4 Ways to Improve the Premier League By Going Retro

Wayne Rooney, Howard Webb

This summer we’ve seen how several Premier League clubs have unveiled football kits for the new season that are inspired by retro designs from yesteryear. Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and West Ham United, just to name a few. But when you think about it, are clubs peddling retro to sell more than just football shirts? And if so, why stop there?

The reason retro sells is because it’s a proven winning formula, it’s hip, it harkens back to a time when the world was a better and safer place, and – most importantly of all – it sells. Plus, in many ways, it’s easier. For example, the design of Arsenal’s home jersey remained practically the same from 1933 to 1965. Sure, there were minimal changes in those years, but essentially the design stayed the same for 32 years. Nowadays, the Arsenal home shirt changes every two years or less. But after a while, whether it’s Arsenal or any other soccer team, you have to wonder how difficult it must be to create an original design when all you’re doing is essentially reinventing the wheel each time.

So rather than creating uninspiring new designs, it’s easier and better to go back in time and tap into what worked before. The same could apply for many other aspects of English football. Here are my suggestions of what else can be turned retro in the Premier League:

  1. Soccer boots/cleats. I’m getting a bit sick of the bright purple and orange boots as well as all of the other colors under the rainbow. What if Adidas could be a leader in boots again with a classy and retro black boot with it’s famous three white stripes along the side?
  2. Soccer balls. There is something beautiful about a classic design of a soccer ball. Take the Telstar, for example — the ball from the 1970 World Cup. Or the ball from the 1982 World Cup, the Tango. Just like the classic cleats, the two balls are from Adidas also.
  3. Stadiums. Take the majority of new stadiums built in the past decade and many of them look practically identical. And because they look like carbon copies of each other, the stadiums lack the original character that makes them feel unique. In the old days, you could see a quick snapshot of one stand and instantly tell whether it was Manchester City’s old Maine Road ground, Southampton’s Dell or one of many other unique stadiums in England. Not that they are the model to follow, but stadium designers need to consider the past and how unique the designs were when building grounds of the future. Even Arsenal has decided to rename parts of their Emirates Stadium after the old stands at Highbury to inject a bit of personality and familiarity into the ground. Other clubs should consider doing the same at their plastic stadiums.
  4. Safe standing. The Premier League and government doesn’t want it, but many supporters do. Returning to safe standing sections at football grounds would be a way to create better atmospheres in grounds, encourage singing and to generate a better overall experience for many fans. It’s a proven model in Germany where it’s used in many Bundesliga grounds. And it could work in England if only the authorities would give it a chance. Sadly, they probably see it as a slippery slope and a partial loss of control, so it may never happen. But we can dream.

It’s hard for football clubs to invent new things when reverting back to retro can be the easier solution. It may not necessarily be the best, but it’s often the safest bet.

What do you think? Do you like the return to retro? Are there certain things that clubs and supporters should go back to that are better than what they are today? Or is retro just a way for clubs to make more money? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

26 thoughts on “4 Ways to Improve the Premier League By Going Retro”

  1. Even with all the regulation, there are still the most fundamental issues with football fans in England: the drinking culture and the prospect of the returning of hooligan firms and ultras with racist elements, those two elements have to go before safe standing can be installed. As for redesigns of stadiums, that is a judgment call for the clubs. Boots’ color schemes, particularly on the pitch itself, has to be standardized although I don’t mind about the marketing aspects of it. Having said that, please make sure those boots can supports the movement and contain safety features to minimize injuries. Finally, for the balls itself, while I don’t mind with the technology element, but the Jaburani may have taken it a bit too far. Telstar and the one that was used in World Cup 2002 would work just fine.

    1. btw, when i was talking about the drinking culture, I am referring to the binge drinking in the stadium, as in whether the fans bring alcohols into stadium or the fans goes 10 rounds with the concession stands.

  2. Regarding the stadiums, they could take a page from baseball. All of the ugly round cookie cutter stadiums of the 60’s are being leveled and replaced with unique retro designs. Each one has it’s own design and feel that the fans can identify with as well as excellent sightlines and many modern amenities. As for the boots, while a little dash of color is not too bad, most of the latest color designs are beyond hideous. If I want clown shoes, I’ll go to the circus. However, my most retro wish will probably never happen. That being that the players and owners go back to the day when they actually gave a rat’s ass about the fans. Listening H & G and Fernando?

  3. I would start with the attitude of the players, no more writhing in pain from phantom tackles.

    I’m sure Adidas and the others have those boots, it’s just convincing the players to wear them again.

    If baseball gives any hope, then maybe in the next decade we may start seeing stadia built with some unique character in mind.

    It would be nice to see standing areas again but I don’t know of any politician – post Taylor Report – that would publicly support it, as God forbid, if anything happens, the media (this blog included) would blame every line of authority from the Queen down to the stewards, except of course the actual fans.

  4. Seems to me the cool old stadia resulted from patchwork expansion over the years, one side at a time. Now, a new stadium is built complete in one session, so to speak, so you’re going to see more unity and less quirkiness in the result.

    Not sure I see the point of Arsenal carrying the old designations from Highbury over to the Emirates. Yes, they’ll have a “clock end,” but it’s not going to be THE Clock End.

  5. I’ve actually argued that MLS needs terraces when building their stadiums…I think it would be a great way to start to inspire more of a traditional soccer culture in the US.

