Pride of the jersey
IF you’re one of those people who believe there’s far too much sport on television, indeed far too much sport featured in all media forms, then matters will take a major downturn for you next week when the new Premiership season begins. Apart from the ever-increasing exposure of the game there is also another aspect of its return that is bound to cause unrest in some households and that is the ‘new kit syndrome’. All the clubs with the largest fan bases have changed their kits and you can be assured that there will be no shortage of buyers for them, despite the annual rant that is bound to accompany this annual festival of exploitation by clubs more interested in increasing global brand awareness than three points.
It’s an expensive business being a fan nowadays, even more so if you’re a parent and your child wants the new jersey. An adult top can cost up to €65, though you can also buy it for €55, while children’s versions range from €35 to €47, size dependant. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the one jersey that was being changed but in most cases the second and third choice kits are also being changed. Factor in the change in kit makers and kit sponsors, which affects four of the clubs that finished in the top five last year, and you’re left with a picture of almost total change in the appearance of the team you support.
Gerry Kenny has been running his own sports shop in Ballina for the past 25 years and he believes that the jersey phenomenon is the biggest change in the business in that time. “People didn’t wear their club colours years ago but they do now. Everyone wears them and there’s huge demand all year round. We find that Man United is still the number one with Liverpool in second place though there is great interest in the new Chelsea jersey now,’’ he said.
Not so long ago clubs only changed their jersey every few years, but that has all changed now. It’s probably fair to say that Man United spotted the change in trends and exploited the market before anyone else and at one stage they appeared to be changing their kit every second week. That brought with it a certain amount of consumer pressure and clubs decided to change every two years, thereby giving hard-up parents a break. But the bean counters soon got their way around that too.
“It’s supposed to be a two-year cycle but the clubs started changing their away jersey so that they could get a new jersey out each year and then you have clubs like Liverpool who have a Champions League jersey. There’s always a way around it for the club because they know the fans will buy them,’’ said Gerry.
Despite the negative publicity that attaches itself to this issue every August, Gerry Kenny points out that there is one side to the argument that seldom gets an airing - value for money.
“Parents tell me they’re great value, that they wash well and last a long time, though I understand that it can’t be easy for parents with other commitments,” he said.
That’s a point that concerns Michael Kilcoyne, the Castlebar-based chairman of the Consumer Association of Ireland. He believes that parents are hard-pressed enough already without additional costs eating into a limited budget. “Parents have enough to deal with all year round but at this time of the year with school approaching the last thing they need to spend money on is a football jersey while there’s a perfectly good one at home that was bought last Christmas. I know there are people that will say why not just say ‘no’ but it’s not that easy for parents. There’s a lot of peer pressure involved. I believe clubs and associations have a responsibility to families in this regard but I’m not sure they take a lot of this on board,’’ he said.
Of far more concern, and something that should worry everyone with a conscience, is where the football jersey emanates from. Michael Kilcoyne has sought assurances from the companies that produce them that they are not produced in sweat shops employing young children. “I’ve been looking for those assurances that the jerseys are not produced in sweat shops in the likes of South Africa or China but I haven’t received them. My concern is that children are working in those sweat shops turning out those jerseys for little or no money when they should be at school.’’
Good point, but while it may play on the conscience for a little while, will it put you off buying your team’s new jersey? Doubt it somehow