24. Oct, 2022

Mummy, Can we have Hafina for tea?

It is the big match, Champions Manchester City trot out at Anfield, City are wearing those famous sky blue shirts proudly sporting their official sponsor Princes Corned Beef, now watch the Kop rise in acclaim as Liverpool take to the field. The mighty Reds display Johnstones Paints on that iconic shirt.

In reality such humble benefactors are a product of a bygone age. You will actually be watching Etihad Airways (City) v Standard Chartered (Liverpool). Standard Chartered are a MultiNational bank while Etihad are a luxury global airline based in the Middle East.

Yet back in 1984 the best two teams in the land were indeed sponsored by an obscure Danish firm who turned out canned meat and a paint manufacturer.

FA Cup holders Everton were sponsored by Hafina, the little known company from Denmark.  Incidentally Hafina is the Latin word for Copenhagen. No doubt in their pre match meal Neville Southall and Andy Gray tucked into chips and Haffina Spam. Oddly the boys in blue were the privileged few, Hafina's products were never available in Britain. Hafina became Everton's official sponsor in 1979.  They must have initially regretted their investment. In the tail end of Gordon Lee's reign as Toffees boss, the team struggled. After a bright start new manager Howard Kendall was fairing even worse. In December 1983 royal blue Hafina shirts appeared to be heading for a Second Division ground near you.  Yet in a little over Five Months TV cameras captured Andy Gray celebrating scoring Everton's second goal in the 1984 FA Cup Final. Arms raised, Hafina name clearly visible, the Cup is heading for Goodison. Millions of TV viewers around the World couldn't miss the name emblazoned on Gray's shirt. Corned Beef all round. It got even better. Hafina were still on board when Everton won the First Division Title and the European Cup Winners Cup the following season. The Blues came within touching distance of a historic treble, but were beaten by Manchester United (Sharp) in the `1985 FA Cup Final. But the party was over. Electronics firm NEC took over the shirt sponsorship at the start of the 1985-86 season. But alas Everton won nothing that campaign while Hafina were brought out  

Across Stanley Park Liverpool were trendsetters in shirt sponsorship. In 1979 the Reds agreed a 2 year deal with Japanese Electronics firm Hitachi. In exchange for displaying their name on the shirts Hitachi ploughed £500,000 into the Anfield coffers. In those days the top flight of English football was not funded by eye watering Satellite television contracts. Even the biggest clubs were exploring extra means of revenue.  

In 1974 Coventry City became the first British club to have an official sponsor, the Sky Blues joined forces with Peugeot Cars. The French firm owned a car factory in Coventry. However, the Football League refused to sanction shirt sponsorship. A few years later Derby County produced a team photo which saw Roy McFarlane and co. wearing a shirt promoting SAAB, the Swedish car firm. But Liverpool were the first English club to wear a sponsored shirt in an actual match. Even then restrictions remained in place. Both BBC and ITV forbid the wearing of sponsored shirts, therefore the Hitachi shirt was only worn on the rare occasions Bob Paisley's all conquering side were not on television.

Aston Villa fans had particular reason to curse the TV ban. In October 1980 Villa beat Brighton & Hove Albion. The win put Villa top of the First Division, a position they had not occupied for 70 years. The match highlights were originally scheduled to be broadcast on TV. But when Brighton manager Alan Mullery insisted that the Seagulls wear their British Caledonian Airline sponsored shirts, the plug was pulled. The rules finally changed at the beginning of the 1983-84 season now all clubs were permitted to wear sponsored shirts on TV. Liverpool were now sponsored by Crown Paints, a firm based in nearby Lancashire. 
The cover photo shows Liverpool players Greame Souness (left) and Mark Lawrenson (centre) sporting the Crown Paints logo and Everton striker Greame Sharp wearing the Hafina endorsed shirt.

