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Merry Kitmas

Merry Kitmas

Children whose families can’t afford a football kit for them to play in often feel left out. What can be done?


Transcript

Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today… Merry… Kitmas?

***

Football fans of all ages will be hoping to be given their team’s kit for Christmas.   

For them, a chance to wear the latest version of the team colours is a “must”. 

And clubs invest in slick marketing videos to exploit that desire. 

In 2019/20, UK fans spent an estimated 24 million pounds on Premier League kits. 

It’s not just brand new shirts that are popular, either. 

Matthew Dale co-founded Classic Football Shirts. They buy and sell used kits. He explains the appeal of retro shirts. 

“I think they just have so much meaning, like as soon as you see a shirt, it takes you back to a certain moment, a particular player or a game, you know, that you went to. And I think every shirt means something different to every single person.” 

MOTDx

And the more rare the retro shirt, the more they cost.

“You’re talking about a grand for this now, like an excellent condition, adult size.”

MOTDx

It’s not just the collectors’ items that cost a pretty penny, either. 

Most teams now have three kits every season. 

Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool kits are the most expensive in the Premier League. They cost around £70 each. 

Burnley sell the cheapest replicas in the English top flight, but they still sell for £45.

Brentford hit the headlines earlier this month when they revealed they would not be changing their shirt next season. 

Their reasons? Affordability and sustainability. 

And affordability is a hot topic when it comes to football shirts.  

Keeping up with the latest edition is expensive for parents of football-obsessed children. And there’s not much discount for kids’ sizes. 

Most Premier League kits for children cost £55 each. 

No child wants to be the only one in the playground wearing an outdated kit. 

And then there’s financial disparity.  What families can – and can’t afford – can lead to exclusion. 

“We’ve been in community centres where parents have had to take kids out of football training because they are training in their school uniforms and they can’t afford new school uniforms. So without people providing kits for them, the public, they wouldn’t be playing.”

BBC News

What can be done? 

Enter Paul Watson. 

He’s an ex semi-professional footballer with a colourful background. He’s coached in the Federated States of Micronesia and written a book about it, Up Pohnpei. 

He founded a brand new team, Bayangol FC, in Mongolia and was lead organiser for CONIFA in 2018… a tournament for nations not recognised by FIFA. 

And last November, he founded “Kitmas” along with his wife, Lizzie, in their hometown of Stroud.

The idea was to donate unwanted football kits to children who would not otherwise receive presents at Christmas. 

“Initially, it was very local, and we thought let’s contact Stroud foodbank and we got on organisation called Kids Stuff and you know, they always give things to children who might not get presents and we thought…let’s see if they wanted um…some football shirts! And then it sort of snowballed from there really.”

BBC News

From small beginnings, Kitmas received over 1,000 shirts last year, as well as nine thousand pounds in donations which were used to buy more shirts.

This year?

Kitmas has already raised almost 30,000 pounds on its crowdfunder page. 

Celebrities like Gary Lineker have endorsed the scheme. 

Clubs have got involved too. Scott Murray, the Bristol City kitman, donated 80 shirts to be delivered to local primary schools. 

And when a Canadian podcast called Soccer Snobs heard about the scheme, they replicated it in Ottawa. Even if “Kitmas” didn’t quite translate. 

“Kits in England means soccer jerseys like this beauty I’m wearing, Ottawa Intrepid. And so he fundraised last year for soccer kits to give to the underprivileged and we will now be doing that in Ottawa as the first international branch of Kitmas.”

Soccer Snobs

Any kits that are more than just “lightly worn” will be sent to a separate scheme which collects used football shirts for children in Africa.

And so, thanks to Paul Watson, children in England and in Canada will be the proud recipients of a brand new, or almost brand new football shirt this Christmas. 

On that note, there’s not much more to add, other than to say…

“Merry Kitmas!”

BBC News

Today’s episode was written by me, Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.