Cricket: The colour of money

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The Independent Online
CONSERVATIVES may cough and traditionalists may titter, but county cricket club treasurers are smiling with satisfaction at an unexpected seam of gold discovered three months before the start of the 1993 season - the sale of replica coloured shirts.

Each county will play Sunday League cricket in a coloured uniform this summer and although the overall design is mundane, some of the colours, especially Lancashire's cherry red and Worcestershire's apple green, are eye-catching enough to whet public appetite. Yorkshire have already confirmed orders for 13,000 shirts.

Lancashire, with the biggest membership, closed for two successive years at 13,500, expect to top that figure. 'The surprise is that so far we have had only adult sizes available. The kids' sizes are just arriving and that's the age group where we expect the big sales to be,' an Old Trafford spokesman said.

Adult replica shirts will sell for about pounds 26 and children's shirts for about pounds 20. The cricket club should collect about a third of the price of each shirt, a valuable windfall proving, as football clubs have already demonstrated, there is an eager market even in a recession for colourful leisure shirts which identify with a sport or a particular club.

Worcestershire were surprised to hear of such sales in the North. 'They do have much bigger memberships and more outlets,' New Road reported. 'We have probably sold only about 250 so far, but there is no doubt that the interest is there and we certainly expect sales to increase as our season starts with a visit from the Australians.' Their richer neighbours, Warwickshire, were also surprised at such early reactions. 'We cannot confirm those kind of sales, but we are hoping we shall be talking in thousands once cricket starts. When you consider the opposition to the idea of coloured shirts, the reaction of the general public is interesting.'

Both the Midlands counties pointed out that in areas where the local loyalty is especially strong, such as Yorkshire, replica shirts are probably selling to customers who have no interest in cricket and are unaware they are buying the county's Sunday uniform. There can be no doubt that the shirts will serve as a widespread advertising medium for the Sunday League, thus delighting the new sponsors, AXA Equity and Law, who sound rather fuddy-duddy and who might otherwise have been confused with m'learned friends.