Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who's wearing what?

A couple of evenings ago i got my first opportunity to see for myself the all new re-branded Cardiff City. Not that you'd have known they were re branded other than for a small scattering of red shirts amongst the away support. In their change strip of all blue they looked like the Cardiff we've always known, even their imploding on the pitch was familiar.

So why then back in 2009 during their last visit to my club, Charlton Athletic, did they wear their then away strip of yellow? Our red and white hasn't changed and i don't believe in the space of three years blue clashes any less, or more, with red. Subbuteo would have gone bust immediately if the two teams that came in the box clashed, instead they went with that age old formula of the reds and the the blues.

If anything, in these modern days of colour television, it should be even easier to wear your first choice colours away from home. The days of lighter shorts on The Big Match are long behind us, so why then did, just a couple of seasons ago, every club visiting The Valley seem to wear a then very fashionable black outfit? From the home end it certainly made every team seem unidentifiable, even the days of a club being associated with a certain change colour are unfortunately a distant memory.

I realise this isn't a particularly new phenomenon, Peter Shirtliff famously scored a brace wearing all blue for Charlton against Leeds at St Andrews during a play off final replay to keep the Addicks in the old first division back in 1987. This season Charlton have been to Elland Road and managed to wear red.

It does seem to be a lot more commonplace nowadays though, the reasons why aren't so easy to discover. My initial thought was to blame kit manufacturers. Kit contracts are worth mega bucks today, Liverpool are reportedly netting £25 million for their deal with Warrior. Similar figures are being banded about as Adidas are potentially tipped to add Arsenal to their portfolio as early as next season. I imagine these ludicrous contracts have plenty of terms and conditions, clubs having to agree to them by clicking the appropriate box before hitting submit.

It can't just be the likes of Umbro or their new owners Nike that demand a certain amount of airings though, clubs must have similar wants. Wearing a shirt on the pitch is of course putting it in the shop window. Manufacturers and clubs are both businesses, the sole aim to make money. If, for example, the green away shirt belonging to Norwich City doesn't get a Premier League outing neither Errea nor the Canaries will see the pennies rolling in from replica sales.

In certain circumstances clubs will also have different sponsors on the home and away kits although this isn't too common place. Only Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday from the top two divisions this season adopt this practice yet i imagine both Radian B and Westfield Heath respectively ask the clubs to give them maximum publicity even if paying  (i'm guessing) a slightly reduced rate than those companies on the home kit.

The FA as we all know are sticklers for rules and regulations, you can bet your bottom dollar they've got some input into who wears what and when. I've not managed to find anything from the Football League, or lower even, but i have found an on-line version of  The Premier League Handbook.

RULES: SECTION F –PLAYER IDENTIFICATION AND STRIP an away kit may only be worn a maximum of eight occasions other than when the match official deems it necessary to do so. Or rather elaborate legal type jargon to that effect.

Lets take West Bromwich Albion for example. Their traditional blue and white stripes will clash at the six clubs that predominantly wear blue (i'm including blue hoops and stripes here), and so going on that principle the three who wear white also. If you add Newcastle's stripes to the equation the referee could insist on the change strip ten times. The club are allowed their quota of eight outings, a grand total in theory of eighteen league matches for their cherry red change shirt or as is common these days a third strip. Not bad for a total of nineteen league away days.

My feelings are to include the eight outings in with the obvious clashes, therefore increasing your chances of seeing the away side in their traditional colours, unless it's Cardiff of course.

But then i'm a nostalgic sentimentalist, not a high flying market leading businessman.

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