The earth definitely didn't move for Ipswich last season, so much so that they changed their shirt sponsors from Fisons to Greene King
Saturday 12 October 1996
York, on the other hand, who have Portakabin as their sponsors and so have to suffer the dubious distinction of having the name emblazoned across their shirts, dumped mighty Manchester United out of last season's Coca- Cola Cup (winning 3-0 at Old Trafford, for heaven's sake - they were the only team to win there in 1995/96), and then dispatched Everton in this season's competition to earn themselves a lucrative home tie against Leicester.
I'm being rather glib here; Portakabin is a very successful company. But I've always thought shirt sponsorship was a bit of a lottery. It's all right if you're Leeds (who used to be Top Man); Walsall (Choice Personnel); or Manchester United (Sharp). It's not so amusing if you happen to be Luton Town (Universal Salvage Auctions), Meadowbank Thistle (The Radge; an Indian establishment that was obviously too hot for Meadowbank to handle as they've since metamorphosed into Livingston); Bristol Rovers (Bradshaws Snack Box) or especially Hereford United. The Bulls' shirt has been a laughing stock in recent years. Its logo of club sponsors Sun Valley - which looks fine on a packet of frozen chickens but does nothing to enhance a football strip - has given new meaning to the phrase "running around like headless chickens''.
Last season Ayr United were What Everyone Wants, one of Scotland's most tacky clothes shops; Grimsby are Europe's Food Town which, with the greatest respect to Grimsby, it mostly certainly is not; while Clydebank are undoubtedly Wet Wet Wet (at least the Bankies can claim to be the only club backed by a pop group).The earth definitely didn't move for Ipswich last season, so much so that they changed their sponsors from Fisons to Greene King. And I'm absolutely certain Blackpool players must have suffered a few taunts of "You're a big girl's blouse" from opposing players; they are sponsored by Rebecca's.
Huge sighs of relief all round at Hibs, meanwhile. The Edinburgh club have just replaced Calor Gas with Carlsberg on the club's shirts. It was a sponsorship I found faintly ironic since Easter Road is always freezing cold.
Hibs, in fact, were the first Scottish club to carry a shirt sponsor, that of Bukta in 1977 (Kettering Town were the first south of the border, in 1976). Since then they've been sponsored by such highfalutin' organisations as P&J Windows, Frank Graham Builders and a company called Macbean, which makes protective clothing. That, as you can imagine, gave the headline writers a field day (Has-beens, Might-have-beens, etc).
Joking aside, shirt sponsorship gives the company concerned greater prominence, particularly if its club is doing well and receiving extensive media coverage.
Of course, while a sponsor may endear itself to a certain market by being associated with a particular club, the link can have the opposite effect. I happily admit that I will never buy anything manufactured by JVC, and know Arsenal fans who would not dream of letting a drop of Holsten pass their lips, or a Hewlett Packard product dent their bank balance. I bet Blackburn Rovers fans aren't insured by Endsleigh, and that even the most parched Burnley fan would turn down a pint of McEwans. And I'd like to know the breakdown of Brother and Sharp sales in Manchester. In fact, the only time sponsorship has bridged the gap was in the 1980s when canny Scottish double glazing firm, CR Smith, bridged the biggest gap of all by sponsoring both Rangers and Celtic.
I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking it slightly strange when England announced they were being sponsored by a breakdown firm, Green Flag. Thankfully, it hasn't proved to be a bad omen, although it was ironic that the first match of the association - at Lansdowne Road in February 1995 - was against a country whose fans waved green flags and which was abandoned after 20 minutes. Admiral were actually the first sponsors of England, in the 1970s; in 1990 it was, er, Trebor Mints. We must be thankful it wasn't Polo, the mint with a hole in the middle. That could have given the defence all sorts of problems.
Mind you, sponsors aren't necessarily visible to the naked eye. In 1991, Aldershot struck a deal with a computer company which meant the players had to wear the company's name - on their jock straps. Now that sounds like a load of old bollocks to me.
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