Threat of Legal Action Forces Welsh Soccer Club to Halt Sales of 2021-22 Third Kit

The threat of a lawsuit from a major fashion brand has forced a fourth-tier soccer club based in Wales to stop selling the third kit they had unveiled for the 2021-22 season.

U.K. newspaper The Sun reported last week that Newport County AFC — currently playing in League Two, the fourth tier of English football — had been threatened with legal action by high-end fashion house Burberry, who claimed the check pattern on Newport County’s 2021-22 third kit, manufactured by Hummel, infringed on the copyright on their signature check.

Left: Burberry’s signature check pattern. (Graphic courtesy Wikipedia)
Right: Newport County AFC’s 2021-22 third kit. (Photo courtesy The Sun)

The threat “left cash-strapped Newport with no option other than to pull the kit off their website,” The Sun reports, adding that “County hadn’t even put the shirts up in their city centre club shop by the time Burberry’s email landed.”

The club launched the kits in early September. They were developed in collaboration with Goldie Lookin’ Chain, a comedy rap group formed in Newport, Wales, in 2000 (members are pictured with the 2021-22 third kit in the photo at the top of this page). The group has a long association with Newport County, and even sponsored the club’s kits in the 2004-05 season; the third kit featured the club crest on a printed chain above the band’s logo.

Newport County AFC and Hummel sent emails to customers who had pre-bought the 2021-22 third kit saying that their orders would not be filled due to production issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Sun reported. It made no mention of the threatened legal action.

The Sun also reports that the few customers who did get their hands on shirts have been asked by the club to return them, but few actually have or intend to do so.

The legal threat also means any plans Newport County had for players to wear the kits in matches this season have gone out the window.

Graphic courtesy Newport County AFC

According to Wikipedia, Goldie Lookin’ Chain “produces humorous, controversial and often explicit songs that satirise hip hop, today’s consumer society, the ‘chav’ culture and life in Newport and South Wales in general.” “Chav” is a pejorative used around the U.K. to describe a “young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behaviour (usually with connotations of a low social status).”

In the early 2000s, the Burberry check became linked with chavs and soccer hooligans thanks to a drop in prices, an abundance of counterfeit goods, and an increase in British celebrities associated with chav culture wearing the brand. The pattern was banned at pubs and football stadiums around the U.K. for a time due to this connotation.

However, the Burberry check goes back much further than that. It has been in use since the 1920s, and was first used to line Burberry raincoats. In the 1960s, the pattern made its way to the outside of garments and became the fashion house’s signature look. The camel, white, black and red plaid has been used on everything from shirts and pants to scarves, umbrellas and handbags. Today, Burberry has seemingly shed its chav association and is favoured by young influencers amid a wave of 1990s nostalgia.

A selection of items offered for sale on Burberry’s website as of publication. (Photos courtesy Burberry.com)

Feature photo courtesy South Wales Argus