If you take a look at the photos or videos of mid-world football legends during 20th century like George Best of Manchester United, you will jump into a conclusion: the emptiness of the team shirt. You would only see club colors, logos, and back numbers, that’s all.
Jumping into 2018, one thing that would be attracting at that time was the advertisement. It happened everywhere. There was a large ad on the front of the club jersey which definitely exceeded the size of the club’s logo. Even from 2017/18, the application of sponsors’ logo on the players’ arms has been allowed.
The trend of this sponsorship system does not grow by itself. Current developments show a massive increase in nominal sponsors, which are not even affected by inflation. English League clubs have more contracts with long-term giant sponsors which of course is followed by a larger nominal.
To understand the scale of changes in the sponsorship of Premier League clubs, we must trace to the old times. The first English club which put up a sponsor on its jersey was not Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal. This historical sponsorship system was first carried out by Kettering Town, which agreed with a local tire company, Kettering Tires. On January 24, 1976, Kettering Town put the name of Kettering Tires on its jersey against Bath City.
The next day, the FA ordered to remove such writing or logo on the club’s jersey. The club still tried to outsmart this order. They deleted the last four letters in the next match, so it was only written as “Kettering T” on the jersey. Even though the FA could assume it as the same offense, the club argued that it was its club’s name. Eventually, the FA sentenced them to 1,000 pounds.
By looking at the reality that several clubs across Europe had posted their sponsors, such as Eintracht Braunschweig which had the Jagermeister logo, Kettering had not yet given up. In the following season, Kettering asked Bolton Wanderers and Derby County to agree in putting a sponsor logo on their jerseys. This effort ultimately made the FA began to allow the inclusion of sponsors legally in June 1977.
Hibernian who applied the Bukta logo in 1977 and Liverpool with its Hitachi logo in 1979 eventually became the first two teams in the British top caste to show off their sponsors on their jersey. Football was getting more attached to the industry and globalization. At the launch of the Premier League in 1992, only one club (Wimbledon) failed to attract sponsors.
At the beginning of its appearance, sponsors who entered football were still limited to local companies in the UK, but since the new millennium, sponsors from across the ocean continued to arrive. Investors from the Middle East or China were happy to reach out. Some mediocre clubs like Crystal Palace or Huddersfield even included Chinese character in their jersey.
The trend that appears later was also quite interesting. Among the 20 Premier League teams, nine of them are sponsored by gambling companies. In the Championship Division (second caste), there were 17 teams supported by gambling companies from a total of 24 teams. This meant that almost 60% of the clubs in the two highest English castes have relations with gambling companies.
Football changes very quickly. Less than 50 years ago, the football jersey was completely empty. Now, every Premier League club has a logo/writing that is worth billions of pounds.