When Essendon fans are angry, they make sure that you hear it. That is what many are due to the unveiling of the club’s new ‘Heritage guernsey’ honouring club legend John Coleman. The funny thing is that the heritage guernsey has never been worn by the club in it’s 140-year history.
Essendon, with chief David Evans at the helm, have unsuccessfully tried to disguise this clash guernsey as a heritage guernsey. Sure, it has the names of premiership players on it, but it is really a clash guernsey and despite many people saying the contrary, it was needed.
In 2007, the AFL pushed Essendon into wearing the infamous ‘wide red sash’ guernsey. This was due to clashes with other teams, most noticeably St Kilda and Richmond. In reality, this had to be a short term fix. The guernsey for a start looked messy and really didn’t do a lot to stop the clashes.
Many long-term football fans argue that there is no need for clash guernsey’s. They common thought was that if clubs had survived for 120 years without secondary uniforms that it could be continued today. This, however is wrong. Due to the emergence of sponsors and with so many clubs dependent on merchandise these days, uniforms have changed dramatically to suit, thus the need for alternate strips.
Back on topic and the AFL has now forced Essendon to wear a proper clash guernsey, the last of all AFL clubs to do so. Some fans are concerned that their club will lose its brand that it has had for 135 years. Before that, Essendon had a navy blue guernsey. That’s correct, the colours of arch-rivals Carlton!
English Premier League sides have been doing this for years and their brands, and merchandise revenue, have increased. Kids want the newest and coolest jumper, many would be sick of the basic guernsey, and with pester power they get their parents to buy it.
Something that Collingwood has been lucky with is that they have been able to just invert their colours, and you can clearly tell the difference. Essendon, however, were unable to do this, due to red being considered a dark colour by the AFL. This put the club in a difficult position.
The club couldn’t go against the AFL in continuing to wear the fat sash kit and it couldn’t wear a ‘Coburg’ type guernsey because it was still against the rules. In the Essendon constitution, it says that the club cannot change its jumper without the consultation of its members except if the AFL made them.
Many fans would not have known the last bit and are clearly upset by the decision, but the club had no choice. In the end, those same supporters would love to see the current list of players names’ on the jumper, then it would be a real heritage guernsey.