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Insight

Sleeve notes

The shirt adornment that’s enjoyed a purple patch lasting 29 years and counting

WORDS Dan Poole

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

“We were having this club meeting at Ajax, about 15 people around the table, and here came the time to introduce this starball patch,” says Thompson. “I pulled it out, all smiles, and showed it to the group. There was not a word spoken in the room; you could hear a pin drop. Obviously something was terribly wrong, but I was looking around the table and no one was making eye contact.

“After a long pause I finally said, ‘Excuse me, what’s going on here?’ There was another long pause. Finally, chairman Michael van Praag looked at me and said, ‘Craig, we can’t wear a star. Are you not familiar with the history of the Second World War? The Nazis forced the Jewish population in Holland to wear the Star of David to identify them.’

“You can imagine how I felt. Speechless. But I managed an apology, explaining my ignorance. I promised that we would reconfigure the patch in a way that was acceptable to them. I mean, Ajax is known as a Jewish club. I couldn’t have picked a worse place to go to present the star.”

The compromise was a version of the star on a square background, which Ajax wore for all their games that season. Apart from the 1995 final, that is, which is when the patch we know now, in the shape of the actual starball, first made an appearance. And it worked wonders for the Amsterdam side: they beat AC Milan 1-0 to lift the cup for the fourth time.

With a few design tweaks over the years, the starball patch has become a staple of the Champions League experience – even if there was some initial scepticism. “At first the clubs were reluctant,” says Thompson. “But then a funny thing happened: the players saw it as a badge of honour. It said: ‘I’m in the Champions League.’”

Once the players were convinced, it didn’t take long for their clubs to follow suit. “Sure enough, in the next few months, we started getting requests to sell the shirts with the Champions League patch.” Seems you reap what you sew.

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

Sleeve notes
Insight

Sleeve notes

The shirt adornment that’s enjoyed a purple patch lasting 29 years and counting

WORDS Dan Poole

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

“We were having this club meeting at Ajax, about 15 people around the table, and here came the time to introduce this starball patch,” says Thompson. “I pulled it out, all smiles, and showed it to the group. There was not a word spoken in the room; you could hear a pin drop. Obviously something was terribly wrong, but I was looking around the table and no one was making eye contact.

“After a long pause I finally said, ‘Excuse me, what’s going on here?’ There was another long pause. Finally, chairman Michael van Praag looked at me and said, ‘Craig, we can’t wear a star. Are you not familiar with the history of the Second World War? The Nazis forced the Jewish population in Holland to wear the Star of David to identify them.’

“You can imagine how I felt. Speechless. But I managed an apology, explaining my ignorance. I promised that we would reconfigure the patch in a way that was acceptable to them. I mean, Ajax is known as a Jewish club. I couldn’t have picked a worse place to go to present the star.”

The compromise was a version of the star on a square background, which Ajax wore for all their games that season. Apart from the 1995 final, that is, which is when the patch we know now, in the shape of the actual starball, first made an appearance. And it worked wonders for the Amsterdam side: they beat AC Milan 1-0 to lift the cup for the fourth time.

With a few design tweaks over the years, the starball patch has become a staple of the Champions League experience – even if there was some initial scepticism. “At first the clubs were reluctant,” says Thompson. “But then a funny thing happened: the players saw it as a badge of honour. It said: ‘I’m in the Champions League.’”

Once the players were convinced, it didn’t take long for their clubs to follow suit. “Sure enough, in the next few months, we started getting requests to sell the shirts with the Champions League patch.” Seems you reap what you sew.

In order to identify with a sporting event, it’s important to be able to identify a sporting event. And arguably, the Champions League leads the way on recognition. There’s the anthem of course, the starball logo, the starball centre-circle flag, the starball ball – all iconic and ingrained. But there’s another item, smaller but no less notable, that’s also a key part of the mix: the starball sleeve patch.

This natty bit of shirt furniture recently got a new look, thanks to a merger with the previous-winners patch. The latter first appeared in 2001 and was worn by teams that have either won the trophy at least five times or won it three times or more in a row. Now the number of wins is displayed on the starball patch instead, making space on the sleeve for the UEFA Foundation for Children logo.

But let’s go back the beginning with Craig Thompson, our Champions Journal regular and Champions League co-instigator, who was there when the patch plan was first formed. “The idea came from Klaus Hempel, who was top dog on brand – I was the brand executor, he was the visionary,” he says of the man who worked at Unilever and adidas before he helped to breathe life into the Champions League. “He came to me and said, ‘Craig, let’s put a starball patch on the players’ arms.’”

And so it came to pass, starting with the starball on a rectangular background for the first two seasons of the Champions League. Though actually getting it onto the players’ shirts in time for the first fixtures wasn’t without its difficulties. “By the time we had it done, we actually didn’t have time to send it to a lot of the clubs,” says Thompson. “So we had to hand deliver these things to them before their first home matches. Then at many clubs we had to hire a local seamstress to put the patches on. It was a logistical nightmare. Quite a saga.”

Come 1994, a new idea was floated: how about a patch in the shape of an actual star? Thompson and his colleagues loved the concept and duly headed out for their annual pre-season meetings with the clubs that had qualified for the group stage; for Thompson, it was destination Amsterdam.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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