Christmas #Content

Rating Every Premier League Club’s Festive Merchandise In Order Of Christmassiness

With the commemoration of the birth of Our Lord coming up, we have decided to get to the bottom of what Christmas is all about – football clubs selling obscene amounts of merch.

by Will Magee
23 December 2016, 10:40am

Screengrab via Arsenal.com

With the festive season in full swing at this point, we have found ourselves wondering about the meaning of Christmas. We've cleared out our bank accounts for the sake of idle trinkets, we're three weeks into the most overindulgent period of the year, our love handles are beginning to strain at the seams owing to the combined impact of Wetherspoons dinners, expensed work lunches and 'just a few festive pints after work', and we're questioning whether or not, well, Jesus Christ might sort of disapprove. In regards to Christmas, what used to be a humble celebration of the birth of Our Lord has become a consumerist monstrosity, less a holiday than a gaping, insatiable maw which we are compelled to feed forevermore. That is truest of all in the world of football, which chooses to suckle the giant, crusty mouth of modern Christmas with an endless stream of festive merchandise, that despite the lack of obvious connection between the birth of God's own son and the beautiful game.

READ MORE: Exploring England's Riotous Love Of Festive Football

In a transparent attempt to assuage our own guilt about our meek participation in the bastardisation of Christmas, then, we have decided to shame the Premier League by rating its clubs' festive merchandise in order of Christmassiness. Our methodology will work thus: Jesus, being a notoriously humble man by nature, would have fucking hated the slickest and most corporate attempts to monetise the festive season, hence the clubs which have made the biggest effort to sell overpriced tat to idiots this month will be judged to be the least Christmassy. We will rate each club out of ten, with our scoring system completely arbitrary and based entirely on our own capricious whims. We will start with the least Christmassy club, and end with the club which has best understood the modest, traditional spirit of the festive season. We are the avenging ghost of Christmas Merch, now take our hand, and let our salutary journey through the Premier League begin.

Arsenal

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To be honest, we're not all that surprised that Arsenal have by far the most efficient corporate machine when it comes to Christmas merchandise. The club has become synonymous with relentless money making, and that is reflected in every aspect of their festive fare. Arsenal's main website has two sidebar widgets directing traffic towards the Christmas section of the club shop, where the browser is immediately assailed by a ribbon reading "Christmas Gifts for everyone" – which feels more like a command than an invitation – and a full-screen image of Olivier Giroud and Shkodran Mustafi wearing posh jackets with the club crest on them. Over on the main shop page, there is a picture of the entire squad and Arsene Wenger sporting 'fun' Christmas jumpers. Wenger has somehow managed to stay cheerful, but many of the players look like they would rather be anywhere else.

In terms of the actual merchandise on offer, there is a veritable orgy of choice. There are multiple Christmas sections, recommended gift ideas, and presents branded with Arsenal logos for people of all ages. There are watches, golf balls, slippers and gilets; there is Danny Welbeck modelling a supersoft bathrobe, though we assume his services are not included in the asking price of £40. There are Arsenal earrings; Arsenal gloves; Arsenal 'Babywear Gooner Pyjamas'. There is a Gunnersaurus toy which, despite looking nothing like the one, true Gunnersaurus, is going for nothing less than £15.

All in all, the Arsenal club shop is a lavish feast of Christmas consumerism, a grotesque banquet of football retail which leaves the beholder bereft of all senses, groaning at the festive excess of the experience. Plus, most of the presents on offer here would be well out of the price range of the average resident of ancient Bethlehem. Jesus would be livid, if he could see this shit. This isn't what Christmas is about at all.

