A potted history of beautifully pure sponsorless kits – Barcelona, Leeds, Inter…
Club football kits without a logo front and centre are an enigma. With Inter’s sponsor Digitalbits going bust, they’ve opted to play the rest of the 2022-23 season sponsorless.
In an era where it can be argued that football exists as a tool merely for companies and corporations to sell their products through sponsoring, with advertising and brand power more lucrative than ever before, it’s incredibly unique when a club team does without one.
After all, that primary kit sponsorship is what ultimately provides the club with those key funds. Want the shiny new toy in the form of a star striker? Better suck it up and slap that morally corrupt betting company on the front of your kit, buddy.
There’s an argument to be made that club kits actually look better with sponsors, and look somewhat incomplete without them. Undoubtedly, there is an art to producing a sponsorless shirt – you can’t just remove it and expect a classic.
Having said that, Inter’s 2022-23 home kit looked significantly more iconic on the Champions League semi-final stage, freed from the shackles of a dodgy blockchain sponsor.
With that in mind, it’s only right that we put it in the Hall of Fame of sponsorless club kits done right.
Spoiler – you’re going to see a lot of Barcelona here.
La Blaugrana are arguably the biggest club in world football, yet were one of the last to shift towards shirt sponsors, remaining without them until they finally adorned UNICEF in 2006 for the first time.
One of the highlights of their sponsorless past, though, is undoubtedly their centenary home kit from the 1999-00 season. Half and half design, centred logo around some unique, embroidered text, baggy navy sleeves and a collar tying it all together.
Barcelona – 99 -00 Centenary Kit. pic.twitter.com/FOUpMxpNJY
— Home Of Football Kits (@HomeOfFtblKits) September 17, 2022
Leeds United (2015-16)
So good it was worn by a young Erling Haaland.
A difficult season for Leeds saw them lumbered in the mid-table of the Championship, but at least they did it looking good. That pure white shirt with the subtle accents looked incredibly classy without a big sponsor ruining it on the front.
Chris Wood found form in the shirt, while a young Kalvin Phillips also broke out.
Still insane to think Haaland is a diehard Leeds fan that had to endure these years in his teens.
Haaland today #LUFC pic.twitter.com/SauXlLyfPQ
— Rafi🇮🇨 (@summervilleszn_) May 6, 2023
Arriving back into Serie A, previously largely unknown side Venezia suddenly became everyone’s favourite Italian football team in 2021-22, having won the football fashion contest.
The Venice-based outfit marked their return to the top-flight with some truly sublime kits. Produced by Kappa, these were made for every occasion. Cooler than anything you’d ever seen before. The cream away strip was a thing of true beauty, though, with ‘Venezia’ draped across the torso instead of a sponsor.
All of the fanfare wasn’t enough to keep them in Serie A for more than a singular season, but at least they went straight back down in style, if nothing else.
Venezia's home and away kits for the new season are unrivalled. 🇮🇹⚫️🟠🟢
Simply stunning. 🤌 pic.twitter.com/XKRbm9JwMy
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) July 30, 2021
Having fallen to the same fate as Inter this season with Digitalbits also sponsoring them, Roma have instead opted to don SPQR on the front of their shirts.
It’s an abbreviation harking back to ancient Roman republic government, but we’re not here to discuss that. We want to shine some light on when they went sponsorless in 2014-15, and their home kit looked exceptional because of it.
That deep red is like nothing else. When a Roma kit is good, it’s a classic. Picture veteran Francesco Totti marching around the field in that. Sensational.
Sponsorless shirts 'can' look better than sponsored, but sometimes they don't look right. Here's a thread to show what I mean. To start we'll go with my favourite, the Roma 14/15 home shirt.
Classy 👌, or incomplete 🤔
Poll ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/KTw8zTOqQD
— The Kitsman (@The_Kitsman) August 8, 2022
At the beginning of the 2016-17 season, Barcelona went back to their roots for a brief period – and it’s a shame they didn’t stick with it.
Before a deal was agreed to bring Qatar Airways back onto the shirt, Barcelona began the campaign without any kind of sponsor on the front of their striped shirt.
What we got was a very noughties looking strip that allowed the red and blue design to take centre stage, uninterrupted. The colours popped and the kit looked like a real throwback, unlike anything they’d had in previous seasons.
Today I’m wearing this lovely sponsorless Barcelona home shirt from the 2016/17.
Certainly one of my favourite Barca shirts of the 2010’s. Famously worn as they came back from 4-0 down against PSG to win 6-1 in the second leg.
Found this in a Nike outlet store for just £20! pic.twitter.com/rozXUMltST
— Speciali Scene (@SpecialiScene) August 3, 2020
Boca Juniors (2022-23)
Oh come on. Look at it.
The very textbook definition of a simple but effective, sponsorless kit. It literally ticks all the boxes. There are no more to be ticked.
No sponsor? Yep. Brilliant colours? Always. Simplistic design taking inspiration from yesteryear? Of course. Boca Juniors are a cool enough club anyway, but this just tips them over the edge.
Boca Juniors unveil their new home kit for 2022-23 🔵🟡 pic.twitter.com/ImJaB7fNCP
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 1, 2022
Being relegated back to Serie B wasn’t enough to stop Venezia from keeping their title as champions of fashionable football kits.
A more classic and tame approach compared to their 2021-22 efforts, their 2022-23 home shirt remained sponsorless, but went for a more refined and vintage design with a collar and a smaller text across the torso.
The new #Venezia 2022/23 home kit. 🤩 Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/UcKRkZ4ZxR
— Italian Football News 🇮🇹 (@footitalia1) July 7, 2022
A shirt designed to be without a sponsor, Lazio’s 2018-19 effort is seriously unique and perhaps one of the most overlooked kits ever.
Macron deployed a brilliant trio of colours, using navy blue to break up the lighter sky blue and white tones. And where a sponsor would typically be across the torso, instead was a fierce looking eagle, blended seamlessly into the design.
It’s genuinely a work of art.
Shirt Alert: Lazio have just released their home and goalkeeper kits for the 2018-19 season
What do you think? pic.twitter.com/j1Zdus6G5R
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) July 13, 2018
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