It will have delighted most British football supporters that Atlético Madrid reached the final of the Champions League last week. However, despite possessing the virtue of Not Being Chelsea, closer inspection of their shirts reveals that they are also proudly sponsored by Azerbaijan, “Land of Fire”. That slogan doesn’t strike the genial note usually preferred when trying to project a good image of a nation. It is, however, in keeping with the aggressively poor human rights record of the Caspian overlords with whom Atlético are doing business. But dodgy shirt sponsorship deals are no new thing.
■ It was once a proud point of principle for Barcelona that, despite their high profile, they eschewed a commercial shirt sponsor. However, in 2011, when they did dip in, they didn’t start at the bottom like English clubs with Crown Paints, or something. They went straight for the big euros and the Qatar Foundation. Qatar, appropriately hosting World Cups and treating migrant employees diligently since 2012.
■ It’s well known that footballers are extremely confident and secure about their sexuality, so much so that there has only ever been one openly gay British footballer. Crystal Palace players can hardly have demurred when, in 1988, new sponsorship meant they would have “Virgin” plastered across their shirt fronts. German club FC Nuremberg’s players must have been similarly thrilled in 2005 when asked to bear the logo of local clothing company Mister Lady.
■ The financial crisis left a number of players running around pitches as human reminders of fiscal catastrophe. Newcastle United carried the name Northern Rock on their shirts like a stigma all through the institution’s collapse and enforced nationalisation, to the merriment of away fans. Liverpool , meanwhile, remain visibly sponsored by Standard Chartered, branded a “rogue institution” by American regulators.
■ Pity also Clydebank, who, following the success of Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around, suffered the indignity of carrying the group’s name on their shirt in the 1990s. The Marti Pellow factor boosted them not one whit – indeed, their fortunes dwindled almost immediately, the club forced to decamp to Boghead Park, Dumbarton, for home games in 1996, and eventually relegated after a season in which they achieved just 10 points