In modern football, influenced as it is by mega-money television deals, big spending sugar daddies and soaring ticket prices, many football fans have been beginning to feel disillusioned and disconnected from the teams they support to a greater and greater extent.
That’s why here at Proven Quality we love it when teams make gestures of inclusiveness and gratitude to the supporters who pay to watch their team week in, week out. One way teams can thank their fans that has been catching on of late is by displaying tributes to their most loyal supporters on their jerseys. Of course while it’s possible that doing this isn’t a completely altruistic gesture on the part of the clubs, it is certainly good marketing on their part. After all, what supporter is not going to buy their clubs new shirt if it has their name on it?
With American Major League Soccer team Colorado Rapids doing exactly that today by releasing a shirt featuring their season-ticket holder’s names, we thought today would be a good day to post this round-up of fan inspired football kits that we have been busy researching in recent weeks.
Colorado Rapids, who have a partnership with Arsenal thanks to owner Stan Kroenke also holding a controlling stake in the North London club, released their fan inspired ‘uniform’ (as football kits are called by our friends on the other side of the pond) at an event last night.
The Rapids home kit for the coming 2013 season features the names of all full season-ticket holders imprinted within the fabric. The MLS team also released a new away kit, featuring the colours of the Colorado state flag.
When announcing the initiative to feature supporters names in the shading of the Rapids’ burgundy home shirts, club President Tim Hinchey said :
“This is a unique and special opportunity to have our loyal supporters on the pitch with our players in seasons ahead.
Our season ticket holders are the lifeblood of this organization. For our fans to take the pitch with our first team players truly exemplifies our ‘One Club’ mentality moving forward. We think our fans will enjoy the new design of our uniforms in 2013, and will be excited to find their names on the home jerseys.”
Of course, the Colorado Rapids are by no means the only or first team to pay tribute to fans in this way. Italian Serie A side Parma are also sporting a home shirt featuring the names of every single season ticket holder.
Parma’s shirt history is interesting in that they are a club that has experimented with many different colour combinations on their home shirts over the years.
You might remember the club’s yellow and blue jerseys inspired from the flag of the Duchy of Parma from the 80s and 90s when Parma were a force in Europe with frequent excursions to the latter rounds of the European Cup Winners Cup (winners in 1993 and runners up the following year), and UEFA Cup, which they won in 1995 and 1999. However in the past decade they have reverted to the white shirt with a black cross that they wore for the first 4 decades following their formation in 1913.
Unfortunately, sporting the supporters’ names on the Errea manufactured jersey has not inspired Parma to great success this season; the team are currently sitting in 11th place in Serie A and went out of the Coppa Italia on penalties to Catania.
Spanish club Sevilla meanwhile have another spin on the concept, turning their shirt numbers into a money spinner for the club. In 2011 the club partnered with Spanish company Playing 2 to offer fans the chance to purchase a 2 x 2mm square placed in the number of their favourite player. The squares cost 24 euros with most fans presumably opting to place a photo of their face in their purchased square.
Playing 2’s website currently lists Granada CF and Atletico de Madrid as other La Liga based partners, although it is unclear if or when these photos will be placed on the shirts of the clubs.
Basque club Alavés, currently playing way down in the third level of Spanish football in the Segunda División B have enjoyed only limited success as a club, spending only 11 seasons of their almost 100 year existence as a club in La Liga.
The club’s greatest success came after having been promoted to the top division in 1999, their first return to La Liga in 41 years. In the the 1999 / 2000 season, Alavés finished in 6th, their best league position to date and secured entry into the 2000 / 01 UEFA Cup.
To commemorate their first (and only) campaign in European competition, the club released special shirts featuring the names of all of the clubs members. The special edition shirts seemed to work out well for the team, when, under the stewardship of manager José Manuel Esnal they went on a fantastic run, beating Inter Milan, Rayo Vallecano and thrashing Kaiserslautern 9-2 in the semi final to set-up a UEFA Cup final meeting with Liverpool. The final was equally exciting as the two sides played out a 4-4 draw in regulation time before Alavés scored a golden own goal to finally lose out to Liverpool in extra time.
If you would like to read more about Alavés’ road to the UEFA Cup final, the New York Times had a good piece about it at the time.
Real Sociedad, currently sitting in 6th position in La Liga are another Basque club who have had a fan-appreciation initiative and featured the name of club members on their shirts. With Spain entrenched in a deep financial crisis and many top division clubs unable to find a shirt sponsor, Real Sociedad decided to feature fan names on the front of their shirts for a home match against Sevilla.
