Dubious marketing and a miserly mark-up – why Liverpool’s new kit should annoy the fans

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Liverpool have launched their new kit - but between the wearying marketing messages and the eye-watering price, it’s no cause for celebration.

Ah, May – the most exciting month of the domestic football calendar. Not, of course, because of the thrill of the title run-ins and relegation battles, or the gradual return of warmer weather and sun-drenched Premier League stadiums, but because it’s the beginning of the kit reveal season! What a thrill. Unless you’re poor.

Liverpool are the first of the traditional ‘big’ clubs to unveil next season’s home strip – and it is, apparently, an homage to the 1983/84 kit, worn by Joe Fagan’s all-conquering side who won the European Cup, First Division and League Cup.

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Or perhaps, rather than calling it an homage, we should use the club website’s language and call it a “remix” of the 1984 kit. Which is to say that it’s a kit that sort of vaguely resembles the strip worn by Ian Rush and Graeme Souness if you squint quite hard and indulge in some light suspension of disbelief.

Sammy Lee, Ian Rush and Phil Neal celebrate their league title at Anfield back in 1984.Sammy Lee, Ian Rush and Phil Neal celebrate their league title at Anfield back in 1984.
Sammy Lee, Ian Rush and Phil Neal celebrate their league title at Anfield back in 1984.

To be fair, it’s a perfectly nice kit. It’s unlikely to go down in history as one of the greats, but it’s easy enough on the eye. But the marketing spiel describing is less gentle with the senses, not least because the new strip doesn’t really look much like the vintage shirt it’s meant to resemble at all.

There’s a collar which is “inspired” by the old one, as helpfully modelled above by Rush, Sammy Lee and Phil Neal. But the new one doesn’t go all the way around (as all the best collars should), and has a flash of gold trim which wasn’t previously present. Nor does it have the same design on the sleeves, which would have not only been more faithful to the past but also have looked a whole lot nicer.

And the ’84 design had pinstripes, which the new version doesn’t – instead, it has a faintly-detailed fractal pattern which might just look like the vintage design if you squint at it like it’s a magic eye picture. Still, that hasn’t stopped Virgil van Dijk telling the world that he loves “bringing the retro vibe back.”

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“We are a club built on history,” he continued. “And the 1984 team was one of our most successful ever. I’m sure our fans will appreciate the nod to those club legends.”

Well, most likely he didn’t actually say that, but was asked by some marketing bod whether he was OK with the club saying that he had. That’s the way of these things, most of the time. He certainly doesn’t look especially enamoured with it in the photoshoot, given that he decided to cover as much as possible with a rather natty beige overcoat which makes him look like a film noir private detective who’s taking time off the case to watch the match.

But the marketing gibberish which accompanies all these kit launches isn’t the real problem here – and at least they managed to get through the press releases without using the phrase “The Liverpool Way” anywhere, which is a relief. The real issue is how much these damned things are going to cost.

A standard adult replica kit will set a fan back £80 – up from £74.99 for this season’s shirt. A match-day kit retails at a meaty £125 (up from £114.95) while a standard youth jersey will set a weary parent back an astonishing £60 (up from £54.95) – more than most clubs outside of the Premier League will charge for the adult version.

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Liverpool have stated that the price rises are due to Nike, not themselves, because the manufacturer have a non-negotiable clause in their contract which allows them to set the price. Indeed, the club claim to have actually taken a hit to retail the shirts at a lower price than Nike wanted to – the American sportswear behemoth supposedly wanted to sell the standard senior kit for an even more eye-watering £84.99.

According to football finance expert Kieran Maguire on Twitter, the cost of producing and distributing the new kit is £15-18. That won’t include marketing and staffing costs, so it isn’t quite right to say that Nike will make up to £70 on each shirt, but the scale of the mark-up is still breath-taking.

And while Liverpool may well not have decided upon the new price and even helped to reduce it, they – and every other club tied to similar deals – still chose to sign these contracts with the kit manufacturers. If they had wanted to find a way to make the end price more reasonable, they could have done so.

This isn’t just about Liverpool, of course – all of the teams with huge fanbases sell merchandise at astonishing prices, and even smaller sides typically sell adult replica shirts for something around the £50 mark. These are lucrative deals and bring plenty of hard cash into the clubs that sign them, but they also freeze working class fans out of the opportunity to support their club as they’d like.

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And isn’t just kits, either. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are among the club who have confirmed increased ticket prices next season, with Spurs even dropping a discount for pensioners despite the fact that the money gained will add just a tiny percentage point onto their balance sheets. Newly promoted Leicester City, meanwhile, will not only up their ticket prices but also charge £25 to any season ticket holders that wish to have a physical copy of their ticket. Presumably that will help to balance out the spending spree that saw them breach the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.

Given that Britain is still fumbling its way through a cost of living crisis, with pennies pinched in millions of households around the country, it remains remarkable that so many clubs – most of which make great play of being ‘community institutions’ that put their fans first – are happy to increase already exorbitant prices. Indeed, they do so despite the fact it inevitably prices many less well-off fans out of traditional lines of support and connection to their club, like going to matchdays and wearing the shirt. In order to wear the jersey with pride these days, you need money too.

Perhaps, instead of paying homage to their history, clubs like Liverpool could look a little more closely at the present and the situation that many of their fans find themselves in during an era of spiralling utility bills and towering mortgage rates. Just for once, it would be nice if a club really did put their fans first and act like a community institution.

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