Our shirts don’t need saving – Part 4
We’ve covered some aesthetically pleasing ground in this series. Sharp and United, Xbox and Seattle, Mars and Napoli; the one consistent thread throughout has been the beauty of a team’s threads when a top tier sponsor is involved.
For part 4 of Our shirts don’t need saving we’ll be looking at a tasty team x sponsor combination that also happens to symbolise a seismic shirt in the world of shirts.
Fulham fans had to be patient. After spending the entirety of the 70s, 80s and 90s outside the top division, they finally won promotion to the Premier League (then Premiership) just after the turn of the Millenium.
Looking back on their shirt history pre-Premiership, there were a number of highlights including multiple spells with Umbro and a pleasing run with adidas. Sponsor wise though things were relatively uninspiring, bar one exception.
Just before their return to the top flight, Demon Internet sponsored the Cottagers, becoming quite possibly the best named sponsor in all of football. For a name as outrageous as Demon Internet, the logo of the company was surprisingly understated, but nonetheless the Demon kits remain some of my personal favourites amongst Fulham’s history.
We’re not focusing in on Demon Internet though. We’re here to talk about your favourite unlimited pizza buffet provider.
Fulham arrived to the Premier League in style in 2001/02, transitioning from Demon Internet to none other than Pizza Hut.
It goes without saying that food and drinks sponsors are top tier, but there was something about Fulham x Pizza Hut which hit a particularly good note.
The red “hat” of the Hut logo matched up nicely with the small but tasteful red details of the collar and cuffs, whilst the black text equally matched up nicely with the black throughout the kit. Even the green and yellow details of the logo didn’t look out of place, given the clean white base of the shirt.
It was the perfect example of a big name sponsor that actually looked good on the kit, as well as being one of the most recognisable logos from an industry which is very welcome. Alongside this new sponsor, the Fulham crest was rebranded to the badge that we know today. It truly was a busy summer in West London.
It helped that Fulham had something of a cult side on their return to the top of English football too. Edwin van der Sar was between the sticks, a reality which feels increasingly odd as time goes on. At the other end of the pitch things were just as continental, as Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque stretched defenses and dazzled opponents on a weekly basis.
In 2002 though, football shirts changed forever, and it was all thanks to Fulham.
The Pizza Hut era at Craven Cottage was as short as it was sweet, lasting only 1 season, and in its place arrived a partnership featuring a company from an industry never seen before on the front of a football shirt in English football.
It seems unimaginable now, but Betfair became the first gambling sponsor in English football, replacing Pizza Hut on exactly the same shirt design from 01/02. This change provided an interesting case study, as although the Betfair logo was relatively innocuous, it would be hard to argue that it was more aesthetically pleasing than the Pizza Hut logo that preceded it.
Of course, the rest is history when it comes to betting sponsors. Approaching the 2020/21 Premier League Season, we’ll see the majority of teams sponsored by a betting company. The ‘problem’ runs even deeper as you move down the leagues, and indeed public pressure will likely lead to an end of main betting sponsorship in football within the next couple of seasons.
Fulham’s switch from Pizza Hut to Betfair serves as a symbol of when things started to change, and it seems fitting that the transfer was not simply to a betting sponsor, but also from a memorable food and drinks sponsor like Pizza Hut. Food and drinks sponsors were much more common in the 90s and early 00s than they are today, and for various reasons I would love to see more sponsors like Pizza Hut.
As always, Ifrha’s gorgeous designs have illustrated my argument perfectly.
Our shirts don’t need ‘saving’ from sponsors, they just need saving from bad sponsors.
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