Tag Archives: Yorkshire Evening Post

From Top Man to 32 Red – the History of Leeds Utd’s Shirt Sponsorship

Top Man

The iconic, promotion-winning “Top Man” Leeds United away shirt 

Leeds may have started out life playing in a blue and white striped kit but it was not long before the famed yellow and white colour scheme was introduced, coinciding with the club’s rise to prominence. It has often been Leeds’ unconventional and sometimes controversial shirt sponsorship that has helped thrust it into the public eye. Starting in the early 1980s going through to present day sponsor 32 Red, Leeds United have a wealth of shirt sponsors that are definitely worth talking about.

The original reason for Leeds adopting shirt sponsorship was due to the club’s financial situation, which was less than positive to say the very least. This probably shows with the fact that the club ran through a number of sponsors over an initial four-year period, with Lion Cabinets, WGK, Systime, and RFW all making an appearance in the shirt. In 1986 things changed with the club agreeing to a five-year deal with then local – soon to be national – clothing group Burtons Top Man. The chain would become a fixture on the Leeds United shirt, probably its most iconic shirt and the club’s first successful foray into the world of shirt sponsorship.

Following the conclusion of the Burton Top Man deal, the club needed a stopgap sponsor until a pre-agreed deal with Admiral would come into effect. Lucking out on a level that nobody would have ever expected, local newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post stepped up and would make up a part of one of the most iconic Leeds United kits of all time. With the return of the Division 1 title to Elland Road after an 18-year absence, it’s a kit that holds a special memory for many fans.

Admiral would claim its position on the shirt come the 1992/1993 season, but that would be a short-lived association of just a year, with the season being largely uneventful when it came to league competition. Following a legal dispute, Admiral was in the rear-view mirror, proving that the financial implications of shirt sponsorship were something that no club would be willing to mess around with.

Thistle Hotels – the popular hotel chain – became sponsors for three years following this, accompanying a shirt design overhaul, with a blue and gold hoop across the chest, along with blue collar and cuffs, being implemented. Dark blue and green striped shirts were introduced in 1994, with this – along with following 1995/1996 kit – being remembered fondly by fans.

During the mid to late 1990s, with Leeds experiencing something of a league resurgence, despite not actually claiming any silverware, Leeds adopted its very first international sponsor – computer firm Hewlett Packard.

The first kit featuring the brand’s name is probably one of Leeds United’s most forgettable kits, but what followed in between 1998 and 2000 proved to be iconic. Wearing this particular kit, Leeds secured a UEFA Champions League place and a seat at European football’s top table. Following the conclusion of the Hewlett Packard sponsorship, for Leeds United’s European efforts, Strongbow would adorn the shirt. Accompanying the club’s run to the UEFA Champions League semi-final, just falling short of securing a final place, this shirt is probably the most adored by Leeds United fans, as it represents the most successful time period for the club during the Premier League era.

Post-2002, with Leeds stuck in the financial mire, also saw the conclusion of the relatively popular Strongbow sponsorship deal. From 2003/2004 whisky manufacturers Whyte and Mackay began a three-year association with the club, but they – in common with the fans – had little to cheer about as Leeds slumped to an almost unfathomable relegation.

Further relegation followed of course, with Leeds entering the most troubled time in its history. In a rare bit of good news though, they would break new ground by being one of the first English clubs to adopt a sports betting sponsor – Bet24 for the 2006/2007 season. Following this, two names would take the role of shirt sponsor in NetFlights.com and Enterprise Insurance. Both would be attached a number of kits, all of which have proven to be pretty unmemorable.

The 2015/2016 season saw Leeds doing something particularly noticeable, doing away with a shirt sponsor for a single season. Waiting for the right deal, the kit proved to be rather fresh looking and a hit amongst fans. The shirt sponsor void was eventually filled by 32 Red, a popular UK online casino, that would rubber stamp – initially in red – the club’s resurgence.

