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Will we ever get to customisable football shirts?

Fan Tokens could change the design of football shirts

Will we ever get to customisable football shirts? Fan Tokens could change the design of football shirts

Recently in the NBA, the Miami Heat gave fans the chance to customise their jerseys with over five thousand possible combinations of fonts, colours and numbers. This is a small revolution for a historically top-down market such as sports apparel, where the ultimate customisation is the name or number on the jersey. An innovation that could quickly come to football - where the demand for customisation and creativity has been simmering for some time between the pages of virtual kits and video games - thanks to one of the digital tools introduced by most clubs this year: the fan token. Despite the many actors at play - the clubs, the brands, the fans - the revolution of user-content-generation based design may not be that far off, revolutionising the ability to create and customise a jersey by creating a multi-product. 

Fan tokens, which can more simply be called 'tokens', are fractions of a proprietary cryptocurrency, collectible digital assets that provide owners with access to voting rights. Most European and Italian clubs have equipped themselves with tokens - Inter has even replaced its historical sponsor Pirelli with the $INTER - with the aim of engaging fans by giving them privileged access. In a Serie A dominated by the cryptocurrency economy at sponsor level, the first signs of influence on jersey designs have already occurred: Lazio used them to let fans decide the colour of their sponsor, Binance, Inter even used them to let fans decide their Hall of Fame, merging its history with this digital revolution. But one of the first was Roma, who used Socios to give fans the chance to vote on one of four proposed designs for the livery of the coach that will accompany the Giallorossi throughout the season. The latest to link its name to the most famous tokens of recent years has been the FIGC, which has always granted Socios both to be the title sponsor of the Women's Italian Cup and for fans to have the opportunity through quizzes and interviews to win the national team's NFT. 

The extreme of this trend could lead to a design completely based on the choice of the Token shareholders, projecting the football shirt literally into a new era, where the vision of a single designer or brand is subordinated to that of the public. Predicting the evolution of a trend that today is still in a more than embryonic state is complex and risky, however it could partly modernize a market that has not experienced major revolutions, caught between its thousands of rules and restrictions and strongly linked to the tradition and history of each club.

Just think if this summer Tottenham, who with Nike made a shirt more or less deliberately inspired by a Pollock painting, had given the fans the chance to decide on the design over several paintings, perhaps letting their fans decide which artist the pattern should be taken from. A total revolution that could change the aesthetics of football more than it already has this summer. Thinking back to what Paris Saint Germain has done, who since 2018 have entrusted the production of their jerseys to both Nike and Jordan, in addition to the collections that accompany each release, the strategy of creating a multi-product could be a path that the teams could soon take, with a view to being able to increasingly broaden their target and try to satisfy all their audience.