With the new Premier League season looming over the horizon like one of those massive alien spaceships in Independence Day, fans of the greatest 20 teams in the universe will have that wonderful glowing ‘anything can happen’ hopeful feeling. In two weeks’ time most of those supporters will be full of despair and self-loathing. But for now everything’s rosy.
Many of those younger fans – and some more misguided older ones – will be spending an incredible amount of money on their team’s latest replica kits, however hideous a creation they may be( I’m looking at you Liverpool). A quick glance at the excellent http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/ website reveals that 19 of the top division have a brand spanking new home kit to sell this season. Most of them changing from a kit they only wore for one campaign. This astounding fact has largely passed the general public by. But it wasn’t that long ago that fans – and politicians, don’t forget the politicians – were apoplectic about this replica shirt rip off.
It was the year 2000. People were up in arms. Revolution was in the air. No longer would the fans be duped into parting with their hard earned cash for an overpriced t-shirt manufactured in a Vietnamese sweat shop. Manchester United, in particular, were castigated for their callous assault on the sports shops of Britain releasing new kits every couple of months, or so it seemed. The people of Britain looked to the Football Task Force, led by well-known football shirt wearer and former MP David Mellor, to rein in these out of control football clubs. It really was a brave club that defied the Task Force’s (not legally binding) suggestions.
And so it came to pass that just before the start of the 2000/2001 season, the Premier League themselves announced a Fan’s Charter signed by all 20 clubs. Alongside promises over ticket pricing and fan involvement in decision making (how times have changed) was an attempt to encourage the clubs to ensure a two year gap between new kits. This was immediately circumvented by releasing new home and away shirts in alternate years but at least the thought was there.
Now everyone’s bringing out a new kit but no-one seems to care. Have we just become desensitised to the Premier League’s ever growing merchandise machine? Maybe we expect nothing more of the clubs anymore. So as club after club release another ‘collector’s edition’ shirt we reach into our pockets again and pay up. But just remember, it could have been so different if we had stayed angry – and if David Mellor had had his way. If you know what I mean.
Dan Roberts (@LasVegasWI)