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March 13, 2023 3 min read

Since I started writing about football shirts I've been petitioning for there to be some sort of 'throwback week' or 'retro week' for the Premier League. Despite the various hurdles that would need to be overcome for such a week to actually happen, events at the weekend with La Liga reminded me that league-wide, cross-brand initiatives are more than possible with enough forward planning. So I'm jumping back on my hobby horse once again for this weeks Collectors Club.

League-wide tribute

In case you wide missed it, La Liga teams joined in celebration of the career of legendary goalkeeper José Ángel Iribar. Iribar, who recently turned 80, was famous for wearing black kits, and in tribute all La Liga keepers wore black shirts at the weekend. Teams were so committed that there were examples of keepers wearing black outfield shirts (e.g. Valencia), or even badged up teamwear (e.g. Real Betis) due to not having a black kit in their 2022/23 collection.

iribarblack la liga 1

black la liga 2black la liga 3

Usually a clash in keeper kits would be strictly forbidden, but special dispensation was granted for the tribute. Though it was a very simple initiative it was a lot of fun seeing clubs across the league join together. Here's how I think Premier League clubs could do the same sort of thing.

Popular for good reason

Everyone knows how popular retro kits are. We talked about it in last week's newsletter, and the proliferation of retro leisurewear and retro-inspired match kits has been a notable trend for a long time. Unfortunately though, it's rare to see many of the great retro kits paired off against one another on the pitch. One of my favourite things in the shirt world is a matchup with both teams wearing retro kits or kits which have been modified to appear more retro.

manchester derby 2008

The now-legendary Manchester derby in 2008 (from a shirt perspective, at least) is the example I like to bring up in this regard. Manchester United wore a sublime retro kit in honour of those who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster. City joined in the tributes by playing in shirts without a manufacturer's logo or sponsor. Aesthetically speaking it was one of the best matches I can remember, and the thought of a weekend full of kit matchups like this is a mouth-watering prospect. I've been obsessed with the idea after seeing the NFL run specific throwback weekends, and I simply want the same for us here.

If the Premier League designated a 'throwback' matchday date in advance, well into the season (after January, for example), manufacturers would have plenty of time to work with clubs on a retro design.

Crucially, a charitable cause to justify the event could also be arranged. This could be one particular charity chosen by the league, or a variety of charities (perhaps one for each club).

Getting sponsors onboard

Arguably the biggest hurdle would be getting sponsors to agree to vacate their usual spot for a precious match, but ultimately this would have to be left to the clubs and their sponsors to negotiate. With the rise of anniversary shirts though it's becoming more common for sponsors to either go monochrome or completely off a shirt for one-off occasions. It's not as big an issue as it might have been in the past.

chelsea anniversary shirt

Ultimately in the modern footballing landscape, the wheels of a project struggle to turn without any promise of profit for the parties involved. As such the balance between what a club, the PL, would get out of something like  a throwback weekend would be in tension with any charitable aims. I see no reason why both could not co-exist though. Perhaps matchworn shirts could be auctioned off for charity, with clubs then able to sell replicas and keep any profits from those sales? I'll leave others to sort out the fine print here.

Though some sort of unified, themed weekend is much easier to execute with a league-wide manufacturer, La Liga's black keeper kit tribute has given me renewed optimism that we might see something similar from the Premier League. Let's dream bigger than just keeper kits though, let's have a full on retro weekend with classic look against classic look. If we don't see any progress on this issue by this time next year I'll come out to beat the drum once more.

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