Christmassiness Rating: 0/10

Liverpool

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While the main club website might be relatively light on festive references, Liverpool have gone all out on their online store. Upon entering, the viewer is immediately greeted by a merchandise-laden, staged Christmas scene in what is meant to be someone's living room, but actually looks like the sort of Shoreditch pub which exclusively does Beavertown cans at £5 a pop. First of all, this doesn't feel very Liverpudlian, more like a vision of Christmas as dreamt up by an interior designer living in Canonbury. Second of all, it feels painfully insincere and unnatural. Jordan Henderson appears to be handing a child a bottle of expensive club-branded cologne, for fuck's sake. Daniel Sturridge looks like he's laughing, but we all know, in truth, he has never been less jovial. Loris Karius and Emre Can are attentively comparing a tie to a Liverpool bathrobe, which makes absolutely no sense.

When it comes to the merch itself, there is absolutely tonnes of the stuff. There are gift subsections within gift subsections, together forming a Kafkaesque labyrinth of merchandise from which the Christmas spirit can never return. On our long and wearisome travels through this festive hell, through 'Stocking Fillers', 'Premium Souvenirs', 'Gifts for Him', 'Personalised Gifts For Kids' and so on, we have seen a £35 men's onesie, a £50 Liverpool wash bag and £15 Liverpool elf slippers, as well as more Jurgen Klopp shirts, mugs and mousemats than we can ever hope to unsee. All of this from the club of Bill Shankly, for God's sake. If Jesus really was the first socialist, as Shankly once claimed, then we dread to imagine what he would think about his birthday being used as an excuse to flog an £185 Anfield Road watch.

Christmassiness Rating: 0/10

Manchester City

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Seriously now, look at the state of this marketing campaign. Look at Pep Guardiola, widely regarded to be the tactical mind of the century as far as football is concerned, pretending weakly to intervene in a photoshopped snowball fight between two rows of disinterested Manchester City luminaries. Imagine actually going up to Pep Guardiola, and asking: "Sorry, but would you mind posing as if you are trying to break up an imaginary Christmas showdown between Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Steph Houghton and Paul Dickov, amongst others?" He flashes you a withering look, mutters something derogatory in Catalan, and then puts the bare minimum of effort into completing the utterly fatuous task you have set him.

Much like Arsenal and Liverpool before them, Manchester City have monetised the shit out of Christmas. They have arbitrarily divided their most marketable employees into 'Team Santa' and 'Team Elf', demanding that the players involved help them sell as much festive junk as possible. Were we so inclined, we could fork out £30 on a Manchester City jacquard towel set, or a fiver on a set of three baubles in club colours. Worst of all are the Santa and Elf costumes sported above, which are currently going for £18 each. Father Christmas has died of a broken heart at the use of the term 'Santa', and now, in the knowledge that the holidays have been irreversibly ruined by Manchester City's sales team, he is turning in his solitary, snowy grave.

Christmassiness Rating: 0/10

Tottenham

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Tottenham's Christmas section is almost as chock full of rubbish as their top-four competitors, but also happens to contain a section called 'Christmas Essentials', which actually makes the whole process of shopping with them seem vaguely coercive. 'Christmas Essentials', in other words the commodities that you absolutely must buy your Spurs-supporting family lest they realise that you do not, in fact, love them, include a £30 jumper, a £15 baby sleep suit and an £8 packet of pink reindeer socks with the Tottenham logo on, for women. These things are essential, apparently. This at a time when tens of thousands of Londoners struggle to make rent.

Christmassiness Rating: 0/10

Manchester United

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But is a £51 home kit really 'the perfect gift', Manchester United? What about the gift of Christmas wisdom, the gift of self-realisation, the gift of true and everlasting love? Were we to personalise said home kit with the name of, say, Paul Pogba, it would apparently cost us an extra £10.16 to do so. In other words, it costs just over a tenner to make an already exorbitant present 'authentic'. Were the rest of United's official Christmas merch not tinged with an air of half-heartedness, embarrassment even, they would be getting a big fat zero for their grasp of the Christmas ethos, too.

Christmassiness Rating: 0.5/10

Chelsea

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Before we even start to criticise Chelsea's Christmas retail section, it should be said that their website is one of the ugliest in the Premier League. It looks like a football blog set up as a minor part of someone's journalism degree, with nothing to capture the imagination and an empty sea of blue in the margins which is somehow reminiscent of Windows 2000. Their festive merchandise section is slightly more sophisticated, with a snow-and-bauble themed skin and several dedicated Christmas sections. Unfortunately, they have gone with the tagline "Have a True Blue Christmas!", which makes shopping on their club store sound like eating turkey in repressed and miserable silence with Theresa May.

