The Premier League’s big stitch up

A child and his mother visit their local Sport Direct store ahead of the latest Premier League campaign.

‘Mum! I want the new season’s kit!’ ‘That’s far too expensive Johnny, how about this one instead?’ ‘That’s last seasons silly, I have that already!’ ‘Really? I wouldn’t have known the difference’.

Ah the joys of consumerism, and indeed that familiar parental-child exchange, whereby maternal duties mean you can’t possibly deny your offspring the chance to be the first one in the playground with the new team jersey this summer! Can you?

In light of the FA and Umbro’s announcement this week concerning the forthcoming release of yet another; yes another England home shirt, Premier League sides are destined to follow suit this summer.

These days, jersey designs change more often than we change the television channel and with prices set to remain at sky-high prices, aren’t we all part of a big Premier League stitch up?

Indeed we are. Of all the 2011/12 Premier League clubs, it was just Liverpool who maintained the same jersey through from the previous season. How thoughtful!

But the modern trend in football to replace the kit on a yearly basis is not only costing fans a fortune, but is testing the patience of many supporters who have questioned the lack of loyalty as shown by the clubs advisors.

Liverpool’s club charter previously recognised in 2010 that

‘All home replica shirts have a minimum lifespan of two seasons’.

But now the clubs stance has deteriorated to follow the crowd and replace the kit on a twelve-monthly basis. After all, Liverpool will be ditching Adidas next season and replacing the German brand with American kit supplier Warrior Sports. Come on Mum, keep up!

Back in 2005, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) took on no less than Manchester United and other several leading sportswear firms, ordering them to pay £16 million in fines for fixing the prices of replica shirts.

The shirt’s which were retailing at £39.99 were part of the whopping £200 million accountable for entire replica shirt income in Britain alone according to consumer research analyst Mintel.

However, seven years later and prices remain as high, if not higher. This seasons Arsenal 125th anniversary (how convenient!) strip currently retails at £45 on the clubs official website, triumphantly sticking two fingers up to the work of the OFT.

But this is nothing on the incredible £52 price tag placed upon the commemorative Team GB Olympics jersey ahead of the London 2012 games. Whilst the sleek, proud and Britannia clad jersey tailored by Adidas may be the perfect fans souvenir, the shirt will only be worn over the space of just two weeks!

It seems the prices are going up for shirts which are worn for shortening periods of time.

Malcolm Clarke of the Football Supporters’ Federation said

“At £52, I suspect this piece of merchandise won’t exactly fly off the shelves”.

You get the sense that this is entirely hypocritical for a nation hoping to come together for the Summer Games. Just how can a nation unite when the replica jersey is so much money (and indeed the respective FA’s of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland aren’t even willing to let their players join up with Team GB anyway).

What’s more is that Premier League kit changes aren’t even that drastic. Just how can QPR alter their famous hoops except widen them by two millimetres? Or Manchester United add that black side trim that has been oh so desperately lacking from the shirt this campaign.

Perhaps the most selfish of all corporate sponsorship and replica kit madness comes in the form of Tottenham Hotspur. Not only do Spurs currently sport augmented reality firm Aurasma on their home strip but they wear fellow sponsor Investec on the same Lilywhite shirt when in European competition.

Changing the strip every season is one thing for supporters, but interchanging the clubs sponsors between the different tournaments? Really?

The battle is set to resume this summer between Mum’s pocket and the clubs as consumer greed yet again overshadows the game we are supposed to feel involved within.

Are Premier League clubs justified in changing the kit every season? Join the debate @

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