However, this would be met with a backlash, red being the colour of Man United. Answering the fans’ concerns and quashing the controversy, the 32 Red logo was changed to blue for the 2016/2017 season and gold for the 2017/2018 season. That being said, no matter the colour, it’s evident that, as Leeds United make a realistic (but bumpy) challenge to return to the Premier League, 32 Red will be backing them every step of the way.

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Football’s Best Fans Caught Between Rotten Club and Predatory Media – by Rob Atkinson

The unrivalled support - where Leeds still rule

The unrivalled support – the only area where Leeds still rule

Did you ever play piggy-in-the-middle as a child? It’s a game for three, with one in the middle, trying to intercept a ball that the other two are throwing between them. It’s fun for the two, not so much, after a while, for the one – so every now and then, if the unfortunate “piggy” doesn’t succeed in catching the ball, the players will swap around so as to share the enjoyment. That’s only fair, after all.

If you’re a Leeds fan, you might well identify with that unfortunate player in the middle. For that’s just how it feels, being trapped between the club on the one side and a voracious media on the other – both of them seemingly doing the best that they can to ensure you, as the fan caught between them, have the worst time possible. The difference between the game and this real life situation is that the poor sap trying to break out from the role of victim never actually seems to get that break. Thus, football’s best fans (by a country mile) continue to suffer as club and media pile the agony on, week after week, month after month, season after depressing season. And yet there may be some hope, as we shall see. Perhaps this darkest hour may yet herald a golden dawn.

Leeds fans are the best in the business – but they are currently caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one side, there is the bumbling incompetence and woeful lack of vision of a succession of club owners, ensuring that Leeds United are always seemingly engaged in trying to shoot themselves in the foot. How the fans would like to catch that side out, in order to have a go themselves.

And then, on the other end of the piggy-in-the-middle game, you have the assembled national media, for whom Leeds United have long been the target of choice. The media, in their various repellent forms, have been demonising and attacking Leeds for decades now – always ready to seize on yet more bad news to ram it down the throats of the hapless supporters in the middle, who had had enough way, way back – when I first took an interest as a fan. The fans would like to catch that side out too – and some are trying to make their feelings heard, little by little.

It really has been going on that long for the Fourth Estate in this country. Leeds United have been hated in print and over the airwaves for the whole time since Don Revie‘s boys climbed out of obscurity and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. The difference back then, of course, was that it was more a siege complex than piggy-in-the-middle. The club – back then – had far more than its share of misfortune. But, in a marked contrast to the current tragic state of affairs, it didn’t appear to be actually complicit in all the bad stuff and the suffering of the fans. The maxim for Leeds in those days was displayed proudly on the dressing-room wall, visible to terrified opposition players as they walked past in the corridor outside. “Keep Fighting”, it said – and did they ever. The press decided that this was just not on – and war was declared. It’s a war they have waged ever since, long after Leeds as a club apparently gave up the fight to resist.

Nowadays, the press are as watchful as ever for any negative news they can publish and trumpet as propaganda. There’s something virtually every day. Only this morning, some online refuge for amateur hacks is gleefully speculating that ‘the “Redfearn controversy” could force talented youngsters to leave Elland Road’ words calculated to ensure that any Leeds fan will feel that bit worse over his or her Bank Holiday cornflakes than he or she might otherwise have done. And this piece of spiteful speculation, propped up by a line from some willing rentaquote ex-player, springs from yet another in a long and depressing series of own-goals by the club, which has foolishly isolated a manager in Neil Redfearn who had been doing just fine, thank you.

So Leeds United – a club currently rotten from the top and teetering under the strain of decades of mismanagement – provides yet again the raw material for a vindictive press to launch still another salvo of propaganda and negativity. And yet again, the fans – the best and most loyal set of supporters anywhere – are caught between the two opposing forces, powerless to do anything but despair and wonder when and where it will all end.

