In summers when something is needed to fill the void between football seasons and your club’s transfer market activity is thin on the ground, the launch of a new kit can come as a welcome boon – or not, if you’re repulsed by what your club’s designers have conjured up. While global behemoths like Adidas, Nike and Puma have been widespread in the top flight of English football, time-honoured brands such as Umbro continue to serve some Premier League sides.
There are also those kit brands who used to be abundant but have now either diverted their attention away from football or disappeared from view to be recalled only by long-standing supporters of certain clubs or kit buffs with a love for nostalgic brands. Here are eight kit manufacturers who once had a level of prominence in the Premier League but no longer serve any of England’s top flight teams.
Leeds, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Wimbledon (1992/93), Barnsley (1997/98), Wolves (2003/04)
The British brand have a strong association with the 1970s and 80s, becoming the first visually apparent kit supplier in English football when partnering with the great Leeds side of 1973/74. They subsequently went on to supply kits for numerous other English clubs as well as the national team and, after a brief dip in the early 80s, became a prominent name in the later part of that decade and the early 1990s.
Indeed, when the Premier League began in 1992, they supplied kits to four clubs, the second most common supplier that season after Umbro. Leeds, Middlesbrough, Southampton and Wimbledon all wore Admiral kits in that season. Their home kits were safe and sound but they pushed the boat out much more with their away strips, with a very discernible shadow template on the change kits for Leeds and ‘Boro in 1992/93.
Alas, the Teessiders were relegated and the other three clubs all changed kit suppliers in 1993, seeing Admiral exit the Premier League stage left. They returned four years later when Barnsley had their one and only season in the rebranded division, enjoying a memorable win at Anfield in their white and green away strip.
Their immediate relegation meant that Admiral would have to wait another five years before gracing the English top flight again as Wolves’ kit supplier in 2003/04. Their designs that year were plain and simple, aside from the distinctive presence of Doritos as the Molineux club’s shirt sponsor. Like Barnsley in 1997/98, they went straight back down and that remains the last time Admiral featured in the Premier League.
Blackburn (1992-98), Aston Villa, Newcastle (1993-95), Leeds (1993-96), Sunderland (1999/2000), Bradford (1999-2001)
Now regarded as a leading footwear brand, Asics were prevalent in the Premier League in its early years. They made Blackburn’s kits in the first six years of the division, an era which peaked with Rovers winning the league in 1995 under Kenny Dalglish. Aston Villa, Newcastle and Leeds all joined the Asics portfolio in 1993, the former two sticking with them for a couple of seasons and the Whites enjoying a three-year association.
It was in an Asics kit with that blue star on the front that Andy Cole scored 34 goals in the 1993/94 campaign, while they also made the shirt in which Tony Yeboah scored an iconic volley to beat Liverpool in 1995, the same year in which Leeds’ kit had a staggered scripted ‘LUFC’ logo taking prominence over the club’s actual crest.
After Blackburn switched to Uhlsport in 1998, Asics were out of the Premier League for a season before the promotion of Bradford and Sunderland to the top flight saw them make a comeback. Kevin Phillips was the league’s top scorer with 30 goals in the Wearsiders’ Asics kit in 1999/2000 while Bradford famously beat relegation on the final day that year. Commendably, the manufacturer kept both of their Bantams kits for the following season, by which stage Sunderland had partnered with Nike, but there was no repeat escape for the Yorkshire club as they finished bottom in 2001.
Neither they nor Asics have been back in the Premier League since, but the brand has been worn by some of the division’s greatest goalscorers such as Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton and Cole, while also being indelibly associated with Blackburn’s title triumph.
Aston Villa (2000-04), Birmingham, Crystal Palace (2004/05), West Brom (2004-06), Watford (2006/07)
The Italian brand first came to the Premier League in 2000 when they partnered with Aston Villa. After Reebok had a claret and sky blue striped shirt for the Villans the previous season, Diadora restored their traditional claret torso and sky blue sleeves, deviating to an all-claret home shirt for 2001/02 before two further seasons with the classic design. That 2001/02 season also saw Villa experimenting with a grey away kit.
While Diadora’s association at Villa Park ended in 2004, they spread their tentacles elsewhere in the Midlands that summer, taking over at Birmingham and West Brom while also making Crystal Palace’s kits. They went with red shorts instead of blue for the Eagles’ home strip but the Londoners went back down at the end of the season. Diadora spent just one year with the Blues while Albion were relegated in that kit brand in 2006.
Despite West Brom going down, Watford’s promotion kept Diadora in the Premier League for another year, producing a yellow shirt with red trim, shorts and numbering for the Hornets in 2006/07. Alas, the brand would be associated with relegation for a third consecutive season and Watford remain their most recent Premier League clients.
Le Coq Sportif
Coventry (1996-99), Charlton (1998/99, 2000-03), Leicester (2000-04), Manchester City (2000/01, 2007-09), Birmingham (2002-04), Sheffield United (2006/07), Stoke (2008-10), Wolves (2009/10), Everton (2009-12)
Of the Premier League’s former kit brands, perhaps none has endured as much as Le Coq Sportif. Their first foray into the division was with Coventry in 1996, going with sky blue and navy home kits for two seasons before a more subdued design in 1998/99, their final season at Highfield Road. It was they who produced the chequered red and navy shirt which Chelsea were forced to wear due to a bizarre kit clash in 1996/97.
