Over the last few days we've become aware of what the FC Barcelona shirts for 2012-13 will look like. Despite the Spanish media having form in getting this oh so wrong it seems this time they've nailed it.
The designs for the new Barça kits will again prove controversial, with a home shirt looking like a PSG number minus that nauseating white and through short-sighted eyes, and an orange away (they never go without that for more than a year) gradually lightening lower down. But, let's face it, they're called the Blaugrana but that doesn't mean they have to wear stripes. Halves and diagonal halves (ish) have been seen over recent years - nodding to early kits - and coupled with their random rotating of blue and red shorts they're almost Bayern Munich-like in their approach to home colours.
A greater controversy is surely the adoption of not one but two sponsors as of this season. From a side which never wanted to distract attention from their famous colours whatsoever, they became the first side in the Champions League to carry an extra name on the lower back of their shirts - swiftly followed by the opportunistic Chelsea. Yes, Unicef is a charitable organisation - as is, we're told, The Qatar Foundation, which now holds pride of place on the front - but both made it onto the shirt by way of commercial decision by the club, and a decision that has brought in both millions of euros and oodles of positive PR.
So yes, the club now puts sponsors on the shirt. This is partly to finally bite the bullet and realise if they want to purchase Europe's best talent they will need to start offering real money, but generally speaking it'a just Barça catching up with a trend they should really be at the forefront of. Still the question is begged, if the club is now so commercially savvy, why they make errors such as accompanying the section of their website that sells last season's away kit with images of Gerard Pique and Leo Messi wearing the mint green shirt in its 2011-12 third kit form with Qatar Foundation sponsor (not on sale) along with the player issue green change shorts (again, not on sale).
No, Barça are still relatively new to this money-making lark, which is why Nike are allowed so much freedom of expression in their kit designs. Yes, the old cliché of it being difficult to do much with stripes (and hoops - though next season's 125th anniversary Celtic shirt should blow that theory out of the water) will be oft-quoted and given as an excuse to dispense with them altogether, albeit temporarily, but strip a club of its traditions and it becomes less marketable immediately and the directors at the Camp Nou should be mindful of this.
Granted, the most important thing is on-field success, which Barça have consistently, but even then the shirt design has had the potential to hinder this through manufacturing oversights. If the shirt's literally weighing heavy perhaps it's worth considering this to be an unsubtle message that a little too much is going on and, regarding sponsors, has been added on to one of the most iconic football kits of all time.