Thursday, July 19, 2012

SFL to patch up Rangers

With Rangers entry into Division Three now all but confirmed, football shirt expert Steven Dow takes a look at an unexpected consequence - and identifies some winners - from Scottish football's summer of uncertainty:

On the face of it, they are just two thin pieces of material that heat seal onto a football shirt. No great shakes and barely noticed beyond the confines of the normally elusive Scottish Football League coverage seen in Scotland.

But now (and I won’t go into the details) the team formerly known as Rangers and all that sail with them have just docked in Division 3 of the SFL and the Irn Bru sleeve patch has just taken off.

Not all that long ago we didn’t have sponsors on football shirts but the financial demands soon saw to that and a further addition to the corporate hold on football was the league sleeve patch. At every senior level of the game it is commonplace to see the league sponsor’s name in some form on the sleeve of each team at home or abroad.

Whether it’s global brands such as Coca Cola or Barclays, they all strive for maximum coverage and it’s no different for Scotland’s very own Barr’s Irn Bru. The difference here is that Irn Bru just struck gold!

The sudden arrival of Ranger’s into Division Three will mean a huge surge of interest in the league and pictures that formerly showed the silver and red Clydesdale Bank logo on the sleeve of the blue shirt will be replaced by the vivid blue and orange of Irn Bru.

For a retailer such as us demand for the sleeve patches has surged. The irony that the colours of the new sleeve patch sit perfectly with Govan’s finest is not lost on anyone and this will also feed the demand. Irn Bru's owners AG Barr will be delighted with the extra coverage that they will receive globally, tempered only by the fact that this is the last season of their current sponsorship deal.

I certainly hope the kitman didn’t jump the gun in May and start applying the Clydesdale patches to the various Rangers kits in the Ibrox dressing room. I can assure you that those bad boys don’t come off if properly applied.

So it’s the fizzy pop patches for Rangers now along with official SFL numbers. Names on the back of the shirt? That’s also a thing of the past. Due to the tighter finances at the lower end of the senior game in Scotland, it’s one set of shirts numbered 1-16, no names and a few spare shirts in case of a laundry accident.

All change but not for the worse, every cloud has a silver lining and the demand for authentic Rangers shirts adorned with the correct personalisation will certainly mean good business for Barr’s Irn Bru and, of course, forward thinking independent football retailers.

Steven Dow is the co-owner of Football Nation, an independent football retailer based in Edinburgh and online at