Rugby isn’t a sport for the faint-hearted—especially if you have to play it wearing something as frightful as this.
Introducing the new jersey of Paris pro rugby club, Stade Français, which unveiled its most recent merchandizing monstrosity ahead of the new French season’s opener Aug. 14. The new shirt—one of three official game jerseys—has been dubbed “The Crowd”, and was described on the team’s website as being “a tribute to all those who love Stade Français, notably its fans”. That obviously includes team owner Guazzini, too, since his likeness looms large among the assembled masses. (Were that not bad enough, Guazzini’s avatar is positioned next to blonde chanteuse Dalida, who—to render the garment more tasteful—died in 1987, half a decade before Guazzini bought the then-obscure club).
“The Crowd” is only the latest (and most eye-assailing) in a series of visually disconcerting jerseys Guazzini has selected for his side in recent years—most of which resembled Andy Warhol knock-offs by an illustrator on acid. (Last season featured a shirt with multiple day-glow portraits of Blanche of Castile, wife of Louis VIII. Talk about “what ever”.) (See pictures from 2007’s Rugby World Cup.)
The method to Guazzini’s madness? Further finance his transformation of Stade Français into one of France’s top pro teams by broadening his fan base via novel merchandizing scheme and hip events tied to matches. As part of that quest to find younger, affluent new enthusiasts, Guazzini has also actively courted Paris’ large homosexual community: embracing pink as an official team color, orchids as one of its symbols, and marketing a team calendar featuring its players in the nude. Though some critics have blasted that as condescending caricature, the moves have nonetheless won Stade Français not only more gay fans, but larger number of women and new heterosexual backers too. “The Crowd”, then, is Guazzini’s acknowledgement of that response.
But will that gratitude translate into a windfall of jersey sales? Doubtful. It’ll cost fans just over $102 to position their own face above “The Crowd”—something many Stade Français could live without. Chances are better the shirt may afford Stade Français an on-field advantage over rivals who suddenly feel outnumbered by the silk-screened mob—or wind up fatigued from debilitating eye soreness.
– Bruce Crumley