The hope for the future, such as it is, remains vested in those amazing fans. This is a group of supporters who continue to follow the club – that famous though latterly tarnished name – the length and breadth of the country, at any antisocial hour of the day or day of the week, in their vociferous thousands, out-singing and out-shouting home support wherever they go. It’s a modern phenomenon that attracts grudging respect from rival clubs, rival fans – even areas of the press. And maybe – just maybe – those remarkable fans hold somewhere among them the hope that this still determined and pugnacious piggy-in-the-middle might yet break out, and start having a say on either side of the game.

There has long been the facility – afforded by social media and the network of blogging sites – for fans to make their voices heard against the babbling background of the popular press. So now, if this or that gutter rag comes out with something particularly stupid and vindictive, the fans’ voice can be heard, comparatively faintly perhaps, but still there – and still defiantly raised in scorn and protest. The press and other media, though remaining powerfully unaccountable for the most part, no longer have it quite all their own way – and, particularly at local level, journos and broadcasters are having to take account of that steadily more audible fan voice. It’s a vox populi process that will only continue and become more effective over time.

And now, even the club itself  – and its succession of incompetent and unscrupulous owners – may yet be vulnerable in some measure to the effect of the fans. Just this past week, seven days wherein United have managed a couple more spectacular PR own-goals, an initiative has been taking off whereby at some point a group of fans might be able collectively to purchase a stake in the club – something that could lead to supporters having a real and inalienable right to a say in exactly how Leeds United should be run.

Leeds Fans Community Benefit Society (Leeds CBS) has attracted such interest among the support that it has brought forward the date on which the fans can invest in the possibility of buying a stake in Leeds United. Any fan can now become a Leeds Fans CBS shareholder – click here to see how – with the chance of playing their part in a future, supporter-shared, ownership. It’s an initiative that has won the approval and endorsement of respected local journalist Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post – for years a principled local oasis in a national desert of Press derision where Leeds United is concerned.

The fact that Hay – a resounding voice in the Leeds United press world – writes so encouragingly about a supporters’ initiative is highly significant. There is a sense that something serious might be happening here – a possible game-changer. As Hay puts it, during an apt summary of the Leeds CBS mission, serious financial backing can only enhance the fans’ cause – in other words, money talks, and the more of it there is, the louder that voice. The prospect of serious money, contributed by fans in support of a fans’ initiative, could now be the difference between more well-intentioned rhetoric and a real chance of a real say in the future running of the club we all still love – warts and all. And that could put us in on the ground floor of fan ownership in this country if, as some believe, it’s the way forward in a future that sees the corporate bubble finally burst.

For Leeds United and its amazing support, it’s been piggy-in-the-middle now for far too long, and the fans are sick of being trapped between two opposing yet equally malign forces, impotent – up to now – to do anything that might break the cycle. But it may be that this powerlessness – this feeling of just having to sit back and suffer – could finally have an end in sight. If the fans can have their voices raised against an uncaring and vindictive national media on the one hand – and if they can contribute their own hard-earned cash towards improving the running of the club itself on the other – then there might just be some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. And – you never know – this time it might NOT be an onrushing locomotive bent on dashing all of our hopes and wishes. You never know.

Between us, the sayers and the doers might just have the means whereby that helpless piggy-in-the-middle – represented by the finest supporters anywhere – finally breaks out and has its long-awaited day in the sun.

Cover Your Goolies, Lads! Lash Lorimer is Back on the Ball – by Rob Atkinson

90 miles an hour

90 miles an hour

One of the most distressing things about being a Leeds United fan over the past decade or so has been to witness former heroes not exactly covering themselves in glory as, one after another, they’ve been wheeled out by local and national media to give their opinions or reactions to the ups and downs of the roller-coaster Elland Road soap opera. Even erstwhile midfield maestro Johnny Giles was at it recently, venturing into print to savage the man many see as Leeds United’s saviour, Massimo Cellino.

But perhaps the biggest let-down was the apparent disintegration of the legend that was Peter Lorimer as he seemed to be reduced from his godlike status as Mr Ninety Miles per Hour into a yes man for the then chairman and despot Ken Bates. However angry the fans got over Bates and his loathsome little tricks, Lorimer always seemed to be there, trying to pour oil on troubled waters, seeking to portray Bates as a positive factor around LS11. We weren’t fooled, and Lorimer’s pedestal crumbled into dust as he was perceived more and more as Papa Smurf’s creature.

