As Bayern Munich took to the field in their recent Champions League match vs Galatasaray, a giant banner bearing the resemblance of the club's 1992 home shirt was unveiled by fans. Across the banner was a clear message: "The club colours are untouchable".
Though Bayern's current home shirt is notably white this season, the protest was not aimed at the home kit but rather the black and purple away shirt which was worn at the Allianz Arena as Die Roten played host to their Turkish visitors. Harry Kane's brace would ultimately seal a 2-1 victory on the night, but the banner has stuck with me ever since. Are Bayern fans being a bit too precious, or is there merit in their frustrations.
"Paragraph 1" campaign
Many of you will remember the much-talked-about "Paragraph 1" campaign from Bayern Munich fans in 2018. The protest (which featured an almost identical banner to this month’s protest), named in reference to the official statute of the club which states that the official club colours are red and white, saw fans push back against a number of kit related moves which Bayern had made at the time including the use of blue shorts as part of the home kit and the introduction of unorthodox colours for the away (mint) and third (purple) kits. After some jostling from both sides, there was reportedly a tentative agreement that Bayern would both refrain from the use of blue on their home kits and also wear their home shirts at all home games moving forward.
Fast forward to 2023 and it appears that any agreement has been broken. Now, the particular wrinkle in this latest development is that there is every possibility the use of the black away kit was a stipulation from UEFA due to the fact that both of Galatasaray's home and away shirts could seemingly be deemed as a clash with Bayern's home (Galatasaray have no designated third shirt this season). One pushback to this suggestion would be that the Bayern home is white enough and therefore enough of a contrast to be worn alongside the half and half Galatasaray colours, but the fans were upset regardless.
2019 PSG shirt protest
My mind is cast back to 2019, which featured a notable kit clash also in the Champions League. As PSG hosted Real Madrid for a heavyweight battle, they donned their white away kit. Emphasising the unusual choice was the fact their usually all-white opponents trotted out onto the pitch in their navy blue away. This alternate reality where each team effectively swapped traditional home colours was undoubtedly motivated by finances, but it was interesting to note that PSG fans didn't protest the move at the time.
Still, like Bayern fans PSG supporters are no strangers to kit-related protests of their own having spoken out against the club's 2021 home which abandoned the traditional central stripe or Hechter in favour of a more subliminal approach. These complaints from fanbases and others since have crystallised at least 2 unwritten rules in my mind which brands are having to deal with when it comes to home kits.
Number 1: don't mess with the colours of your home kit. Though it seems obvious, the constant churn of new designs every year and the desire to cut through the noise has contributed to an increasingly loose approach to this tradition. Much could be said about the benefits of actually breaking this rule deliberately, at least on occasion, but anyone who would dare cross the line is inviting the ire of millions.
Number 2: don't wear an away shirt at home. The practice of wearing a home kit when at all possible, and home teams forcing visitors to switch kits in event of a clash, has long been abandoned as a general rule, but the fresh protest from Bayern fans has reignited the debate.
On a personal note I see more merit to this particular 'rule' than the previous one, if nothing else because it puts the onus on brands to be creative with their away and third kits so that we don't end up in situations like the one with Bayern and Galatasaray, but ultimately this is another pitfall to avoid for any manufacturer.
If UEFA had forced Bayern to wear their away shirt then the solution is simple to me. The federation needs to relax their rules and give clubs more authority when it comes to choosing what kits they wear. This approach gives freedom to clubs and brands who want to push boundaries (with good or bad intentions), whilst allowing more traditional clubs to stay true to their history. UEFA are clearly more picky in this area (just look at how CONMEBOL approached the recent Argentina Uruguay match!), and the only good counter I can think of to this suggestion would be on accessibility grounds.
If Bayern simply chose to wear their away kit at home then they will have to deal with the consequences. Given the amount of shirt-related upheaval there has been for fans, from the rising price of kits to the sheer amount of new releases to the growing influence of forces outside the sporting world and the proliferation of gambling sponsors, amongst other things, we shouldn't be surprised to see a least a little bit of frustration bubbling over...
As Head of Content, Phil is the creative playmaker of the team, covering every angle of football shirt news in our blogs and weekly Newsletter. Whether it's telling your fakes from your authentics, or deep dives into the newest football shirts designs, Phil will have all your football shirt content needs covered.