As the 2022-23 European football season draws nearer, many clubs are beginning to officially release their latest shirts. However, the suspense behind many of the new drops has been spoiled by kit leaks shared on the internet months in advance. While seemingly innocuous, these prematurely posted photos have had a lasting negative effect on the football kit industry.
Football shirts are incredibly revered. From collectors to devoted fans excited to see their club’s next shirt, a lot of scrutiny is placed on each new release. Social media of course plays a huge role in this scrutiny, with eager fans sharing any photos of kits they can get their hands on. The question is, though, what kind of role is this playing in the kit release scene?
The reality is that the leak culture in football shirts right now is harming the effect new releases have on their intended audience. The excitement of a new shirt coming out is lost as we probably laid eyes on the kit months ago through one of those kit leaks websites or on Twitter and Instagram.
Originally, you’d not see a kit until the club revealed it and it was then featured in your favorite football magazine, in the newspaper, or at the club shop itself. A buildup of anticipation was always prominent leading up to a new season. What will the kit look like this year? What major differences will there be? Who will I get on the back of this one? It was special. It meant more to someone than it does now.
Is it worth sharing a slightly inaccurate, blurry photo of a shirt four months before it drops? I don’t think so, but patience has gone by the wayside in the digital era.
The main reason kits are so popular sits as a three-pronged approach. Mainly, it’s because of the stories behind them, and then there’s the aesthetic, followed by the excitement they build season to season. Leaking them strips away the enjoyment of this annual occurrence, leaving a giant joyless hole in the trifecta of football kit fun.
The prevalence of social media and digital inspection of the game has allowed this issue to become prominent and irreversible. The ease of access to a camera phone and, in essence, the entire world through the internet, makes leaking a football kit a seamless task that the majority wouldn’t think twice about doing. Following that, the inevitable craze around the shirt blows up, and leaked images are seen on every football media news outlet’s website, normally with a watermark of their logo across the image making it even harder to see.
Social media has this effect on football as a whole, not just within kits. The rapidly expanding amount of “ITK” accounts trying to get some retweets and shares is worrying. It is constantly misleading football fans all for social media exposure. Alongside this, you have the regular scraping of the internet to find the next scoop on the new Manchester United third kit or the new FC Barcelona home kit. If social media provides a platform for views, people will take advantage. After all, life is now all about social media points, right?
As a culture, we are quick to shift focus. There are continuous kit drops and leaks over the course of a season and our thirsts are never quenched. We see one, make our minds up, and move on. Whose kit has been leaked now? What’s next? We need our following fix as soon as possible. It’s a strange cycle that carries little to no worth, as the leaked images rarely do the actual kit justice, which contributes to misplaced mass outrage.
A focal point for me in regards to leaked images is the disregard for the work that goes on behind the scenes from a production and a creative perspective. Normally, kit drops see a fully integrated campaign that has been extensively worked on and poured over for months. Leaking the kit takes away the special and bespoke qualities of these campaigns and ruins their impacts. It eradicates most of the purpose the campaigns have if the majority of the audience has already seen the shirt. Yes, these campaigns provide a full look at the shirt and allow for more focus on details, but the overall gist of the shirt has been spoiled. The mask has already been removed, the curtain has already been drawn.
An irreversible issue that looks set to spoil football kits forever, leaking kit images showcases yet another way football is changing for the worse. It essentially adds to the ever-growing amount of fun sucked out of the game at a rather alarming rate. We’re not going to see this change. Kit leaks get clicks and article views so why would this stop in a society where those metrics hold such significant weight?