FIFA has predicted that five billion people will watch the World Cup in Qatar. With the eyes of more than half of the world watching, that means great responsibility for the brands associating themselves with football right now.
Whether it’s worn as a sign of undying loyalty to your club or simply as a fashion statement, the role of the football shirt has become more notable than ever. For fans, football shirts are cultural currency, and kit release day can feel like Christmas come early. Over the past few years, the appetite for a beautifully designed kit for the new season has become even greater. Still, more recently, football kits have been used to spearhead social causes which run much deeper than a team’s colours.
But are clubs trying to be seen to look good, or are they making meaningful changes beyond the final whistle?
Alzheimer’s Society x England Football
"Why aren’t England wearing names on their shirts?" In March this year, the England National squad played the second half of their friendly match against Switzerland without names on the back of their shirts. This decision was made to highlight how people with dementia lose precious memories, like the names of their favourite football players.
By partnering with the Alzheimer’s Society, the ‘Unforgettable’ campaign recognised the 900,000 people living with dementia – that’s ten times the capacity of Wembley stadium. The custom shirts were then auctioned to raise vital funds for the charity. These designs raised awareness and reduced stigma, while the money they generated created a tangible benefit for the dementia community.
FA image via Evening Standard
Arsenal x Adidas: No More Red
In 2021, the number of teenagers killed in London in a single year reached its highest level since 2008 despite a national lockdown – most of these instances involving knife crime. The ‘No More Red’ initiative aims to tackle the root causes of youth violence.
Arsenal has played in red ever since the club was founded in 1886. But this year, against Nottingham Forest, they wore a unique all-white ‘home’ strip. By removing all traces of red from their shirt, the club has built awareness around the ‘No More Red’ campaign and its commitment to give back to the community, by actively providing safe spaces and more opportunities for young people in North London.
'No More Red Campaign' via arsenal.com
Hummel x Danish Football Association: Protest kits
The anticipation for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar has been eclipsed by the unsafe working conditions in the country - and the new Denmark shirts are a protest against Qatar and its human rights record.
Sports brand Hummel has designed a monochrome kit that reduces the visibility of its crest and logos, stating “we don’t wish to be visible during a tournament that has cost thousands of people their lives.” However, even ‘toned down’, this kit makes a bold statement supporting human rights issues, not just in Qatar but worldwide.
Denmark World Cup kit via dezeen.com
FIFA may prohibit all political messages during matches and tournaments, encouraging fans to ‘focus on the football’, but an exclusive kit design can be a powerful tool to turn heads and place specific social causes in the spotlight.
Football is more than a game and always has been. We’re excited to see how clubs continue to use their platforms – and more specifically, strips – to promote purposeful causes on and off the pitch.