LCS were also Charlton’s kit supplier for their first four Premier League seasons and partnered with Manchester City, Leicester and Birmingham in the early 2000s – indeed, they had the honour of being the former’s kit brand in their final season at Maine Road in 2002/03. After a two-year spell away in the mid-2000s, they returned with Sheffield United in 2006 and resumed their association with Man City for two years from 2007. Stoke’s promotion in 2008 and Wolves regaining top flight status a year later gave LCS further prominence and the French company also linked up with Everton for three years from 2009.
Famous Premier League moments in LCS kits include Clive Mendonca’s hat-trick against Southampton in 1998, Alf-Inge Haaland being robustly tackled by Roy Keane in 2001, Stephen Ireland dropping his shorts in a goal celebration in 2007/08 and Nikica Jelavic scoring twice in Everton’s 4-4 draw at Manchester United in 2012. LCS made the Premier League’s first mainly pink away kit when choosing that colour for the Toffees in 2010/11.
Blackburn (2004-07), Birmingham, Sunderland (2005/06)
Perhaps better associated with boxing and mixed martial arts, Lonsdale made a splash in the Premier League in the mid-2000s, first coming on board with Blackburn in 2004. Rovers reached an FA Cup semi-final under Mark Hughes in Lonsdale kit and the brand became even more prominent at Ewood Park when they doubled up as the main shirt sponsor in 2005/06, which included a famous win at Old Trafford and a thundering Tugay volley against Fulham.
That was also the season which saw Birmingham and Sunderland link up with them after spells with Diadora, but both of those clubs were relegated in that campaign. Indeed, for the Mackems, Lonsdale is associated with an abject season which saw them record the then-lowest Premier League points total of all time (15). The London-based brand had one final season with Blackburn in 2006/07, just as the kit’s supplier rather than its main shirt sponsor this time, before Rovers switched to Umbro the following year to end Lonsdale’s fleeting Premier League association.
Wimbledon (1996-2000), QPR (2011-13)
Lotto has been associated with some magnificent European teams in the 1990s, including AC Milan’s 1994 Champions League winners and the Netherlands vintage of a young Dennis Bergkamp. Some might say they broke with convention and went for a far less glamorous client when partnering with Wimbledon in 1996, an association which lasted four years.
Their kits at Selhurst Park were, like many of Wimbledon’s performances under Joe Kinnear, simple yet effective, the token navy with yellow trim open to minimal experimentation. Sadly, their final season with the club ended in relegation and foreshadowed the club’s eventual demise.
Lotto were back in the Premier League in 2011 in another part of London after QPR were promoted. The red and white quartered change strip they made for the R’s that season has been immortalised in one of the division’s most famous matches, Manchester City’s last-gasp win over QPR which ensured their first Premier League title in heart-stopping fashion. Lotto had two top flight seasons of hooped blue and white kits before QPR were relegated in 2013 and the Italian brand hasn’t since returned to England’s top division.
Southampton, West Ham (1993-99), Coventry (1994-96), Tottenham (1995-99)
Pony might not seem like an especially inspiring brand name but some Premier League greats wore their kits during their 1990s heyday. Southampton and West Ham introduced the brand to the English top flight in 1993, with Coventry following suit a year later and Tottenham coming on board in 1995.
Pony’s early years were characterised by the unsubtle use of its chevron logo on the upper body of the Saints’ and Hammers’ first kits of their partnership, a garish trait which thankfully receded after a couple of years. On the contrary, they kept the same home and away kits for both Southampton and West Ham for two consecutive seasons between 1995 and 1997 and their 1997/98 Hammers kits came without a main shirt sponsor.
Having been so prominent in the Premier League throughout the 90s, their partnership with each of their clients in the division ended in 1999 and their football kits now belong to a bygone era. Pony’s kits have plenty of enduring memories, though, such as Matt Le Tissier’s masterclasses for Southampton, Spurs winning the League Cup and the embryonic years of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard’s careers at West Ham.
Crystal Palace (1992/93), Coventry, Norwich (1992-94), Wimbledon (1993/94)
If you’re under 30 and reading this, I wouldn’t expect you to be familiar with Ribero kits, but they were among the foremost manufacturers in the Premier League’s first season, supplying kits to three clubs (Coventry, Crystal Palace and Norwich). With a chevron-style logo not dissimilar to Pony’s, they weren’t afraid to raise a few eyebrows with some of their kit designs.
It was Ribero who made Norwich’s yellow kit with green and white patterns throughout in their first two Premier League seasons, including the fantastic 1992/93 campaign when they came third. They also made some rather bold ‘paintbrush’ home and away designs for Coventry at the time and added Wimbledon as a client for two seasons from 1993. All of their Premier League associations ended the following year and, while Ribero weren’t around the division for long, they made a name for themselves with some of the 1990s’ more divisive kit designs.
Note: All kit images sourced from Premier League gallery.