Like all good scandals; like Sachs-gate and everything Chris Morris has done for the last 15 years, the new kit furore started sometime before most had seen anything of it.
Many seem to be suffering some acute cognisant dissonance as a result of its release. Well, as we’re all in this together, let’s work through some of the issue. C’mon, you’re in a safe place now; let’s talk.
The first accusation is that this change is commercially motivated. The wildest conspiracy is that it’s a grand set-up to nail BMW as a future sponsor. The influence of Bridle and that the club’s own commercial necessities are driving the change seems, at least, plausible.
Shirt sales are a key income stream. And income pays for players. The club has a new sponsor and to maximise that income, it’s in everyone’s commercial interest to change the design. The alternative would be to keep last season’s kit, get less sponsorship income and get hammered for expecting fans to shell out for the same kit with a different sponsor. Or not sign Alfie Potter and Jake Wright.
The biggest single issue is the design itself. Specifically, the lack of yellow. The issue is compounded the fact it’s stock Nike kit. Had there been a line in this year’s accounts for several thousands pounds on a unique kit design people would be apoplectic at the wastefulness. The stock kit option is entirely practical. Let’s assume the club needed to change the kit (for the commercial reasons above). A minor change from one plain shirt to another would have invited severe criticism. Something noticeably different was needed – but Nike only do two significantly different yellow and blue shirts – the one we got and one with light blue sleeves. On balance the stripes are better.
The criticism centres on our heritage; this argument is bunk. I don’t hear people complaining that it doesn’t have train tracks on the sleeve like in 93/94 or a feint ox’s head embossed into the abdomen area as in 94-96. And why oh why are we not sticking with our traditional yellow and white stripes from our top flight years of ’87-’89? The kit evolves, as is has done from the orange with white ‘v’ from 1921.
Another criticism is that we can’t call ourselves ‘yellows’ and can’t sing songs about it. Because accuracy has always been an important part of Oxford songs – might I lead you in a few bars of ‘we are the London Road’?
The most insulting criticism is that there is a disconnection between the decision makers from the fans. This club hasn’t been this unified for decades. It has Jim’s Smith and Rosenthal providing spiritual guidance to Kelvin Thomas and Chris Wilder. Perhaps the fans would like for these four to tender their resignation in shame? Let’s grow up and get on with it.
Personally, as someone who would ideally prefer that we had an entirely plain yellow shirt that never changed, I struggled a little with the idea of it changing radically. However, I recognise the need to keep the money coming in and that it’s healthy to break the mould sometimes. I also quite like the shirt from 74/75, which was very similar. And, (any many have said this) having seen it in the flesh, it isn’t nearly as alien as it initially appears. The yellow bands shine out from the navy and it does actually look like an Oxford kit. I like it.