Aside from transfer news and gossip, the close season is a time when many football fans are scrambling around to grab their beloved team’s new playing kit before the new campaign begins.
European champions Barcelona and English Premier League sides Arsenal and Chelsea are among the major sides to have already released their kit design for next season — all of which have sparked interest with their respective changes. Barcelona’s new away strip is described by the FC Barcelona Web site as being a “bright mango” color, and it has a round neck. Arsenal meanwhile have made their away strip a dark blue color — quite the opposite to their recognized home color of red — while Chelsea have added breast plates to their new jersey. The release of new uniforms can also be a nervous time for fans — as there have been plenty of kits that live in the memory for all the wrong reasons. Athletic Bilbao’s commemorative shirt of 2004 is one strip that makes many “ugly” lists, while many goalkeepers — most notably Mexico’s Jorge Campos — have been remembered for their flamboyant and at times questionable style. See our photo gallery of ten of the ugliest football jerseys » Have a look through our photo gallery and tell us if there are any ugly team kits that you would add to the list in the Sound Off box below. And it is not just the style of the kit that matters to fans — some have even come to believe that particular strips have been jinxed, or led to a defeat. The famous “invisible” gray uniform of Manchester United, used in 1996, is one such outfit. After the English giants suffered a defeat to Southampton wearing the strip, manager Alex Ferguson claimed his players had difficulty seeing each other in the gray colors. Football kits are not just a way of visually separating two teams on a playing field, they are increasingly an important part of a club’s commercial operations. Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of the Center for the International Business of Sport (CIBS) at Coventry University in England, told CNN that when David Beckham moved to Real Madrid in 2003, it sparked the sale of an estimated one million shirts. Dan Jones, partner in the Sport Business group at accountancy firm Deloitte, told CNN that shirt revenues were not massive, but they were still important in taking the club’s brand around the globe. Jones said shirt sales are dominated by the biggest clubs and figures would “closely mirror” the top of the “Football Money League” rich-list. That would likely put Real Madrid and Manchester United as the two biggest shirt-sellers worldwide. The outlook for sales of this season’s new strips isn’t so rosy, however. The “Football Fans’ Inflation Index” released earlier this year by Virgin Money has showed large increases in the cost of an average game day for fans. The rising costs would likely produce a cut in spending on replica shirts, Virgin Money spokesman Grant Bather said in a press release.
“Buying a new replica shirt every time the club brings out a new design or changes sponsor is a habit that’s easy to break when your finances are being squeezed.” Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Federation in England, added: “It will not be surprising if sales of replica shirts suffer as a result of the recession. The bottom line for fans is that you need a ticket to get into the game but you don’t need a replica shirt, and when money’s tight, it’s the non-essentials which will go.”