The club held a draw to select names from their 25,000 club members to feature in place of the sponsor, with Club president Jokin Aperribay saying :
“The fans are the soul, the nourishment and the reason for Real Sociedad. For this reason, we’re uniting the names of our members with the shirts. It’s for the history, because the fans are the of the club and this is a tribute to those that have supported us for many years. When we went down to the Segunda, we overcame that difficulty because we retained 20,000 members. For the present, because the fans show enthusiasm, which the team receives and returns to them. We want to achieve bigger objectives, but we can’t do that without the fans. For the future, because that will be determined by the fans. It is very important that fans feel they are necessary for the club to function. For that reason, we decided to unite two of the most important things at Real Sociedad – The fans and the shirt.”
League One side Notts County are the oldest professional football club in the world and celebrated their 150th anniversary on 28th November 2012.
To commemorate the anniversary, the club instructed shirt manufacturer Fila to produce a special limited edition home shirt for the 2012 / 13 season featuring the names of all season ticket holders who purchased their season tickets early for the previous season.
Notts County director Aileen Trew said :
“I am delighted with the quality and design of this shirt, there are so many elements that come together to make a truly memorable football shirt, worthy of our 150th Anniversary year. It’s been a long hard road, but after opting for the traditional black and white stripes and working hard with the guys at JD Sports to get a design that worked for us, I couldn’t be happier with the finished product.
When we first saw the design that has now been brought to production, we knew that it would be popular and we started looking into the feasibility of having it as our home shirt for the 2012/13 campaign and I am delighted that we have been able to secure that, because I believe that this is a shirt that every Notts fan will want to own.”
Of all the kits in this roundup, this has to be one of our favourites as it commemorates such a momentous occasion for a grand old club with such fitting style.
Celta de Vigo
Celta Vigo celebrate this season’s return to La Liga after 5 seasons in Spanish football’s second tier – having secured second place in the 2011 / 12 Segunda División, with a special home kit featuring the names of all of the clubs members.
The shirt, created by Chinese sports manufacturer Li Ning also features the club motto “Afouteza, corazón, orgullo e tradición” (support, heart, pride and tradition) inside the collar and comes with “ATDry” technology and a nice old-school embroidered badge.
It’s not going so well for Celta Vigo this season, the club currently sit in 18th place of La Liga, 2 points away from safety.
Premier League club Norwich City were formed in 1902 and played for the first 5 years of their existence in light blue and white shirts.
The team acquired the nickname ‘The Canaries’ thanks to the popular local pastime of breeding canaries, brought to the region by Flemish weavers who arrived with the caged birds in the 15th century.
In 2002, as part of the clubs centenary celebrations, a special edition shirt was produced in the light blue and white colours Norwich City wore for the first 5 years following their formation. The shirt featured the names of season ticket holders and was worn during a pre-season friendly against Ajax.
There’s got to be a pub-quiz trick question about the canaries traditional strip colours here… Let’s be ‘aving you!
Dutch club De Graafschap were formed in 1954 and currently play in the second tier of Dutch football. The club, referred to by fans as the Super Farmers (I promise I’m not making this up) featured, in lieu of a shirt sponsor, the supporter’s rallying cry “D’ran’ filled with 2100 supporters names for the 2011 / 12 season.
This one was a little tricky to find information about in English online, and the club did not respond to our enquiries. If anyone reading could shed some light on this supporter iniative, we’d love to know more so we can update this article. Use the comments box below the article or the contact form to tell us more!
Mexico based Liga MX club América and shirt makers Nike have created a special edition 3rd kit which the clubs players wore for a match against Toluca as part of the #Yohagoalamerica campaign.
In an initiative similar to Sevilla’s kit, fans were able to purchase a space along side other América fans to display their photograph in the numbers on the back of the player’s shirts.
Apparently Barnsley FC were another club to feature supporter names on their kits a few years ago, but we were unable to find any information about it online and the club did not respond to our enquiries.
All is not lost though, because Barnsley fans can sponsor a player’s kit this season. The club are offering a number of packages, from full-kit sponsorship at £400+VAT down to sponsoring a players shin pads and boxer shorts. Ok that last part is not true, but for 25 quid plus VAT you can sponsor a players socks. For that price you get your name in every home matchday programmes and you get to keep the player’s socks at the end of the season! For £25 we smell a Proven Quality competition prize; don’t worry we’ll be sure to make a request that the socks are unwashed.
That’s all for this round-up of football clubs fan initiatives, if you know of any other clubs that have had similar schemes, we’d very much like to hear about them, so please get in touch.
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