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03 Jan 16:45

On National Jerseys

by The Inner Ring

Fabio Aru’s Italian champion jersey lasted one day. After finishing 2017 in the Italian flag he was unveiled on the 1 January in a jersey that had the smallest hint of Italian design. This caused some outrage and mockery on social media; and serious enquiries too. The result was that the jersey has been changed. With this in mind why do teams seem to offer such different versions of these jerseys and what, if any, are the rules surrounding their design?

Fabio Aru’s jersey displayed the Italian tricolore around the belly, or at least it displayed the green, white and red we associate with the Italian flag. That flag is made up of vertical bands while Aru’s jersey had horizontal bands which was closer to the Iranian flag than anything else, rather ironic given the UAE is at war in Yemen by proxy with Iran.

Aru’s now sporting a new jersey. Perhaps the timing has played a part because if this was unveiled after the national championships in June and he started riding the Tour de France everyone’s attention would be on the race and the jersey would quickly become established. At least this is what happens when a Movistar wins and gets a jersey which appears to have as little yellow and red as possible. Whatever the reason the team backed down, a reminder this is still the Lampre team of recent times. The presence of a big blue chip sponsor in Emirates, a large airline, can take us away from what is still a family business managed by the Saronni family rather than the professional marketing department of a global brand. This helps explain why the team dropped their Twitter account that still has 75,000 followers to launch a new one that a year later has only a tenth; and when the team landed Emirates didn’t change the name. Similarly Dan Martin joined thinking he’d be leader for the Tour de France only to read this may not be happening as team management make noises about backing Fabio Aru for the Tour too.

Ultimately who pays the piper calls the tune and the sponsors get kit designed in their image. Essentially the kit is a form of uniform and at presumably at UAE Emirates, a team backed by a nation, they want their identity and not that of a another country. All big brands have “style guides” setting out the font used, the exact Pantone colours of the logo and much more, often the rules can run to many pages but the idea is simple, to ensure the same, consistent branding. Imagine if Fabio Aru wins a summit finish, this is valuable publicity and the sponsors want their logos on display, not some alternative blend with the Italian flag. It holds true for all jerseys, BMC Racing have gone from the strong red and black look to something resembling a harlequin’s pyjamas thanks to sponsorship from Tag Heueur, a watchmaker, and new for 2018, Sophos, a software company.

There are rules… but they’re not what you might think. As the screengrab above shows the UCI’s rules refer to where the sponsor logos go, the prominence of the national flag is not mentioned. They also say the national federation has to approve but that’s it, effectively the local federation get a veto but how often would a federation say no to their flagship World Tour team? Also the pro teams can point to precedents and other teams such as Movistar’s discreet versions or Astana’s jersey for Nibali.

One solution here could be to have some common UCI rules. Teams have to live with the rules on the design of the world champion’s jersey and also rules for continental confederations which is why Aru got a “lite” jersey and European champion Alexander Kristoff gets a full white outfit. Applying similar common standards to national teams could make sense but the whole point of the UCI is that it is a union of federations and so each federation will want their own design. Besides it’s not so simple to have a common standard given different flags with their bands, stripes, crosses and motifs.

Not all pro teams see a disinctive jersey as a problem. FDJ seem particularly proud of it and see how the jerseys of Arnaud Démare and Ramon Sinkeldam are basically flags with sleeves. Team manager Marc Madiot makes a point out of keeping the jersey free from the big sponsor logos. But this is in part because FDJ has been a very French team and so the maillot tricolore has been a target for the team, both as a race and as a marketing tool for their French audience as opposed to something won by a lone rider in a more esoteric national championships.

All this confuses many onlookers. Is a national championship a prestigious win or a burden for the team. The answer is it’s what we want it to be, or rather it’s up to the teams to signal what they make of it. But there seems to be a trend for teams to downplay the national flag as corporate branding seems ever more important.

But how much should we celebrate the national jerseys? After all one of the peloton’s charms is its internationalism, here is a sport where you can root for a team without having to pick a country. But the national champion’s jersey doesn’t seem boastful or representative, it’s an attempt to promote one nation ahead of the others. If anything it’s the opposite, only one rider per country wear it. So it doesn’t seem to be a refuge for patriotic scoundrels, just a symbolic icon.

Conclusion
Teams design their jerseys and this includes those for any reigning national champions. Sponsors often want a uniform look to match their brand guidelines and national designs can get in the way. The UCI has next to no rules here, instead it’s up to each federation to approve the design and so is local and variable which can be confusing.

25 Nov 16:12

Georginio Wijnaldum Thriving Under "Really Fun" Liverpool System

by Dan Bernstein

The versatile midfielder is enjoying his time with the Reds.

While Jürgen Klopp has made substantial squad changes in his time at Liverpool, the moves have not seemed to disrupt the team's chemistry. Instead, new players have have only helped push the club forward.

Georginio Wijnaldum, one of the Reds' major summer signings, said the "really fun" atmosphere around the team right now that has helped him perform better.

"Because we are winning a lot of games, it gives us a lot of confidence and we enjoy football more," Wijnaldum said (via Sky Sports). "If you don't win games, it's difficult to enjoy and see the fun in football. I work with a good manager and my teammates are good, quality players. That makes me a better player."

The midfielder added that the intensity Klopp has brought to training has helped foster a hardworking culture around the club. That has also helped Liverpool surpass expectations to this point in the season.

"If everyone trains 100 percent and we all just do our best, that makes us each a better player," Wijnaldum said. "Every training exercise we do is like a real game. Everyone has to be 100 percent, and if it's not 100 percent you will see. I'm just happy that I can be part of this team."

06 Oct 12:54

Dejan Lovren: “Jurgen Klopp is not just a good manager, he is a good man”

by Jack Lusby
Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren has applauded manager Jurgen Klopp, for his influence at the club both on and off the pitch. Lovren
11 Sep 14:31

Roberto Firmino the 2-goal star in attack – Fans’ Man of the Match vs. Leicester City

by Jack Lusby
All of Liverpool’s attacking talents shone in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Leicester City, but Roberto Firmino was the standout star. The Brazilian
16 Jul 05:16

4K video of Norway's stunningly beautiful fjords

by Jason Kottke

If you need a small window of peaceful beauty today, here you are.

Tags: Norway   time lapse   video
02 Jul 00:05

'Liverpool recruit Matip has got brains as well as brawn'

by Chris Beesley
Reds defender is ideal for Klopp, says Bundesliga expert Jorg Jakob
19 Jun 13:47

Euro 2016 power rankings: Spain set the tone as competitors stutter

by Alan Smith

A dominant performance against Turkey has the reigning champions on top, while Northern Ireland make a big climb on the back of beating Ukraine

By some distance, the best performance at the championship so far – no matter how willingly Turkey appeared to roll over and take a pummelling. The third goal was a beauty, even if Jordi Alba was a yard offside before teeing up Álvaro Morata. The move involved all outfield players apart from Gerard Piqué, and featured 21 passes. Same old Spain, then. Yet there was also a lingering sense that they can raise their game to another level. They toyed with Turkey for long spells and it does not bode well for the rest that Andrés Iniesta is on form, their oft (and incorrectly) criticised defence has barely allowed an opportunity, and Jordi Alba and Juanfran are insatiable at wing-back.

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