Retro Football Shirts Investment: How U.S. Investors Bet Millions

Doug Bierton and Matt Dale reflect on their time as 21-year-old students at the University of Manchester in 2006. While studying business management, they often played video games like Championship Manager and Pro Evolution Soccer. One evening, Bierton sought a replica of the Germany kit from the 1990 World Cup for a fancy dress party.

His search led him to eBay and a charity shop in Manchester, where he found a Germany strip and a Paul Gascoigne England kit, respectively. The rarity of these items was highlighted when he sold the England jersey for a £45 profit, sparking the idea for their business, Classic Football Shirts.

Classic Football Shirts specializes in authentic football jerseys, ranging from rare vintage pieces to current season designs. Their collection includes notable items like Diego Maradona’s final shirt from his last match at Camp Nou in 1984, Thierry Henry’s jersey from the 2006 World Cup final, and Francesco Totti’s Euro 2000 final shirt. They also possess a famous Cristiano Ronaldo jersey from a 2003 friendly where he played for Sporting Lisbon against Manchester United.

The company’s first sale was a 1989 Liverpool kit to a customer in Norway according to the NY Times. Since then, Classic Football Shirts has grown to employ 160 people, amassed over one million Instagram followers, and sold over six million jerseys in 100 territories. With stores in Manchester and London, they are opening a pop-up shop in Manhattan and planning permanent locations in New York City and Los Angeles.

Retro Football Shirts Investments Keep Going Up

Recently, Classic Football Shirts received a £30.4 million ($38.5 million) investment from The Chernin Group (TCG), led by Peter Chernin. This investment values the company at nearly £50 million and marks a significant U.S. investment in football culture. With major football events coming to the U.S., TCG aims to boost the company’s growth further.

Greg Bettinelli, a partner at TCG, was drawn to Classic Football Shirts after noticing the variety of shirts worn by fans at an Arsenal match in London. The popularity of the store and the football culture resonated with him, leading TCG to invest in the business.

For Bierton and Dale, the journey began with maxed-out student loans and credit cards. Initially, they struggled, but an advertisement in FourFourTwo magazine helped kickstart their business. By 2010, dealing directly with clubs and brands, they acquired significant stock, such as a large collection from AC Milan, which included items like David Beckham’s underpants.

The company now houses 6,700 unique or match-worn shirts in a climate-controlled “vault” in Manchester. Bierton highlights the sentimental and financial value of these shirts, using them for media opportunities and exhibitions. Over the years, Classic Football Shirts has sold notable jerseys, including a Johan Cruyff match shirt and a Bobby Moore West Ham shirt, the latter of which was reacquired for their collection.

The market for classic, match-worn shirts is growing, with some items reaching unexpected values. For instance, a Diego Maradona shirt sold for £7 million. Shirts previously available in retail stores, like the Holland 1988 jersey, have also seen significant increases in value. Modern designs, such as the Nigeria shirt from the 2018 World Cup, can also become valuable due to their unique designs and limited production.

From an investor’s perspective, the appeal of nostalgia in sports collectibles is significant. Bettinelli notes that sports items, like concert T-shirts, connect people with the past, present, and future, creating a multi-generational appeal. This emotional connection drives consumer investment, making it an attractive market for investors.

I have been collecting memorabilia for half of my life. I started very small with a few trading cards and since then I am more and more interested in the subject. I read a lot in Facebook groups, collect especially Jordan memorabilia. I'm happy if you like my content.

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