Huddersfield Town has been left counting the cost of an unorthodox kit change after finding itself on the receiving end of a £50,000 fine imposed by the Football Association for flouting advertising rules.
The charge was levied after players were seen decked out in a prominent Paddy Power branded sash during a pre-season friendly with Rochdale, a deliberate spoof designed to promote the fact that the club was going to remove sponsor logos from its shirt as part of the bookmakers ‘unsponsor’ campaign.
FA officials failed to see the funny side however by imposing the fine alongside a warning about their future conduct. The severity of the sanction reflected an attempt by chairman Phil Hodgkinson to implicate the match referee Martin Coy in the stunt by asking him to ban the kit before the match – something the referee refused to do.
In a written statement Coy wrote: “He said that my decision could then potentially be good publicity and part of the advertising campaign," Coy said in a witness statement.
"I was uncomfortable with this and felt it was not my place to ban the kit outright, but I informed them that I would recommend they followed the rules and advice from The FA.”
Huddersfield then attempted to back out of their agreement but were then threatened with legal action from Paddy Power if they failed to keep up their end of the bargain, precipitating subsequent events.
Hodgkinson recalled: “The sponsor said that it would be deemed to be a material breach of the sponsorship agreement if the team did not wear the oversized logo," he said.
"In the circumstances, when faced with the threat of serious legal action from the club's main sponsor, and with no time to seek external legal advice, we felt we had no alternative but to wear the oversized logo in the match.”
Current FA rules mandate that any shirt advertising should be restricted to an area not larger than 250cm.
Other clubs to participate in the unsponsor campaign include Newport County, Motherwell, Macclesfield Town and Southend United