I was watching Arsenal Gold on Arsenal TV and reliving the Double victory at Old Trafford in May 2002 when I realised how much I really loved the Gold away shirt. This has to be my favourite away shirt.
Following on the speculation this week upon the internet that the away shirt of 1982 is being revamped and presented as our new shirt for 2009/10 I contacted Arsenal Football Club who gave their standard “No Comment” adding that the information concerning the new away shirt would be presented at the end of June just before pre-season.
Not that I hate green you understand, it’s just that I will refuse to buy this shirt if it really turns out that this will be the one on offer, as without a brain full of hallucinogenic mushrooms, I cannot find myself even remotely likely to part with upwards of £40 pounds for something that will get me confused with the ballboys at Wimbledon All England Tennis Club. That said, we have produced some amazing away shirts over the years, and a brief look at the archives revealed the following bizarre contributions.
Let us recall that Arsenal Football Club have been long involved in the history of football shirts through the forward thinking Herbert Chapman who in 1933 introduced the classical Red and White Arsenal shirt that we know today. This was followed by the addition of player numbers. The sponsored shirts that we take for granted today didn’t take off until the TV companies agreed to televise the teams in these kits in the early 1980’s. prior to then Clubs had to have one kit without logos.
The introduction of football kits had originally been introduced in the late 1870’s on the playing fields of the southern academic seats of learning. The rugby shirt at Eton and the football shirt at Cambridge University. When the Football league came into being, the professional clubs had to register their kits. In the event of a clash between teams then a second white strip had to be provided. In the 1920’s rules were introduced that stipulated away kits, but it wasn’t until after the second world war with the introduction of Umbro a rival kit supplier to the monopoly Bukta company that the range of colours and styles available for football kits expanded.
In 1975 another company Admiral entered the market and mass produced replica kits which enabled football supporters to share their passion for the club of their choice. The prospect of booming sales saw several other sportswear companies jumping on the bandwagon such as Adidas. The introduction of fancy designs and fabrics provided a range of shirts that would not have looked out of place worn by hippies in the swinging sixties. The far east sweat shops soon realised that there was also a quick buck to be made and very soon counterfeit replica kits were being found on the same store rails as the originals.
It took the injudicious remarks of an ex Newcastle United Chairman Freddie Shepherd in the late 1990’s to blow the lid off the profits that Clubs were making from replica shirts. He labelled the Toon fans “Gullible” for buying shirts at £40 which only cost £5 to make. The falling sales prompted a football task force report in 1999 which confirmed that fans were being over charged. The Office of Fair Trading levied huge fans upon football clubs such as Manchester United and even the English FA failed to escape the charge of over charging and selective distribution. This was how the Independent Newspaper announced the news in 2003.
“Manchester United, a leading sports kit manufacturer and eight retailers were fined a total of £18.6m yesterday after being found guilty of colluding to fix the price of replica football shirts. After a 14-month investigation, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said the severity of the fines on Britain’s most famous football club, the manufacturer Umbro, and several leading store chains reflected the scale of a national conspiracy to cheat consumers. Even the game’s governing body, the Football Association, was found guilty of maintaining the price of England shirts by restricting supply through Britain’s biggest sports retailer, JJB Sports, and its own defunct online shop.
The scandal centred on an illegal agreement to inflate the price of Umbro shirts for Manchester United, as well as for three other clubs not involved in the wrongdoing: Chelsea, Nottingham Forest and the Scottish club Celtic. Emboldened by new powers in the Competition Act 2000, OFT investigators launched a series of early morning raids to seize incriminating documents. It was also helped by evidence from two retailers, whose assistance reduced their fines.
The OFT uncovered complex scams between spring 2001 and autumn 2002 to fix prices for several months each time a new kit was launched. The companies paid a heavy price yesterday – JJB Sports was fined £8.3m, Allsports £1.3m and five other companies were fined between £4,000 and £197,000. The Football Association was fined £158,000. Manchester United, the reigning Premiership champions, were fined £1.6m. Umbro’s fine was the second biggest at £6.4m.”
The fall out from this action is still continuing as many clubs including Arsenal continue to charge fans £45 for replica shirts made by Nike. Asda Supermarkets lead a rebellion against Nike by stating it’s intention to sell replica shirts at half the price by sources the shirts outside of the usual distribution networks. In 2008 JJB sports finally were forced to pay refunds to fans who had been overcharged following an investigation by the consumer association watchdog “Which”.
It will take more actions before the price of replica shirts finally fall to reasonable levels. To counter this, football clubs are bringing out several shirts, a home shirt, an away shirt, a European shirt home and away, as well as commemorative shirts to celebrate anniversaries and occasions. All designed with one purpose in mind, to separate the ordinary football fan from their money. A simple way for fans to demonstrate their disgust with the overcharging by clubs, is obvious. Don’t buy the shirts! But the fanatical herd instinct to show support for their club by wearing the latest replica shirt remains a powerful deterrent to a collective movement that would send a powerful message to the offending clubs and companies.
Oh by the way, my sources tell me that the 2009/10 away shirt will actually be a white shirt with coloured vertical stripes, rather than the hideous green and navy mock ups currently being discussed. I hope to provide you with an artists impression in a few weeks time, but until then look at some of the striped shirts worn by Arsenal players over the decades.
So which is your favourite away shirt and why?
Comments of course invited…