Music and football have always been deeply intertwined, with the links between the two artistic expressions seen in their own individual outputs on the pitch and stage, and amongst their respective fan bases.
Thankfully for us music lovers at the Football Shirt Collective, this link has made its way into the domain of football shirts. And while this may have started out as musicians and artists just wearing football shirts, it has moved in recent years to sponsoring teams and their shirts.
Whether it is Wet, Wet, Wet backing their local Clydebank FC in the 90s, or Ed Sheeran’s sponsorship of Ipswich Town this season, this is certainly a growing trend in the game, and we were lucky enough to speak with a member of a band who have been part of this trend.
Chris Batten is the bassist for the band Enter Shikari, who took over the shirt sponsorship of St. Albans City FC for the 2020/21 season, and continued into this season with the club’s Hummel shirts, below. We caught up with Chris to talk through his favourite football shirts and memories, and also talk about what it’s like to sponsor your local team!
Q: What was your first football shirt? Was there a story behind it?
A: I’m a QPR fan, so my first shirt would have been from them and I guess my dad would have had me dressed in them before I had a choice. But the first shirt I actually remember wanting and getting was the Euro ‘96 David Seaman Goalkeeper’s shirt. I was 10 at that point, and that was when I really went football fanatic, and it’s the first real memory I have of actually getting a football shirt.
I didn’t play in goal! But like a lot of the kids I think I was drawn in by the colours and design more than anything else.
Q: What is your favourite shirt and why is it your favourite?
A: That goalkeeper’s kit (from Euro ‘96) is definitely up there. I also got quite into QPR shirts, obviously, and there was one this season – a plain red one – that was really slick. And obviously the St Albans City Shikari shirts are right at the top of the list too!
Q: What is your favourite football moment?
A: It’s tough! One that sticks in my mind from a QPR perspective was Trevor Sinclair’s overhead kick against Barnsley. And for England, it has to be Gazza’s goal against Scotland at Euro ‘96. That probably ties in with the goalkeeper shirt I loved from the same tournament.
I also remember going to watch the Liverpool vs. Barcelona Champions League semi-final in 2019, when Trent Alexander-Arnold put in the corner for Origi to score. That was just amazing to see live.
Q: Where did the connection between St. Albans and Enter Shikari?
A: Even though St. Albans is a city, we’ve grown up here and it always had a small town vibe to it – everyone who grew up here knows each other.
Lawrence Levy, who owns St. Albans, my younger brother went to school with his kid, and so there was a tie in there. In fairness to Lawrence, the idea came from him and he got on the phone to me and explained how much the club did in terms of community programmes and social out-reach programmes, all giving back to the local community.
That was something that we as a band always strived to do, whether it’s through charitable work or work experiences. So he basically said that there was no reason we shouldn’t be working together, because the club was one of the city’s biggest draws, and likewise the band is one of the biggest exports from St. Albans.
Once we got talking more and the links between music and football became more clear, it just seemed like a no-brainer.
Q: And is it a bit surreal to now be sponsoring a football club? You can’t have ever imagined that when starting a band?
A: It is! I have one of the shirts and it definitely feels like something I can really get excited about with the band. There are loads of band t-shirts kicking about, but I don’t really feel like I can wear my band’s t-shirt, but with the football shirt I can!
And down at the ground it is really strange to go down there now. They play a lot of Shikari music and they even opened a Shikari themed bar which is based off of some of our tracks and album artwork. It just feels like a really big partnership now and it’s great to see!
Q: That’s really cool! More and more artists have been doing this recently too, from Jake Bugg with Notts County, to Ed Sheeran and Ipswich this season. And it seems to be something which can be mutually beneficial to both sides?
A: Yeah! Both parties reach into circles that we may not normally have reached into. We have had a number of people find out about us and about our music through the football club, and it’s worked vice versa as well.
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to speak with us about Enter Shikari, St. Albans City FC and football in general. The band have a UK tour coming up at the end of November, and you can check ticket availability at their website here: https://www.entershikari.com.