First Shirt Sponsor In Football: Who Were the Pioneers?

Sometimes a shirt sponsor is so iconic that it becomes unbreakably tied to the club.

Say Sharp to me and I don’t think *checks Google* electronic brand. I think of the Man United sides of the 1980s and ‘90s.

Similarly, JVC, Coors and Holsten are more connected, in my head, to Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham than to their actual products. (Answers in the comments below – no cheating).

But more often than not, shirt sponsorships range from utterly forgettable to downright eye-sore.

So, where did they come from? Who had the first shirt sponsor in football?

Who Had The First Shirt Sponsor In Football?

Strangely, for such a ubiquitous fixture on the kit, the debate over which team had the first shirt sponsor in football rages on.

Some point to the Uruguayan club side, Peñarol, who are said to have had a logo on their chest as far back as the 1950s. But that theory isn’t universally accepted.

Other sponsorships seem to have popped up across Europe shortly after. But again, there’s no consensus on who, where and what.

What is generally agreed upon is that a collaboration between student-favourite drinks brand Jagermeister and German side Eintracht Braunschweig sparked the widespread use of shirt sponsorship as we know it today.

Their deal in the early 1970s, in which the liquor brand paid somewhere between 160,000 to 800,000 marks, was a game-changer. Shirt sponsors weren’t allowed at the time so, instead, cheeky Braunschweig ditched their traditional lion logo and replaced it with Jagermeister’s stag.

The German FA, seeing there was nothing to be done and the cash windfall that could be coming, gave the green light for shirt sponsorships in the German league just a few months later.

Who Had The First Shirt Sponsors In the UK?

The first shirt sponsorship in the UK was adopted by Kettering Town in January 1976.

Bold as brass, the pioneers in Kettering strolled out onto the pitch in a match against Bath City with ‘Kettering Tyres’ across their chests. In recompense, they received a “four-figure fee” – not too shabby for a Southern League Club at the time.

The FA weren’t happy and told Kettering to remove their sponsorship. Instead, the club removed just four letters, claiming Kettering T stood for Kettering Town.

The FA weren’t convinced and threatened them with a £1,000 fine unless the full logo was removed. And so it went.

However, other clubs saw how lucrative shirt sponsors could be and lobbied against the governing body. In June 1977, the FA relented and shirt sponsors became a permanent fixture in Britain’s beautiful game.

Do National Teams Have Shirt Sponsors?

Thanks to pioneers such as Peñarol, Eintracht Braunschweig and Kettering Town, every club side in the world wants or has a shirt sponsor.

But what about national teams? In truth, many have sponsorships and partners.

But FIFA have ruled against allowing shirt sponsors in international games. Which is why national team kits remain nice and clear.

To pick up classic and vintage football shirts – with or without sponsors – head to FutbolMarkt’s Marketplace, where you’ll find real football fans selling pre-loved kits.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to discuss the latest football news and breaking stories, join the FutbolMarkt community.

Main header: The shirt Ryan Giggs wore in the 1992 FA Youth Cup final. Credit: Wiki Commons/Edwin.11

About the author: sammemurray11
Arsenal fan. Saturday league journeyman. Pantofola d'Oro fanboy.

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