    “Throwback Days” would be a great idea for EPL – but it seems they don’t coordinate marketing efforts that much to pull something like that off. They could even use faux-retro-logos for newer companies.

    1. MLB and NFL have made a lot of use of “throwback” uniforms lately, not always to great acclaim: Some old uniforms were freaking hideous (I’m looking at you, ’70s-era Pittsburgh Pirates!).

      I would think that English clubs, many of which go back as far as the earliest MLB teams or earlier, would be able to make good use of this marketing shtick. I saw a guy last season wearing a Montreal Expos jersey (at a White Sox game! And not inter-league!) with a name I didn’t recognize. I’m not a huge fan of those uniforms, but there was something kind of cool about it.

      Food for thought…

      1. not if you are referring to the Manchester Derby that plays around the anniversary of Munich Air Disaster, there is nothing to gain with that type of game. Otherwise, it would be a good idea to have a sponsorship-free kit once in a while.

  6. Nike and adidas both still make the “simple” retro boots. Adidas But the tech just isnt there, so no one wears them. I understand the cactus greens or the nike elites that were present and lighting up television screens throughout july were annoying, but I, as a player, want the boot that is going to enhance my performance the most. Color is secondary, and although i prefer the low profile boots, its definitely not a must.

  7. Stands will never come back, there is a good reason they went out in the first place, 96 people dead at Hillsborough for a start.
    Although that had a lot to do with fences being in place which stopped the fans from getting onto the pitch, the standing at games will always be seen in this country as part of the problem that day.
    Personally I think standing sections would be ok at the goal ends as long as the fences didn’t come back, but I also think that clubs and the authorities in England would be too worried about anything like that happening again.

    1. I have to say though I love the old school black addidas boots, plain black with the three white stripes. They were the business, can’t believe people don’t wear them now. I’d also like to go back to the days when men were men and not these bunch of pussies diving and play acting all over the place, I can’t stand that. The only thing I dislike more is this habbit that spanish and south american plays have of trying to get opposition players booked by holding up invisible cards when they have been fouled, wow that makes my blood boil and needs to be stamped out of the game.

  8. I’d like to add fans actually singing to the list, along with players not writhing around on the floor like pussies.

    Beyond that Stoke were pretty useless in the 80s and most of the 90s give or take three or four years so to be honest I’m pretty happy with my lot.

  9. I agree with everyone that the whole multi-colored football boots trend has got way out of hand.

    I remember back in school in the mid-late-90’s, I was the only kid in school (1000+ kids) to have a pair of red football boots. Back then, wearing red boots seemed to mean something – it indicated that you were either really good, or at least a bit eccentric (I was the latter). Nowadays, it seems like EVERYONE has silly colored boots. And most of the time, they’re not even one single silly color. They’re 2 or 3 different ridiculous colors – like blue, green and yellow all on one shoe. I wonder why they bother – it doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd any more.

    Personally I’m waiting for my silly-colored Nikes to wear out so I can justify buying some Adidas. The Adipure’s are a nice mix of old-school appearance, with some moderately modern twists, and I think the original Adidas Copa Mundials are still in production.

  10. Also, something else that should definitely make a come-back (in my opinion) are the true footballer hairstyles and facial hair. I’m thinking Chris Waddle mullets, Keegan perms, the George Best wildman look, the Valderama bleach-afro-moustache combo.

    Personally, if I had a job where I didn’t have to sit in an office and look respectable, the very first thing I would do is grow some crazy hair and beard. But it seems like these days, all footballers have fairly normal hairstyles.

  11. I think they are just cashing in just like the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL do when the teams wear throwback uniforms, but do enjoy it.

    Hey Gaffer you should check out this article that was posted on http://www.assoc-football.com about merging the Gold Cup and the Copa America. (http://assoc-football.com/2010/07/17/merge-gold-cup-and-copa-america-for-genuine-tournament-of-the-americas/#comment-1568). You should see if you can get hold of the author and see if you can post it on one of the talk sites to get it more exposure.

  12. Adidas has boots like those… Theyre called the adiPure’s…. But the trend right now is that colorful boots add flare to the game and the player.. I had Nike Ronaldinhos which were a very simple black leather with one white Nike swoosh on the side. To be honest though my next pair were the Adizeros yellow with black because their more modern design appealed to me

  13. Tottenham Hotspur giants! 20 million fans worldwide twice londons population more! the home kappa shirt 2003 classic style feel best of all shirts… I would of liked spurs in the olympic stadium 80,000 capacity central tube network & landscaping the north london new design looks sounds futuristic! fantastic aswell I would like standing around lower tier (buy ticket numbered position to stand on) avoid packs much better to sing atmosphere…

  14. Your high school girlfriend called. She wants her mix tapes back! Oh, and she said it wasn’t all that! Leave it alone and and let’s go to Qatar for the World Cup in 2022!

  15. I’m all for the retro look. I don’t know about the terraces but aesthetics, love retro fashion (kits, boots, etc).

    Anyone have any good websites with a bunch of older football photos (1950-1970’s)?

  16. Someone else mentioned them as well,but as for classic boots-Adipure’s.Tons of players had them on during the world cup.

    As for standing room areas (terraces),there are completely safe ways to do it (lots of MLB teams have it) ,but due the stigma attached,I doubt we’ll ever see that again.

    Retro (looking,not feeling) kits & balls?
    I’m all for that.

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