Other big clubs decided to link up with Japanese Electronic companies, most notably Arsenal and JVC. Their partnership began in 1981 with the deal worth £500,000 a year. Around £2 Millon in present day terms  Peanuts when you consider the Gunners current partnership with Emirates Airlines. The 2019 agreement saw the Dubai based airline shelling out £200 Million.

Manchester United soon followed suit. In 1982 United signed a 2 year deal with Sharp, another electronics manufacturer from Japan. Although Sharp's UK headquarters were in Newton Heath, literally on the doorstep of Old Trafford. Indeed United's original name was Newton Heath FC. Like Arsenal, the initial deal was worth £500,000 va year. In both cases the deals lasted nearly 2 decades. The early 1980s were a boom time for Japanese industry. A large percentage of British households owned a car, washing machine, Television or Video Recorder made in the Land Of The Rising Sun. Little wonder Ipswich Town (Pioneer), Wolverhampton Wanderers (Tatung) and Stoke City (Ricoh) also jumped on the Oriental gravy train.

Somethings never changed, then as now us Brits loved a pint. Hardly surprising therefore that Breweries were another staple of shirt sponsors. Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United formed highly successful associations with Holsten and Newcastle Breweries respectively. Holsten are German brewers best known for their lager beveridges. On the whole the Spurs tie up with Holsten proved fruitful for both parties, however the happy union nearly ended in tears. In 1987 Tottenham reached the FA Cup Final, As the two captains exchanged pleasantries in the centre circle the Spurs players took off their track suit tops. To their horror they discovered that only 4 of them were wearing shirts with the Holsten logo on. The remaining 7 wore plain shirts that were due to be worn by the Tottenham youth team. Ironically Kit Manager Johnny Wallis was demoted to the role of Youth Team Kit manager. Club Secretary Peter Day was shown no mercy, he was sacked the following Monday. The Kit fiasco was indeed a bad omen, Spurs were beaten 3-2 by Coventry City. The only consolation was that Holsten opted to continue with their sponsorship.  

Perhaps the most memorable sponsored shirt was worn by Newcastle United. A V necked black and white striped shirt was topped off by a blue star in the centre. The large star incorporated a silhouetted image of the Tyne Bridge.  The image was a copy of the one which appeared on millions of bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, Newcastle Breweries most famous tipple. In addition to shirt sponsorship the company helped fund Kevin Keegan's signing.

Other clubs promoted brewers, Midland clubs Aston Villa (Devonports) Birmingham City (Ansells) Leicester City (Ind Coope) and Nottingham Forest (Skol).

Luton Town opted to reinforce their links to the town's principal employer. The Hatters displayed Bedford on their shirt, a reference to the Van produced at the nearby Vauxhall factory. Near neighbours Watford wore Iveco branded shrts, Iveco are an Italian based truck manufacturer and one of Vauxhall's biggest competitors. Talk about the shop floor mirroring the pitch. While Manchester City twinned up with Saab, sadly the deal proved cursed when the debut season ended in relegation. Luton''s famous 1-0 Maine Road win consigned City to Second Division Football. Stay on the transport theme Brighton, Southampton and Notts County literally set their sights higher. All three were supported by airlines. As already mentioned Brighton advertised British Caledonian. In 1983 Brighton reached the FA Cup Final. Instead of hiring the usual team bus the Seagulls flew to Wembley, courtesy of a British Caledonian helicopter . A brilliant marketing concept but a nightmare for those players with a fear of flying. Meanwhile Southampton threw their lot with Air Florida while Notts County took flight with Monarch.

But other First Division club were more adventurous. Coventry City were sponsored by Talon during the 1983-84 season. Talon are a stationary firm based in the city. While West Ham United promoted the services of The Avco Trust. a finance company who now trade as Citibank. Norwich City adopted a more practical approach. The Canaries were backed by window manufacturer Poll Withey. West Bromwich Albion were forerunners of the dreaded nanny state when a No Smoking sign appeared on their shirt. The bizarre image was a product of a 1984 sponsorship deal between Albion and the West Midland Health Authority.