When the little Admiral logo first appeared on the England strip in 1974, the £5 rrp for the shirts caused something of a stir…. things have got worse since then.
Nike have just revealed the new England strip for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and the price tag of £90 has rightly caused something of an outrage.
Of course, you can buy the inferior ‘stadium shirt’ without all the wonderful new scientific breakthroughs that the players will enjoy, for a mere £60.
Who, in their right mind, would pay that for an England shirt, especially now that they don’t appear to have much of a shelf life. It hardly seems a couple of months ago that we were berating the first Nike England kit for looking like West Germany circa 1966.
It is now 40 years since the national football shirt was first visibly branded and at that time there was something of a kerfuffle, not to say a hoo-hah at the amount of money parents were expected to pay for the new Admiral England kit (adults didn’t wear them back then, unless they were actually playing football).
In commercial terms, Admiral had done such a great job by 1977, they were hauled over the coals in Parliament by Newport MP Roy Hughes:
“My object is to focus attention on the undesirable practices of certain sports equipment manufacturers,” he complained. “The most unpleasant aspect is that children are being exploited. One of the principal offenders appears to be the Leicester firm of Cook & Hurst, the chairman of which is Mr. Bert Patrick and their trade name is ‘Admiral’. The attitude of that firm is arrogant… The English football team now has ‘Admiral’ emblazoned on its tracksuits. The firm of Cook & Hurst says that it has exclusive rights to use the English lion emblem on its products. It relies for that on the Copyright Act 1968 and its predecessors. That is an abuse of those Acts, which were intended for such items as jewellery and motor-car accessories… Star-struck youngsters who wish to wear the colours of their favourite teams are having to pay through the nose for the pleasure.”
The general opinion of the Commons was that it was all a jolly rotten do, but there was nothing they could do about it. Nothing could stand in the way of commerce, and when Admiral went bust in the early 80s, Umbro were more than happy to take over.
For almost thirty years Umbro produced a series of largely popular England strips, before they were bought up by, and replaced by Nike.
And so we come to the age of the £90 football shirt. A strange decision in the light of falling sales in recent years, doubling the price.
We can’t imagine it will be a great success.
Part of this article first appeared in ‘Got, Not Got’… available here…