Are you fit to wear the shirt – Part 1

We love looking at the shirt sponsorship world, and if you have missed our previous couple of articles then go and have a look at our thoughts and our quiz. When I was cleaning out the office (aka The Garden Shed) I came across a gem of a book that showed kits for the Premier League clubs all the way back to the late 1970’s.  Looking back now it is amazing to see not only some of the horrendous kits (a topic for another day I think) but some of the names the clubs were prepared to have on their shirts.  So below we start on the full history of shirt sponsorship in the top flight.  Many thanks to Historical kits for the use of their graphics.

Arsenal –Emirates are the club’s 4th sponsor since 1978 making them second only to Manchester United in the least number of names across the chest.  Everyone remembers JVC, and of course the “bruised banana” shirt from 1991-93 (see right), but there was also a rogue green away kit in season 1982-83.  JVC were the sponsor for 20 years before a brief flirtation with Sega/Dreamcast in the late 1990’s before O2 stepped in in 2002.

Aston Villa – Villa donned their famous claret and blue initially in 1874 but soon changed to a whole range of colours including this little number on the right in 1885.  They re-adopted their colours of today in 1887 as quartered shirts.  Their first sponsor appeared in the season after they won the league in 1982 with Davenports brewery having the privilege.  Mita (copiers) took over in 1983 for a ten year stretch which saw the first deviation from a claret/blue/white kit in 1985 with a yellow away kit.  Muller (yoghurts) took over in 1993, then AST (computers), LDV, NTL, Rover/MG and DWS filling the front of the shirt up until 2006.  Since then we have had and then a complete polar in Acorns, a childrens hospice which the club gain no money from doing.

Birmingham City – Ansell’s breweries became Birmingham City’s first sponsors back in 1983, just in time for their infamous defeat to Altrincham in the FA Cup at St Andrews.  Then the club went through a sponsor a year from 1986 with Co-op Milk, PJ Evans, Evans Halshaw and then that up market clothing brand, Mark One.  1992 heralded a new era for the club with the partnership with Triton (showers) and possibly the worst kit ever to grace the top level in England (see right).  Autowindscreens took over in 1996 until 2001 when Phones 4 U, Flybe and finally F & C Investments.  Hard to see any brand affinity here although Mark One were at least based in the city, but they entered into administration in the mid 1990’s.

Blackburn Rovers – Probably the only top flight club not to have abandoned their principles of the original shirt design, adding their first sponsor logo in 1984 with ICI advertised Perspex (another real consumer brand!).  This partnership lasted for over seven years before McEwans lager took over in 1991 and this was the brand Europe saw as Blackburn won a (now) improbably Premier League time and thus entered the Champions League.  The next decade saw a host of changes of sponsor, with few changes to the actual design of the shirt.  We saw CIS (Insurance), Time (now defunct PC company), AMD (computer components), HSA (healthcare), Lonsdale (clothing), Bet24 and finally Crown who are coming back for their second spell of sponsorship after being associated with Liverpool for so long in the mid 1980’s.  Again can we see any brand alliance from these companies?

Blackpool – The Premier League new boys have certainly had their fair share of colours through the years.  They did not actually adopt their tangerine shirts until 1923, having played previously in red, white, a red/black/yellow stripy number and even a very Burnley-esque claret kit.  Their first sponsor came in the 1979 season with local clothes shop Easywear (so now we see where Easyjet got their branding from!).  For the next few years it was local companies including the Pembroke Hotel who adorned the shirt, until Bass breweries took over in 1988.  The decade of the Nineties brought six different shirt sponsors including Rebecca’s of Southport (I have no idea who or what she was) before the arrival of Telewest.  The past ten seasons have brought an amazing NINE different sponsors, cumulating in current beaus thus making them the club with the most ever sponsors currently in the Premier League.

Bolton Wanderers – Bolton once played in pink, in a short with red polka dots on and a red/white and blue vertically striped number that they resurrected for their anniversary in 2002.  But they adopted the white shirts, dark shorts in 1888 and have hardly veered from that formula since.  They have also had the longest shirt sponsor in the Premier League with Reebok taking over in 1990 and not looking like it is going to end anytime soon.  Previous to this they had Knight Security, a very strangely designed shirt with BEN in a downward slope on (Bolton Evening News apparently), TSB, HB Electronics and Normid before the locally based Reebok stepped in.  This partnership is probably one of the most productive and the fact that Reebok invested in the club just goes to show the returns the right partnership can deliver.

