Football shirts have never been as popular as they are now, as they have become a multi-billion pound industry. Kits suppliers are falling over themselves to grab the contracts with the world’s biggest clubs to make their shirts. It is no surprise when you see look at clubs such as Manchester United, who sell nearly two million shirts every year and rake in around £120million in sales alone.
Even old football shirts are now worth a pretty packet, with the one you forgot about at the bottom of your wardrobe now being worth a few quid on an auction website. There are now a few websites around that specialise in selling vintage shirts and there are more sellers of football jerseys than ever on such platforms like eBay and Gumtree.
With the 2020/21 campaign about to dawn on us, so too does the customary home, away and third jersey for the season. And as always, they come at a cost that is inflated way above the actual production. The Mirror stated in an article in 2019 that Nike jerseys cost around just £3 to produce in factories in the Far East, where workers earn as little as 75p an hour. There is also an argument that clubs make very little from the selling of their shirts, with a sport merchandising expert suggesting clubs make around £3 once manufacturers, shops and the government take their cut.
I remember being able to buy jerseys of Premier League clubs for around £40 in JJB Sports (ask your parents). Then they rose to £45, then £50 and now it seems most shirts of clubs in the top-flight are now nearing the £60/70 mark.
Isn’t it about time that clubs starting giving just a bit better value for money? Or the government to lobby these multi-billion pound sports merchandisers who mark up the shirts at vastly inflated prices? And let’s not forget the workers these companies exploit in factories throughout the Far East and beyond.
Tottenham Hotspur leads the way with the most expensive 2020/21 adult-sized shirt for a cool £70 (even more if you want the authentic edition which would set you back £100), while Burnley is the cheapest at £45.
Spurs are followed by Liverpool (£69.95), Chelsea (£69.95), Manchester City (£65), Newcastle United (£65), Manchester United (£64.95) and Arsenal (£60).
Even a child’s shirt at the above clubs are available at over £50, with Tottenham also asking for £85 should your son or daughter request the ‘authentic’ version. Should they want the full kit (with shorts and socks) it will set your wallet back £130. Fans of these clubs might experience an expensive Christmas this year.
Chelsea want £84.95 for the authentic version of the shirt in a children’s size, while they also charge £99.55 for the adult. Arsenal and Man City also offer this version (but only in adult sizes) for £100.
There are then some additional extras, such as wanting a name and number on the back, which will cost you around £15 unless your fans of Leicester City, Sheffield United and Wolves as they charge only £4 per number and £1 per letter (£1.50 per letter at the club shop at Bramall Lane).
Remember the days when clubs would use the same home shirt for two seasons? It has been a while since that last happened. Using a shirt for two seasons was popular for most Premier League clubs throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s, but now clubs have had a new shirt available for every campaign. Only two top-flight clubs in the last 10 years have used their home shirt for more than one season (Liverpool 2010-2012 and Arsenal 2012-2014).
This has filtered down into the second-tier as clubs find any way possible to try close the gap on those in the division above as that Premier League gravy train just keeps on coming. Again, the only ones that lose out are the fans.
It is more consistent the lower down the English pyramid, although just 18 of the current 72 clubs in the Football League have had a home shirt for more than two seasons since 2010. AFC Wimbledon and Fleetwood Town have consistently done so, with Shrewsbury Town and Wycombe Wanderers are also worth a mention. Mansfield Town’s currently home shirt, which was unveiled in 2019, will last until the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
What it has led to is a vast number of forgeries flooding the market, with some being almost identical to the replica product. There is a website that is currently offering ‘fake’ football shirts of clubs throughout Europe for half of the price of the official stock sold in shops. Some of these are terrible and are obvious to the naked eye that they are a forgery, but some you wouldn’t have a clue until someone points out the subtle differences between the genuine and the bogus makes.
Come near the end of the campaign and into the summer, teams slash their kit prices anyway and still make a profit on them.
Of course, some fans may be happy to do so every year and wait in anticipation nearer the end of the football season to see what next season’s kits will be like. Many supporters (including myself) take pride in our football shirt collections.
But we are currently in unprecedented times due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many people are worried about where their next paycheque is coming from, thousands have lost their jobs and the United Kingdom as a whole has hit another economic recession because of the pandemic. It is going to take a while for life as we knew it, nevermind the country’s economy, to get back to how it used to be.
The following is the list of prices from most expensive to cheapest shirt in the Premier League with the kids’ prices in brackets (Fulham were yet to publish their new shirt at the time of writing)
Tottenham £70 (£55)
Liverpool £69.95 (£54.95)
Chelsea £69.95 (£54.95)
Man City £65 (£50)
Newcastle £65 (£50)
Man City £65 (£50)
Man United £64.95 (£49.95)
Arsenal £60 (£45)
Leeds United £60 (£45)
Aston Villa £57 (£45)
Everton £55 (£45)
Leicester £55 (£40)
Sheffield Utd £55 (£45)
Southampton £55 (£42)
West Brom £55 (£45)
Wolves £55 (£40)
Brighton £52 (£42)
Crystal Palace £50 (£40)
Burnley £45 (£35)
Will it ever change? I doubt it. There is too much money to be made from it. As with the sport in general, football fashion has never been as popular. The hope is that clubs recognise that the expense it is costing fans every year, and start giving them more value for money, whether that be shirts are used for more than one season or a drop in price to make them more affordable.