Though there is a clear pattern emerging here, with the biggest clubs in the Premier League also the most determined to slaughter Christmas on the gory altar of revenue, Chelsea deserve a bit more credit than their rivals, if only because they haven't really bothered all that much. Rather than find numerous ways to relieve their fans of even more of their hard-earned cash (bathrobes, watches, jewellery, cuddly Gunnersaurus!), they have only managed to put together a few pages' worth of seasonal commodities, and without much fanfare beyond the club shop's homepage. In that sense, at least they haven't made a gargantuan effort to hawk overpriced rubbish to their supporters. For that, we give them minor kudos, if not exactly our enthusiastic approval.

Christmassiness Rating: 1/10

Sunderland

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Sunderland Christmas jumpers, elf tees, stockings and Santa hats; Sunderland knit boots, branded boxer shorts and cuddly toys in multiple designs; Sunderland slippers, duvets, pens, pencils, ties and shot glasses; Sunderland mugs, glass tankards and a godforsaken, £42.99 'Crystal Mini Decanter Set' with the Sunderland logo on it. For an ostensibly modest Premier League club from the north-east, that's a hell of a lot of shite to be touting at Christmas. There's also a hashtag in their Christmas branding, which is frankly degenerate. After the traditional top six clubs, Sunderland get a 'best of the rest' award for thoroughly ruining our festive cheer.

Christmassiness Rating: 1/10

Swansea

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See Sunderland, but replace 'ostensibly modest Premier League club from the north-east' with 'ostensibly modest Premier League club from south Wales'. The Swans have their own men's aftershave, which we can only presume smells exactly like Swansea Marina, as well as a ladies' perfume and some sort of facial scrub set. This isn't the fucking Body Shop, people.

Christmassiness Rating: 1/10

Crystal Palace

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There don't appear to be any Alan Pardew-themed presents, understandably, but the Christmas section on the Palace online shop is otherwise pretty damn extensive. There are the now customary array of pint glasses, stationary and needless accessories, as well as an extremely sinister soft toy called 'a red and blue fuzzball'. Bizarrely, there are also two bottles of club-branded wine available, including the less-than-delicious sounding 'Eagle Chardonnay'. We can't say for certain, but that has more than a whiff of a solo Pardew sales brainstorm about it, and will last as a fitting final legacy for him at Selhurst Park.

Christmassiness Rating: 1/10

Bournemouth

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Bournemouth have six pages' worth of Christmas gifts, amongst which there is a £45 leather wash bag, a £25 hip flask and a £7 protein shaker. This for a side promoted a season and a half ago, who just over six years ago were playing in League Two.

Christmassiness Rating: 1/10

Southampton

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While Southampton haven't made the same sort of effort as Swansea, Palace, Bournemouth and Sunderland, and have a refreshingly low-tech online shop, they do have a £12 'Saints Countdown Santa' to help children number the days until Christmas. Enough said, really.

Christmassiness Rating: 2/10

Stoke

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Stoke, like Tottenham, have a 'Christmas Essentials' section, which despite its far more modest content we obviously disapprove of. However, they also have a 'Secret Santa' section with some really naff, relatively cheap stuff in it, which pleases us for some reason, and saves them from the worst of our ire. We're not Stoke fans but, if we were, we might object somewhat to the rotund hippos being used in the club's festive marketing campaign. That doesn't affect the club's Christmassiness rating but, still, it seems a bit unkind.

Christmassiness Rating: 2.5/10

Watford

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Watford, believe it or not, have both a 'Christmas Product Of The Day' feature on their club website, and a separate PDF brochure with all of their suggested gifts in it. This is an inventive way to push their albeit insubstantial festive merch on us, and therefore inherently bad.

