Seeing a football strip without a sponsor’s name splashed across the chest is a genuine rarity in today’s world, the income such deals bring into football clubs a vital source of revenue.
But that was very much the case until 1977 when Hibs became the first British top-flight team to wear a sponsor’s name, that of Bukta, the Greater Manchester-based sportswear company.
And it caused quite a furore with the shirts banned from television, forcing Hibs to wear their purple strip for matches being shown on the box.
Football shirt sponsorship was already happening on the continent and the first official contracts across Europe’s major leagues came in the German Bundesliga in 1973.
It was, however, former Wolves and Northern Ireland striker Derek Dougan who paved the way in Britain. He ended his days with non-league Kettering Town, balancing the roles of player/manager and chief executive for the 1975/76 season. Dougan was also chairman of the PFA at the time, and as such, was not afraid of a little bit of conflict with the Football Association. He made a deal with a local company Kettering Tyres Ltd to have their name embroidered on the front of his team’s shirts, the exact amount paid never being revealed.
Kettering played their first match with the new addition on January 21, 1976, against Bath City in the Southern League, causing quite a stir. After initial objections then financial threats the sponsor text was removed four months later.
Eventually, the English Football Association succumbed in season 1977/78 and, despite initial disputes with the television companies, shirt sponsorship quickly spread and, by the mid-80s, most teams in most countries had such a deal.
Hibs have had many sponsors since that first Bukta deal, ranging from local companies to world famous brands, their current backer MarathonBet only recently announcing their name would be on the front of the Easter Road players’ shirts for another two years.
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