Scottish Premier League

A last resort: Rangers’ rare 1996-1997 Center Parcs shirt

Anomalous shirt designs or sponsors can make for a cult addition to any collection. Rangers’ European offering for the 1996-97 season is an example of one of those specimens. But why?

Well, towards the end of the Ibrox club’s iconic nine-in-a-row run of titles from 1988 to ‘97, the Gers’ of course took to the continent in the Champions League. However, despite being Scottish football’s superlative side, a trip to France saw a switch of sponsors. Although McEwan’s Lager was valuable iconography for domestic success, for the final group game matchup against Auxerre – it had to go as alcohol advertisements were prohibited. Thus, the side fronted by Ally McCoist were left in limbo. Until some somewhat Newcastle-inspired thinking, that is. 

The Magpies had experienced the same when they played Metz, so dropped ‘Newcastle Brown Ale’. They traded it for a subsidiary sponsor, Center Parcs. Rangers also had ties, but at the time, getting a new sponsor meant manufacturing new shirts completely and the patterned fabric was put together in a different factory to the sponsor. So, the whole shirt is markedly different.

Jay Mansfield, of the Museum of Jerseys blog, summed it up aptly:

“While Rangers should have known roughly three months in advance that they’d need shirts with an alternate sponsor, there was apparently some kind of snafu. (…) While the 1996-97 home shirt normally had a shadow pattern of various positive and negative renderings of the RFC monogram crest within a shield, these shirts had a strangely familiar woven repeating motif of the monogram, three stripes, a Rangers wordmark…

“Some kind of error regarding lead-in times led to Adidas providing Rangers with a set of jerseys with Center Parcs branding and the last hurrah of the amazingly detailed 1994 vintage woven fabric.”

So, what of the performances? 

“While wearing shirts with Center Parcs logos instead of the usual McEwan’s logo could qualify these as great one-offs, Rangers’ record in the Auxerre game and a further two occasions the following season isn’t great. Two defeats and one victory against a Faroese side in a Champions League qualifier. 

“Such patchy form is not how a kit becomes iconic.”


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