Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Eintracht Braunschweig, or Brunswick as we English speakers call it, currently resides in the newly professional 3rd Liga in Germany. Currently, they sit 11th in the 20 team table, equidistant on points from promotion or relegation. Once upon a time, this was a team that won the Bundesliga. But that's not what this column is about. It's about the time they changed their badge, and changed how we look at soccer shirts in general.

I don't know about you, but when I buy a shirt, I usually like the sponsor logo, because I like it to be as "authentic" as possible. (Side note-today I am wearing a knockoff blackcurrant Arsenal shirt with "Fly Emirates" as the sponsor. Since O2 was the sponsor the last year at Highbury, you can draw your own conclusion as how far authenticity goes with me.) The shirt sponsor, as we know it today, goes back to the '70s. Heck, until Mike Georger forwarded over this article, I thought Kettering Town was the first team to have advertising on their kit. Turns out Eintracht Braunschweig had them beat by a few years. But, boy did they have to jump through some hoops to get there.

Eintracht Braunschweig was still high up in the Bundesliga in 1973, but were reeling from a bizarre scandal involving unscheduled, off-the-book, payments to its players. It seems the players were not getting paid to underperform, but instead to try harder than ever to win. This was a scandal, and players were suspended by the DFB and the club was hit with fines as well.

This hurt the team a lot. They were a smaller club fighting it out amongst the big ones. The loss of form from missing players kept the fans away,and when that loss was coupled with the above fines, it meant the club was hemorrhaging money. They needed cash, and fast. In stepped local boy Gunter Mast, the man who owned Jagermeister.

German rules at the time permitted only one logo on the shirt--the badge of the club. Eintracht Braunschweig's attempts to get the rule changed were rebuffed. The club then took the unusual step of changing their badge, from this

to this.

The above-linked article goes into pretty hilarious detail of how the DFB tried to keep the new shirts from seeing the light of day, and I would recommend reading it.

Anyway, when it came time to debut the shirts, this is how they looked:

The yellow one is the field shirt, while the blue one is the keeper's shirt.

Seven months after Eintracht Braunschweig debuted their new shirts, the DFB backed down and allowed clubs to sign shirt sponsorship deals. They flourished, of course, and now the only clubs that seem to be without sponsor all have "West" in their name.

Aa far as the shirts themselves, I think I would wear it. I wouldn't get near as big a kick out of it as I would have about 10 years ago when I could actually drink the stuff, but it is rather well done. It should be noted that the above shirt was the first attempt at putting the deer head logo on the shirt. Later, when the rules relaxed and the club could place an advertisement on the shirt, they did. This is the result:

Sneaky, huh? The badge itself did not change back until the '80s, so this is not really an extra large sponsor, it's the club logo with the sponsor's name underneath. Pretty tricky there, Germans.

One last, late addition here. I got the old photos of the shirts from this gallery. Click through to see some awesome sponsors, 'staches and hair.


The Fan's Attic said...

Do you Jager?

Mike Georger said...

ive been trying to find one on ebay or the internets but to no avail thus far

Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger is the best writer soccernet has by far and is the only guy i go to when i want to read about the bundesliga, another in a long string of excellent articles.

Andrew said...

Ummm . . . I used to have the shirt in the second picture when I was a mere child. Not sure how I got it, but I wore it quite a bit back in the day and I think the shirt maker was Adidas. It used to be a practice shirt for me. (Soccer practice) I will search high and low for pictures, if I have one.

Andrew said...

I knew being German would benefit me one day!

The Soccer Source said...

Great story. I wonder if Red Bull used this as a model?

FWIW Jaeger are hardly the only booze sponsor. St. Pauli (2nd Bundesliga club) had Jack Daniels back in the late 90s.