Poppies to wear retro kit to commemorate 40th anniversary of historic shirt sponsor deal

Kettering Town's clash with Bath City made history as the first club in the UK to wear shirt sponsors.

Kettering Town's clash with Bath City made history as the first club in the UK to wear shirt sponsors.

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Kettering Town FC will wear a specially-designed kit for this weekend’s game with Stratford Town to commemorate the 40th anniversary of becoming the first team in the UK to don shirt sponsors.

The Poppies made history back in 1976 when their traditional red strip was emblazoned with the words Kettering Tyres for their clash with Bath City.

First team coach Steve Kinniburgh with the specially-designed shirt.

First team coach Steve Kinniburgh with the specially-designed shirt.

They wore them again at their next match away at Weymouth, before the Football Association order the removal of the logo.

Club CEO at the time Derek Dougan removed four letters, claiming that Kettering T stood for Kettering Town – but the FA were not impressed.

They reiterated their order and, threatened with a £1,000 fine, the Poppies obliged.

But the move was the trailblazer for the emergence of sponsorship in the modern game, with Premier League giants Manchester City expected to sign a new sponsorship deal worth £80m per season.

Commercial director Martin Bellamy was 24 year old at the time and a member of the club’s supporters trust.

And he says although it proved to be of huge importance, it didn’t mean anything to the fans at the time.

He said: “At the time it was a bit nondescript and irrelevant, it didn’t mean anything.

“We didn’t really notice and we certainly didn’t know how it would affect the future of the game.

“Would everything that’s happened have happened without us doing as we did? I’m not sure, it’s impossible to say.

“But it did have an enormous effect and looking back was so important.

“I’m not too sure how it came about, but somebody knew somebody and it all stemmed from there.”

The season after the Poppies instigated the idea they, along with Derby County and Bolton Wanderers, applied for the right to carry sponsorship on their shirts.

In June 1977 the FA conceded, but Kettering were unable to attract a sponsor.

Now, 40 years on, the club are to wear commemorative shirts both this weekend and for their game on January 23 away at, coincidentally, Weymouth.

Mr Bellamy added: “The shirts have been on sale for about a month now and they’ve been really popular, we’ve sold about 70 so far.

“The idea has been in the pipeline for about a year and all of the money raised is going to club funds.

“It’s looking like there’s a good chance that Saturday’s game (with Stratford) will be called off because of the rain, so we’re hoping the Southern League will give us permission to wear them at our next home game as well.

“They’ve been really supportive so far and we’d love to wear them at home in front of our fans.”

Former Poppies goalkeeper Kevin Shoemake, now CEO of the Northamptonshire FA, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to credit such a momentous event in the history of football in the UK to a club in Northamptonshire.

“Shirt sponsors help clubs at all levels to develop – which might not be possible without the foresight and trailblazing work of Derek Dougan and Kettering Town and for challenging the rules at the time.

“I’m very pleased to see the club making an effort to celebrate its heritage and hope plenty of grassroots football fans turn out to support the club in their upcoming games.

“It’s also an opportunity for us as well as clubs and leagues within the county to thank all the sponsors for the financial support they provide within grassroots football as well as their time, effort and ideas in helping develop the game locally.”

For more information or to buy a shirt, email info@ketteringtownfc.com.