Nearly 3.5 billion people are expected to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. They’ll all see players wearing a fresh batch of national jerseys, designed by the major sport product manufacturers. Millions of authentic tops are made for fans to buy. Even more are counterfeited.
Before I became a professor of sports product design at the University of Oregon, I spent about 20 years working for a major sports manufacturer on innovative products, for events like the World Cup and the Champions League Final. Sport manufacturers such as Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Puma, Uhlsport, Umbro and Under Armour start research and product development two to three years before a World Cup begins.
Jerseys must represent teams’ countries, perform for elite athletes and be desirable for fans. They must also deter counterfeiting, which undermines the only real way jersey manufacturers can recoup their design and production investments.
FOLLOWING THE RULES
The jerseys must first obey guidelines set by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Some are pretty basic – like making sure players’ jerseys aren’t easily confused with referees’ shirts, and that they have sleeves; soccer jerseys can’t be tank tops.
Other rules are more detailed, like banning jerseys that have more than four colours, unless they’re striped or checkered in two equal colours – in which case the jersey can use five colours.