‘BAC Windows and Dagenham Motors weren’t aspirational shirt sponsors’

Avco were our first shirt sponsor in the 1980s and it’s been a mixed bag since then

West Ham United vs Fulham Barclays Premier League 01/09/2012 Kevin Nolan points the way forward to Andy Carroll.

It might seem a distant memory, but there was a time when football shirts were free of sponsor’s logos. Aside from a discreet kit maker’s badge, it was unblemished by the marks of commercialism. Derby County were the first club to sign a sponsorship deal with Saab in 1978.

But were banned from using the shirt by an FA diktat. They strangely relented the following year when Liverpool signed a deal with Hitachi worth £100,000. Use of the shirt was initially restricted to non-televised games but the precedent had been set.

West Ham signed their first shirt sponsorship deal in 1983 with Avco, a financial investment company. The kit makers Adidas had come up with a brilliant design for the 1983/84 season. In addition to the customary claret shirt with blue sleeves, a single blue band was added. The white four letter logo was duly added to the band. It was the perfect compromise; the logo was visible but didn’t detract from the overall design.

In 1985, the band was removed in favour of an all claret shirt with a fine blue horizontal pinstripe. It famously became the shirt that took us within a whisker of the League Championship. Sadly the kit deal with Adidas ended in 1987 and Scoreline took over as kit maker. Avco’s sponsorship agreement finished in 1989 but had been a highly productive arrangement for both parties.

It was all change as Bukta replaced Scoreline and BAC Windows became shirt sponsor. After the impressive glow of financial investment, our shirts were now sponsored by double glazing salesman. The logo comprised of three red panels with white letters and dominated the shirt. The away kit for the 1991/92 season was a blue and white striped affair, a popular design that was recently revived.

But with the BAC logo slapped in the middle it looked like a seaside deckchair. The original logo even had ‘The Window People’ in a jaunty comic sans font. Bukta and BAC Windows had ended their association with the Hammers by 1993. In came American sportswear company Pony as kit makers. They produced a cool retro kit with Pony’s ‘tick’ trademark incorporated in the design.

The new shirt sponsors were local car dealership Dagenham Motors. Going from double glazing salesmen to second hand car salesman didn’t seem that much of a jump. If readers detect a whiff of snobbery they’d be absolutely right. It didn’t feel particularly aspirational bearing in mind the commercial tie ups our rivals had in place.

The deal with Dagenham Motors ended in 1997 and was replaced by legendary boot company Doc Martens. Many fans saw a natural resonance with the brand and shared working class origins. The logo was subtle with white lettering tailing upwards. It was a happy union and led to the company securing naming rights to the newly built West Stand at Upton Park.

Fila took over as kit makers in 1999 and produced one of the most beloved West Ham shirts. The claret shirts with blue panelled sleeves were worn with distinction by West Ham’s golden generation and a certain Paolo Di Canio. Doc Martens and Fila took their leave of the club the very same year West Ham was relegated in 2003.

Recruitment agency Jobserve was the new shirt sponsor and Reebok took on kit making duties. Both were functional and decidedly dull affairs but at least saw the club regain Premier League status. This particular combo exited in 2007 in favour of XL Holidays and Umbro. It proved to be a fateful change of shirt sponsor as the holiday company went into administration.

It was the biggest collapse of a British tour operator since the 70s, and a grim reminder of the Icelandic consortium’s ownership of the club. In 2008 a five year shirt sponsorship deal was signed with online gambling company SBO Bet. West Ham was one of many clubs to link up with gambling sponsors.

For the game it marked the beginning of a lucrative but corrosive association. SBO was followed by Alpari as shirt sponsors in 2013. They provided trading services in stocks, commodities and spot metals, another form of gambling only with added gloss. Macron and Adidas came in as kit makers during this period but Umbro have held the contract since 2015.

Betway have sponsored West Ham’s shirts since 2015 and the deal is due to end in 2025. Whilst the value of such contracts is confidential it’s thought to be worth in the region of £10 million a year. A modest sum in comparison to Manchester City (£67 million), Liverpool (£50million) and Spurs (£40 million).

Tying up the sponsor with naming rights to the London Stadium might swell the coffers. But do we really want this type of association to continue, especially with the Premier League pressing for the removal of gambling sponsorship? Personally, I’d rather us help to sell double glazing than feed a gambling addiction?

Kit makers and shirt sponsors at a glance

  • Reebok 2003-2007
  • Umbro 2007-2010
  • Macron 2010-2013
  • Adidas 2013-2015
  • Umbro 2015-
  • Jobserve 2003-2007
  • XL Holidays 2007-2008
  • SBO Bet 2008-2013
  • Alpari 2013-2015
  • Betway 2015-

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