Paid Up Front

This article originally featured in MEHSTG No.8

There I was settled safely in front of my television set on a chilly Wednesday evening, when I was shocked by a phenomenon that has been evident in football for some considerable time. Shirt advertising. It wasn't the scrawl of the wild Liverpool strip proclaiming (I want) Candy, but that of their cup opposition. As Brighton lined up, I broke down!! They stood there ready for the kick-off, their advertising screamed from their shirts "NOBO" !! Now, what must it be like to be a Brighton player running around with that on your chest? It is pleasing that the sponsors do not require the team to be named after them, otherwise they could have been NOBO Brighton and Hove Albion, with the fans chanting "Come on you NOBO's".

Remember that Friday evening at Old Trafford, when Spurs appeared for a televised game and a tiny Holsten adorned the front of their shirts? Since then Holsten has grown in size, but they have stood by Spurs through thick and thin even after the 1987 FA Cup final balls-up . However, some clubs chop and change their sponsors more frequently than they change managers. Consider the Red Machine for example. They've been through Hitachi and Crown Paints before settling with their current advertisers. And what about Forest - Wrangler, National Panasonic, Skol, Home Ales and Shipstones Fine Ales. Of course, Coventry were the leaders in this field. You must remember the huge T on their shirts (especially nasty on the red away version I recall). Since this was deemed too large and proposals to actually change their name to Talbot Coventry were scrapped, they have worn various names on their front, including Granada Leisure, Glazepta (?) and Peugeot.

Some sponsors have happily remained loyal to one club such as Man U, Arsenal and ourselves, but some seem to move from club to club, like demented groundhoppers. KLM flew the short distance from QPR to Brentford, while both Wrangler and Home Ales crossed the Trent to find their way onto the black and white stripes of County. And while we're on the subject of County, why are they sponsored by Home Ales at home and McEwans Lager on their change strip ?? Surely they should be sponsored by Away Ales (Something which was quite frequently yelled at our David up at Blackpool.) Then again, perhaps they picked up a cheap job lot of shirts from Glasgow Rangers, who had found that the colours ran. There again, Rangers at one time wore the same shirt sponsorship as their rivals - C R Smith.

Other sponsors go to extravagant lengths to identify their product with a team. In the early 80's, do you recall the QPR team photo with each player raising a glass of their sponsors brew, Guinness? How embarassing. And what about Aston Villa. Devoid of trophies, they posed with a Mita photocopier in front of the team line-up. I wonder if Genoa, who share Mita as sponsors, have to suffer the same indignity??

Although some clubs have changed their sponsors, the general product area has remained the same. Newcastle had Scottish & Newcastle breweries before changing to Greenalls (No wonder Sparrow thought he was alright for a few jars) and Luton, Tricentrol before stepping up to Bedford Trucks. Grimsby have always been associated with fishy sponsors - Findus and NISA, while Wimbledon's, perhaps unsuprising relationships with beery benefactors in Trumans and Carlsberg before defecting to the electrical firm, Samsung (who also sponsor K61n). Leicester went on a sort of pub theme for a while by carrying the name of Ind Coope and then Walkers Crisps. Two pints of lager and a packet of..... Of the advertising mentioned already, most of the examples are tasteful, with the exception of Arsenal and Talbot, but others are decidedly dodgy. Like Norwich whose is just Asics joke. Similar to Scarborough and their Black Death Vodka ad accompanied by Gothic lettering and dripping blood! Aaargh !! It would be more frightening than a Bryan Robson late tackle. It's quite an interesting game sometimes, to try and work out what a shirt sponsor actually does. (Only interesting if you watch the filth - Ed) The amount of benefit they gain from this venture must be questionable. Did you ever discover what Everton's Hafnia was or did ?? What about Leeds' RFW? Or Stoke's Ricoh ??

After Chelsea's brief liason with Gulf Air (was it really only one match), Bai Lin Tea (similar) and before they programmed in Commordore, their shirts begged the age old question, what is a Simod ?? I would be grateful if anyone could enlighten me about the origins of my continental favourite, Samp doria's ERG. No names mentioned Cap'n, but some use this form of advertising as some sort of ego trip. Derby currently sport Maxwell on their strip after going from Sportsweek to BPCC, both ventures of the man who would (have) been king of White Hart La ne. County were on much safer ground with British Midland Airways and Patrick UK, who they started with. At the time of Holsten's first contract expiry there was a rumour that Spurs would switch to the Health Education Council and wear a Smoking prohibited roadsign type advert on the famous Lilywhite shirt, This would have involved the staff of the club giving up smoking and as they were not all willing to do this, the deal fell through. The ad was to reappear on WBA's shirt shortly after and it put their fire out as they plunged into Division 2.

The options for fun are endless as you fit particular sponsors to certain suitable teams (perhaps you can think of a few more suggestions and send them in.) At one time Southampton were Rank (Xerox) and it was easy enough to see a way thru Blackburn's Perspex defence. There was always good Access to Southend's goal, until they went Hi-Tee, while Charlton went through FADS before saying "I'm with the Woolwich." The young Palace team hailed 'the team of the 80's' could have done with being sponsored by Virgin and the Oxford side of the late 80's were a bunch of Wangers! It must have been a very difficult job for the Preston manager to remind his team that it wasn't a holiday camp when they were sponsored by Pontin's. West Ham have recently lost their Trust in Avco and have brought in BAC to front their shirts. Then what about our old friend and ex-England international, Donk7 Well, if he was playing for GPR at the moment, would he be under the Influence??

To round off, I'd like to bring to your notice one team who haven't had a lot of luck when it comes to shirt sponsors. Port Vale. They started badly with Croda, who produce animal by-products from boiling guts and bones causing a horrendous stink in the process. From that they moved onto perhaps the most unfortunate shirt advertisement you could ever wish to see. And this during their promotion season too !! Imagine the scene - The dressing room after a dismal 1-1 draw when the forward had missed a sitter in the closing stages that would have given them all three points and moved them closer to promotion. The Boss lambasts (Oooh Err) his striker for the mistake. The No,9 sits head in hands and mutters as a way of explanation, " Sorry Boss, but it's that time of the month !!"


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