Unbranded Children's Strips

Published on Monday 1st August, 2005 by Celtic Trust

Celtic’s Shirt Sponsorship Deal With Carling – Children & Alcohol Don’t Mix

The issue of providing unbranded strips for children is yet again becoming an issue given that no such strips have yet been provided under the Nike deal. The Trust raised this matter in the early days of the Carling sponsorship deal and had been given assurances that these strips would be provided without alcohol branding in all the childrens' sizes. We intend to raise this matter again with Celtic together with some other problems which fans have alerted us to in regard to the current deal with Kitbag for the distribution of all strips. The outcome of the discussions will be posted here. In the meantime we have copied below an article from our newsletter from late 2003 which sets out the Trust view on the matter. At the series of quarterly meetings between the Trust and the previous Celtic Plc Chief Executive, the problem of alcohol abuse and its relationship with poor behaviour by a minority of supporters, has frequently been raised by the Plc representatives as an ongoing issue of concern for Celtic. All Celtic fans can justifiably feel proud of the official acknowledgements over the last couple of years by both UEFA and FIFA of the excellent manner in which Celtic supporters conduct themselves whilst travelling abroad. However, none of us are naïve enough not to recognise that there is frequently a link between excessive drinking and unruly and anti-social behaviour. So few of us would disagree that it is legitimate for Celtic to raise and monitor this issue. We all have a collective interest in preserving the reputations of our great club and its support. It is therefore disappointing to report that on a very defined policy – the carrying of sponsorship for an alcoholic drink on children’s Celtic strips – a policy where supporters might expect Celtic to take a progressive leadership position, Celtic Plc still appears to be dragging its feet.


First Raised at Quarterly Meeting

Many Trust members have young children and when Celtic first agreed the shirt sponsorship deal with Carling a number of members raised with the Trust Board the issue of whether non-Carling-branded shirts would be available in children’s sizes. The Trust were assured by the then Chief Executive Ian MacLeod that non-branded versions of the strip would be made available, particularly in children’s sizes. This commitment was given some publicity in the press and the Trust’s view is that this showed some leadership and was something that Celtic should be proud of. We had conveyed to Celtic that we had no problem with a sponsorship deal with a major brewer. The Trust is not a temperance movement; many of us have been known to partake of a few drinks – in moderation, of course! However, we did take the view that children should not be used to advertise alcohol and therefore replica kits in children’s sizes should be brand-free.



At this point, many of you will be saying ‘I haven’t seen a non-branded children’s strip’ – and you would be right! Trust members and other Celtic fans have repeatedly attempted to buy such strips for their children and have met with incredible obstacles. Indeed, such is the difficulty in getting your hands on these goods, which we were assured were being made available, that, in the case of the old Black Magic strip, we know of only one unbranded version in existence. Fans attempting to buy these strips will not see them on display in the shops and they will not see them advertised anywhere. If they ask in the Superstore they are likely, as our experience has shown, to be told that they don’t exist or that they have to ordered specially. If they attempt to order them then they will be told that the computer system will not allow an order for an unbranded strip and they might (and I say ‘might’) persuade someone to take a hand-written order on a receipt book. If they finally persuade someone to take an order and accept payment they may then have to wait 4 months for it to be delivered – as happened to one Trust member in relation to the said black and gold change strip. It is hardly surprising then that the shops were left with quantities of the non-branded strip. We’re not retailing experts, but it strikes us that if you don’t tell people you have them and then you make it really difficult for them to buy, that you end up not selling many! It is not just that they are failing to actively promote the unbranded strip, they are actually making it incredibly difficult to get your hands on one.


Assurances from Celtic

In light of all of this, it is becoming difficult to accept at face value the assurances of Celtic Plc representatives at the Trust’s quarterly meetings that parents of young Celtic fans will be given a choice in this matter. By failing to actively promote these strips Celtic have now created a situation where the vast majority of young fans from 2 years up who are wearing Celtic strips are also advertising alcohol. This has led to peer pressure on other children who don’t want to be seen to be different or who are now demanding a ‘real’ strip. Given the view, expressed by former and current senior executives at Celtic, that we have a problem with some away-fans linked to excessive drinking, Celtic’s failure to make available strips which are not branded with an alcoholic drink is at the very least disturbing. It also serves to undermine the authority of Celtic’s executives when they make public pronouncements on the very important issue of alcohol abuse. In the last few years the ambassador role played by the Celtic support abroad has really served to re-assert the great reputation of Celtic abroad. Pride in the Hoops and what they stand for has driven this phenomenon. Celtic Plc need to follow this lead and show some leadership on the issue of non-branded children’s strips. The responsibility to the community it serves, as outlined in Celtic’s social mission statement, is surely not being met by a commercial deal which promotes alcohol among children. If any organisation, public or private, suggested that vodka slammers or any other alcoholic drinks should be advertised in primary schools there would be a national outcry. Yet Celtic have colluded in slapping adverts across the chests of children as young as two! Meanwhile, Carling are doing very nicely thank you with their share of the market in Scotland growing rapidly since the deal was signed in January 2003. Celtic, and Coors (the owners of the Carling brand), should take a principled and moral stand on this and refuse to produce branded strips in children’s sizes. This would not only ease the pressure on parents from children who want to wear the same strip as everyone else but it would also, at one stroke, send a clear message that Celtic, and Coors, are united in taking a clear socially responsible position on alcohol abuse. Young Celtic fans should not be treated as advertising fodder for the drinks companies. Surely it’s that simple.


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