And yet today, we have had the clearest sign to date that maybe Lash is back to something like his old form, blasting howitzer-like missiles at our enemies rather than attempting to persuade folk of Ken’s essential cuddliness. Lorimer’s article in Thursday’s Yorkshire Evening Post showed an appreciation of the fears so many Leeds fans feel at this latest crass decision by the Football League buffoons against il Presidente Cellino. The piece is full of good sense and, in a very welcome return to the old-style Leeds United siege complex, Lorimer also reflects on the historical fact that the League have taken every opportunity over the past half-century to berate, impede and generally get in the way of the Elland Road club. Peter certainly doesn’t pull his punches whatever the target, and more than one rocket shot is directed at the very vitals of those bastions of the Press who seem to have it in for the Whites.

Lorimer makes it clear that he has no time for any part of the Fourth Estate with its knife into Leeds. “For many years now,” says Lash, “I’ve refused to buy certain newspapers because in my opinion, they push an anti-Leeds agenda. They seem to take great joy for having a go at us. I’m not naming names but I think they know who they are.” I think we all do, Lash.

The former Leeds hero is clear in his own mind that Big Mass will not be taking the League’s machinations lying down. “Knowing what I do about the man, I expect Massimo to fight this move. I don’t see him walking away – not least because whatever happens, he’s allowed to regain control of the club in March. I think it’s safe to say that he’s finding out that Leeds aren’t the most popular club in the world (away from their own supporters, of course) and he must be pretty bemused by the negative attention we get.” This is classic stuff, the sort of opinionated stance you might expect from any committed Leeds fan, but all the more punchy and effective coming as it does from one of Revie’s Super Leeds Supermen. It’s the sort of thing, this blog would venture to suggest, that might well see an old hero’s reputation and status restored to him, and not before time. Lorimer is speaking for many, many United fans in this latest article; at long last he appears to be on the right side of the argument.

The Evening Post piece ends with our former Number 7 striking an ominous note for United. Reflecting on the decades-long struggle and war of attrition between Leeds and the game’s authorities, he concludes: “It was like this when I was a player and it never seems to change – when the opportunity to stick the boot in comes, there’s always someone waiting to take it. This time it’s the Football League’s turn.”

That’s a forbidding final phrase. But Lorimer may just have struck the first blow on behalf of our old heroes towards fighting back against those in the corridors of power who so devoutly wish to “stick the boot in”. The importance of a legend saying what the fanbase is thinking can hardly be over-stated. People listen; the fans feel vindicated; resistance and protest could thus be galvanised. A protest is planned for January 6th between 10 am and 12 noon outside the Football League offices in Preston. Several hundred Leeds fans are already promising to attend, Lancashire police are aware and media interest is growing. Who’s to say there won’t be a banner advertising the metaphorical shooting prowess of Peter “Lash” Lorimer at such an event?

After all, if the Cannonball Man himself really is back onside, then his could be a powerful voice raised against the pallid mandarins of the League who seem so arrogantly convinced of their own case, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Maybe it really is the Football League’s turn now; to suffer as Leeds United have suffered for a half a century. Cellino can be counted upon to put up firm resistance in his own style, the fans can be counted upon to stand behind him in numbers. Maybe now, at last, we can also rely upon the old guard, the old Leeds United heroes – and Peter Lorimer might just have lit the blue touchpaper on that particular rocket. It could with undeniable justice be aimed right up the self-satisfied backsides of those clueless gentlemen of the League.

Are you listening, Johnny Giles?

NB: Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything would like to make it clear to female readers and lady supporters of Leeds United everywhere that this article does not imply either disrespect or disregard for the proportion of the Leeds fanbase who lack the physical attribute of goolies. Goolies in this context should be taken in an entirely symbolic sense; please be assured that this blogger is 100% respectful of the women in the Leeds United family – and he certainly does not wish to get on your tits.