We see them every weekend on the TV. We know no authentic customized Premier League jersey is complete without them. We’re talking of course about official English Premier League sleeve badges. Here’s a brief history of one of the most specifically requested printing options we offer at the Onion Bag Soccer Shop.
Back in 1991, English football was quite different to what we see today. For starters, most teams were made up of actual Englishmen. Club shops were usually the size of the original Onion Bag shop in the East Village of Manhattan (think shoe-box), and teams like Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest were still in the top flight. English teams had suffered over a decade of scandal, tragedy, and ensuing punishments, stemming from fan trouble. In 1992 the first division clubs broke away from the Football League. The entire structure of the first division was revamped and the FA Premier League was born.
With the advent of the new league structure came a few changes, most notably was the way the clubs would benefit from television contracts. This would pave the way in building the most lucrative soccer league in the world.
One of the new changes would be a standardization of the shirts the teams wore. This started in 1992 with the introduction of the first Premier League sleeve badges, to be worn by all 20 teams in the league for every official Premier League match. The first badges were triangular in shape (see chart below) and had the original Premier League logo. The defending champion would wear a different badge to the rest. To differentiate, the champion’s badge is gold with the championship season inscribed at the top.
These badges would remain unchanged for 9 seasons. Made of a felt like material called Lextra, the badges were manufactured by a company called Chris Kay. Later a plastic version of this badge would be sold under a official replica license by another company, Metro Sport UK. These plastic badges were a nightmare to apply, and we’ll showcase those in a later post in the Print Room! The champions badges have been 3D since their inception. This is a process by which two layers of material are fused together to give the badge a 3D look. The backer is satin which gives the badge it’s metallic shine, while the detailed parts of the badge are made of Lextra.
In 2001 Carling ended their sponsorship of the FA Carling Premiership, as it was known then. In comes Barclaycard and a new sponsorship opportunity arises for the league, selling the space on the badge as part of the sponsorship package. The FA Barclaycard Premiership would introduce a new style of sleeve badge that would eventually only be worn for 3 seasons.
With the change of sponsor in 2004 to Barclays came the new version of the sleeve badge. This time though, the champions badge would not have a gold colored lion. Instead, only the highlights of the badge would change to gold. The general feeling at The Onion Bag at the time was that there was not enough differentiation between the standard badge and the champion badge. These champion badges would first be worn by Arsenal, commemorating their “Untouchables” 02/03 season where they didn’t lose a single match.
In 2007 the Premier League overhauled their brand, dropping the “FA” from the title and formally naming themselves “The Premier League”. A new logo was introduced as well as new sleeve badges and lettering styles.
Along with the plastic version of the badge, there were two versions of the sleeve badges made in Lextra. A smaller scale version of the badge was produced for the retail market, which by the late 1990’s was booming for the richest clubs in the Premier League. The players were wearing a badge that was slightly bigger. This was done with the TV audience in mind! So at one point there were three versions of the badge floating around: authentic player size, authentic replica size, and official replica (plastic).
At The Onion Bag, we have always made the best effort to only carry the player version of the badge. These days that version is much more available than a few years ago. In 2006 the competing companies were bought and merged into the current day Premier League supplier Sporting ID. With the consolidation we saw an end to the dreaded plastic sleeve badges, as well as the two sizes in the Lextra lettering. (For more on the different types of Premier League lettering click here.)
The Premier League sleeve badge has become a staple in the soccer jersey retail industry with millions produced and sold each year. Next time you get a Premier League jersey from the Onion Bag, don’t forget to add the badges and wear it like the players do!