Written by Mike Carter, Hull KR Shirts.
Back in November, I wrote a review of the 2021 Hull Kingston Rovers home shirt. It has become a yearly tradition for me to cast my eye over the shirts upon release and deliver a very raw review. 2021 was different for many reasons, but the main reason was that Hull KR revealed and released their 2021 offerings without the main front of shirt sponsor. I covered this at the time however I am back for a quick update before we see the strip in action for the first time.
The 2021 shirts have had multiple reveals and updates since November, all of which have been communicated across social media and Hull KR’s official website. I would like to place those in a timeline to add to my initial review, to tell the whole story of the 2021 home shirt.
It was announced on February 8th that Sporting Pay would be the main shirt sponsor of the 2021 Hull KR home shirt. You can read more about that here. Their logo and wordmark neatly fits onto the shirt without being intrusive to the design or aesthetics of the shirt.
The below image shows Mikey Lewis wearing a 2021 replica home shirt with Sporting Pay heat applied to the shirt. Rovers have stated this will be a purchasable option once the retail store at Hull College Craven Park reopens.
Sponsors on shirts are a talking point upon any shirt release in any sport. We’ve become that accustomed to seeing them, that not having one makes the shirt feel different. The majority of people who I have engaged in conversation with have expressed their pleasure at seeing a sponsor appear on the shirt, by praising the finished article. I for one don’t think the shirt looks any worse with or without a main sponsor, but the revenue the deal brings to the club is welcomed and much needed to our club.
Following on from the deal with Sporting Pay, this allowed the club to place their order for the 2021 player specification shirts. These shirts have the Sporting Pay logo and wordmark sublimated into the fabric. On the left sleeve we have branding for IQONIQ, “a new fan engagement platform which exclusively targets the Sport & Entertainment world”. IQONIQ features on most 2021 Super League shirts, including being the main shirt sponsor at Wigan Warriors.
The addition of the Betfred Super League branding to the right sleeve also makes an appearance. Something that doesn’t feature across replica shirts. I have had supporters ask across social media why the club don’t offer this as a paid additional extra to replica shirts. It’s a great question since this service is popular with football fans. Maybe this is a missed retail opportunity?
The first glimpse we would get of a match specification, or player cut shirt as some like to call it, was during the 2021 Media Day on March 3rd. These shirts are very different from the replica shirts we purchase from the retail store. However, this is a different conversation, for a different day.
There is something about a player wearing a player cut shirt that just oozes class. The shirts are made to show off the physic of the modern-day Rugby League player by being as tight as possible, to ensure there is no gain to the opposition in terms of leverage in the tackle.
This nicely brings me to my final point. My feelings towards the shirt have grown since I’ve seen the match specification shirt. As I’ve previously stated most have pointed to the sponsor as being the catalyst for finishing off the design but for me it’s the aesthetics of the media day imagery. If you have read my initial review in the past I said that the 2021 home shirt wasn’t a design that I would have gone for but upon reflection and 4 months of anticipation to see it worn I think it just looks so good! The presentation of the product is amazing, and I hope for the launch of the 2022 range later this year, that plans are in place that allows the initial launch to take place with match specification shirts. I mean who doesn’t like the look of Dean Hadley looking like an absolute boss! Enjoy.
All Media Day images are the property of Hull Kingston Rovers.
Original review: Published 15/11/2020.
A shirt launch day to me always feels like Christmas. I have such a huge passion for Hull KR and Rugby League in general, and a huge part of that for me is seeing, collecting and feeling the uniform the team wears.
When I saw the 2021 home shirt by Oxen for the first time I wasn’t greeted with an ‘Oh my god’ moment as I have in the past. However, it is almost what I was looking for, for our 2021 home shirt. That being a return to a predominantly red home strip.
Seeing Rovers’ play at Craven Park in a white kit with a red band will always be the most synonymous look for the Robins. However, in an age of new shirts being released every year, a mix-up is required from a commercial point of view. We’ve used 6 home shirts since we last saw a predominantly red shirt with white detailing that didn’t have any blue on the shirt. That was the 2014 home shirt which featured a red chest and arms, with white side panelling and detailing.
The design of the 2021 home shirt appears to be very simplistic. The shirt is almost completely red apart from the chevrons, sponsors and shoulder segments that continue on the reverse.
The next thing I will mention, I say in every review that I write and I will continue to do so until it stops, which is hopefully never. The willingness from club sponsors to have their logos appear in an unnatural (to them) colourway makes the shirt more aesthetically pleasing on the eye.
Okay, so now onto the elephant in the room. The club made the correct decision to confirm the 2021 shirts wouldn’t have the main shirt sponsor on ahead of the release. The decision to do this was smart, including explaining the reasons behind it. You can read more here. This allowed it to not be a shock when it was released and allowed them to control the mood around the release.
We have become accustomed to seeing a shirt with the main sponsor across most sports at all levels, so of course, it’s going to take some getting used to. The shirt looks a lot cleaner without the sponsor across the front, but I understand the financial reasoning for needing the space to be filled. The fact you will be able to have a patch applied to a shirt should you so wish is a great middle-ground solution. Outside of Rugby League, most teams use heat bonded patches to apply sponsors to shirts anyway. We’ve been spoilt with sublimated shirts year on year that, of course, it will feel different. However, it’s just one of those things I refuse to dwell on.
We’ve seen the chevron detailing appear on Hull KR shirts in the past, so this isn’t something new and is a nod to our shirt history. We last used this look in 2010 and that design featured on the home with the away kit using a similar design that year. The top chevron was much deeper than that of the 2021 release and allowed for the sponsor to appear within it.
We also used a similar design in 2004, this time the sponsor appeared above and the chevrons featured lower on the front of the shirt. It’s worth noting that in 2004, all three shirts used had the same design template. Could this mean the 2021 away shirt will also feature the chevrons..? I think things have changed with regards to commercial and marketing approaches since then so I’d predict not, but I have been wrong many times before.
The club has been very vocal about the level of support and commitment the fans have given during these times. As we all know it’s not the easiest of times and Rovers provides an escape for a lot of people, including me. Results on the field haven’t been good enough for a long time, and that has to change. I trust that we have the right people at the club to ensure this starts at the earliest possible opportunity. To further cement these comments, it has been confirmed that sales within the first 2 hours equalled more than that sold within 48 hours of the release of the 2020 home shirt. Wow. Well done Robins, that is some commitment to our great club.
To summarise it’s not a design that I’d have chosen to go with, but I’m okay watching the lads run out in this in 2021. We needed to have something different since we’ve had a white shirt with a red band in 4 of the last 5 years. I’ve had so many love at first sight moments during the Hull KR and Oxen/X-Blades partnership that I’m okay with not having that moment with this shirt. As in most cases though, when the lads run out in the shirt my opinion could be swung as it always looks different in action.