Replica shirt sales
Shirt sales are important to both sponsors and clubs. In the 1980s, when hooliganism was a factor, club replica shirt sales were quite low and clubs did relatively little to limit the use of official club logos. In 1990, following the National League Baseball Association example, Arsenal were one of the first clubs to register its name, to stop traders outside the football ground selling the club logo at an undercut price (Hallam, 1992).
Following this and the launch of the new FA Premier League in 1992, the League and all individual clubs now jealously protected 'official' club and League products from reproduction or imitation by non club producers.
Today, as the game has rid itself of the 'hooliganism' tag and wearing club shirts has become fashionable, effective licensing deals are crucial to commercial success. All top clubs now have extensive club shops or superstores some have a number in different locales selling exclusive, official club products. Business here is booming. Top clubs also licence a wide range of products to producers - though marketing specialist warn against the dangers of diluting brand value. There has been a Manchester United Nintendo game and also Manchester United mineral water, beer and even tomato sauce. In the club's official shop one can purchase a United Monopoly game - and much, much more.
As the FA Premier League National Fan Survey shows, the most popular form of merchandise sold to English fans is the club adult replica shirt. Sales of the larger clubs can reach up to 500,000.
When Newcastle United signed Alan Shearer, for example, the club made £250,000 on the day of this signing, just in terms of Shearer replica shirt sales
When Inter Milan, in contrast, signed Ronaldo the club had prepared no shirts carrying the Brazilian's favoured No.9. Instead, counterfeit No.9 shirts appeared to satisfy local demand, forcing the club to play their new star as a No. 10 in order to cash in later on official shirt sales!
Continental clubs are some way behind the merchandising boom pioneered in England though Italian fans do not see football replica shirts as quite the fashion items favoured in England.
Nostalgia in football, always a powerful force, and is extremely useful in marketing terms. It also provides a niche market for some local small entrepreneurs. Clubs tend to only own the rights over recent club badges and motifs. But 'retro' clothing is in vogue at the moment and this, combined with a search by some fans for a pre commercial 'authentic' football link. has helped smaller companies, sometimes run by fans, to capitalise on the popularity of club football shirts by combining fashion with a more 'traditional' cotton and football heritage.
This sense of the 'classic' shirt has also been explored more commercially by a recent trend towards 'designer' kits: Bruce Oldfield designed the new (97 98) Norwich City kit stating that the original kit: "was very grunge; very late 80s rather. We wanted a more 60s feel" (The Guardian 20 May 1997).
The model for this new strip was a 17 year old City 'fan', who also assigns with Vogue and Donna Karan. Non league Chelmsford City recruited Red or Dead's leading designer Wayne Hemingway to 'do' their kit in 1996 - though it failed to save the non-league club from relegation that season.