, but the release of all the new kits for the next year. It’s becoming standard now that clubs release a new home shirt every season, but even I am getting tired of the football kit merry-go-round, and the laughable marketing that surrounds it.
When I was a kid, I used to want to be a kit designer. The late eighties and ealy nineties saw some incredibly daring designs, some instant classics, some instant stomach-churners (Arsenal’s away kit of 1992 springs to mind). Umbro and Adidas were the two leaders of design, and it was an exciting time for innovation and experimentation with new away colours (Liverpool’s green, Arsenal’s blue, Manchester United’s grey/green/yellow/you-name-it). Then, somewhere along the way, it all tapered off, it all just got a bit boring. There are only so many different collar designs. Only so many ways you can do stripes. Only so many old kits from the 50s/60s/70s you can rehash and pretend to be faithful. And so the marketing has to be inventive. For a few years now they’ve been pretending that the material is far more technologically advanced than anything from the previous year, or anything modern humans can even produce without advanced alien technology. Last year it seemed as though every new kit was a ‘commemorative kit’ for something or other: Spurs had their special ‘125 years’ kit, Celtic did the ’40 years since they won the European Cup’ kit (I bought it, incidentally), Barcelona remembered 50 years at Camp Nou, Northern Ireland ‘s kit commemorated, and this is stretching it a bit, 25 years since they were at the Spain World Cup in 1982. To name but a few examples. This year they can’t even be bothered to do that.
Spurs just released their new shirts for 08-09. Since signing with Puma in 2006, Spurs have now had TEN new shirts, not including goalkeeper kits. Last year the only significant change to the kit was the collar became a v-neck. Well this year the only significant change to the home kit is that that v-neck now has a blue trim. That’s another forty quid please, thank you, and don’t forget to put your favourite player’s name on the back, quickly, because he’ll be leaving for a new club in the summer. It’s such an underwhelming design, and yet they release it (in the shops today) with such fanfare, as if this new blue v-neck collar will somehow usher in a new era of prosperity and silverware. We’re not even the worst ones. Borussia Dortmund, for example, brought out three home shirts this season: a regular one, a cup-final one (hier bitte), and a special christmas one (noch wieder?). Oh, and they just release a new one for next year (immer mehr? Scheiss!). To market all these design-a-minute shirts the clubs will try anything, but an interesting trend these days (employed largely by South American teams and lower-league English clubs) is to use female models, rather than players; typical examples here, here and here. You see, terribly exploitative, I cannot approve. There’s another few here. But we the fans still buy them, these unimaginatively designed expensive mobile adverts for bad football and whichever dodgy online chinese casino gives us a few bob to keep lazy want-away Bulgarians in hair bands. I think if football shirts are going to be little more than advertising boards then the fans should get them for free, or at least for very cheap. I’m going to write to Sepp Blatter. I will.