Chelsea – “Chelsea, Chelsea” sang Suggs, reminding us how good Madness really were back in the day.  For all of their regal outlook today, Chelsea used to be a relatively modest club.  Indeed in 1985/86 when the rest of Division One were basking in Adidas and Umbro heaven, Chelsea decided to make their own kit – yes indeed.  The Chelsea Collection in fact, complete with a horrendous green away kit.  No surprise that it was dumped in 1987 in favour of an Umbro strip complete with Commodore on the front.  Not that they were the first sponsors.  That was actually Gulf Air back in 1983.  Commodore actually stayed around for 6 years, then becoming Amiga for a season when they were bought out.  Coors (with the worst away kit ever in Premier League – right) and Autoglass completed the line up for the end of the Millennium.  Then Fly Emirates were on the shirt until 2005 when they defected to Arsenal, and since then it has been Samsung.

Everton – The iconic blue shirt of Everton hasn’t really changed since it was adopted by the club in 1885 (previously playing in a fetching black with red stripe shirt).  The first ever sponsors were Danish Insurers Hafnia, adorning the Umbro shirt, won by Andy King when he scored the memorable goal at Anfield and was nearly arrested afterwards whilst doing a TV interview on the pitch.  The next change was to NEC and co-incided with the Lineker fuelled goal fest in 1986 when they came so close to the league title.  NEC stayed around for nearly a decade before Danka (Japanese Copier company), One 2 One (now know as T-Mobile) and then Kejian (A Chinese telecoms company who had no presence in the UK) took the club up to the current one with Chang Beer, another product rarely seen or heard of in England.  Good brand association there then.

Fulham – Fulham started off life wearing an almost Arsenal-esque red and white home kit, changing to their traditional white and black in 1903.  1984 was the year of the first sponsor when William Younger, the Scottish Brewers became the first name across the white shirt.  Then local travel agency Prestige Travel helped the club when they were rock bottom.  Interestingly their next sponsor was Emirates, taking advantage of the flight path to Heathrow to do a deal with the club and the roof of the Riverside stand.  Telecoms company TeleConnect stayed around for two seasons before we saw GMB, the “workers” union take up the mantle in 1993 as the club started its long climb up the leagues.  In 1998 Demon Internet were announced as the new sponsors, co-inciding with the arrival of Kevin Keegan.  Three years later and Pizza Hut took a turn for a season in a bizarre move, soon replaced by Betfair, Dabs and then Pipex (ironically owners of Demon Internet).  LG took over the shirts up until the end of last season, featuring in their biggest ever match, the Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid as a finale.  This season the honour is held by FxPro, a currency dealer.

Liverpool – The famous red shirts of Liverpool have been adorned by a small number of names over the years.  Their sponsorship deal with Carlsberg was one of the most famous across the world, running from 1992 until the end of 2010 when Standard Chartered Bank took over.  It is also interesting to see that Adidas are now in their 25th consecutive year of providing kit to the club.  Prior to this it was Umbro and that is where we saw the first sponsorship deal, back in 1979 when Hitachi became shirt sponsors.  Crown Paints were next up with a 6 year stint before Candy, the Italian white goods company became sponsors in the “Souness” era of the club, which as well as featuring some very strange signings, also features some truly dreadful kits (such as the one on the right) before Carlsberg came to the rescue in 1992.

Part 2 coming soon


  1. With regards to Everton, the Hafnia that sponsored us was actually a Danish company producing tinned meat rather than selling insurance (though there was also an insurance company by the same name).

  2. Regarding Liverpool- I do not believe it is 25 consecutive years with adidas, as I distinctly remember them wearing Reebok kits in the late 90s. It was only for a couple of years, but I am pretty sure this is the case. Check it out.

  3. The first Villa shirt sponsor was indeed Davenports, but this was first on the shirts in 82/83, not 81/82

      1. Without wanting to appear too anal (sorry!), we won the League in 1980/81 in Umbro kit. The following year, we started with the Le Coq shirts, but with no sponsors. After winning the European Cup, Davenports then sponsored us.

  4. Don’t remember Birmingham city being near the top flight in the 90’s. So that awful Triton Showers kit went somewhat under the radar. I do remember it though.

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