Christmassiness Rating: 2.5/10

Leicester

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Despite Christian Fuchs' best efforts, Leicester don't seem all that enthusiastic about their Christmas output this year. Indeed, the Premier League champions seem to be far too busy continuing to monetise last season's title triumph to worry about an overly in-your-face festive range. That's fair enough, really, considering that making merch money from topping the league may well be a one-off opportunity for the club, and that Leicester's title win back in May had no association with the glory of Christ, per se.

That said, they are still selling £30 jumpers and £20 elf suits for kids. It's not the most overt Christmas operation but, still, not great.

Christmassiness Rating: 3/10

West Brom

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Short summary: West Brom have way too much Christmas tat on display, and there's not even a Tony Pulis baseball cap on offer as far as we can tell. Nonetheless, we give them a bonus point for selling a £2 reusable bag with 'West Bromwich Albion' on the front, which is such a terrible present that it actually made us laugh out loud. It's literally just a football-themed 'Bag For Life' from Sainsbury's. Props for trying to flog something so utterly mundane.

Christmassiness Rating: 4/10

West Ham

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Having half-expected West Ham to have the worst, most lavish Christmas section of all, we were pleasantly surprised to find it rather limited. While 'Have Yourself A Happy Hammers Christmas' sounds sort of intimidating, like the last line delivered by Phil Mitchell before he bumps someone off with a ball pein on the Eastenders Christmas Special, the online shop itself is fairly unassuming, all told.

The best item available is, without a doubt, the 'Union Jack Snow Globe' with crossed hammers superimposed over our national flag. It's the ideal present for right-wing uncles everywhere and, let's face it, what is Christmas in Britain about if not making your right-wing uncle happy, for one day at least.

Christmassiness Rating: 4.5/10

Hull

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Hull's dedicated Christmas section reads thus: baubles, cards, a couple of T-shirts, a calendar, one scarf, a cuddly toy and a hat. On top of all that, their most extravagant item is a £21.99 elf jumper in Hull colours. Overall, that's some austere, Yorkshire Christmas fare. Well done, Hull.

Christmassiness Rating: 6/10

Middlesbrough

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While their sales department might not appreciate it, we think it's fair to say that Middlesbrough have made absolutely fuck all effort this Christmas. Their festive section seems to be little more than a small collection of Boro baubles, cards and stockings, as well as a couple of kitsch and rather fetching snow globes.

Marks off for the £17.99 Middlesbrough 'Santa Sack', which is basically just a big string bag with the club crest and some snowflakes on it.

Christmassiness Rating: 7/10

Burnley

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In regards to modest Christmas fare, we had high hopes for Burnley when we first entered their online shop. The club exceeded those hopes tenfold, and have actually rather brightened up our day. As far as we can tell, their seasonal section contains a total five items, two of which are DVD highlights of their last campaign in the Championship. They are basically saying: "Don't bother to buy our Christmas stuff unless you really have to, in which case here's a condensed clip of last season's away trip to Huddersfield."

This is the Lord's work. This is Christmas as Sean Dyche intended it. Oh little town of Burnleyhem, how still we see thee lie.

Christmassiness Rating: 9.5/10

Everton

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Upon landing on Everton's website homepage, we were fully primed to tear their Christmas offerings to shreds like old wrapping paper. Then, a small scroll bar caught our eyes, in which were several stories – unpretentiously displayed – about their various community work ahead of the big day. These heartwarming tales seemed to partly redeem the Christmas season, in that they showed that football clubs can do a lot of good and charitable work without subsuming the entire holiday into a gluttonous bout of rampant commercialism.

We're not going to take the piss out of them for that, even if Everton are still selling silly snowman jumpers and Christmas elves for £7 a go.

Christmassiness Rating: 10/10

N.B. This article is no way a push for any of this merchandise. If you buy any of the items mentioned above, you are either an extremely gullible adult or, worse, setting a very bad example by purchasing tat on behalf of an extremely gullible child.

@W_F_Magee