Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hundred years of soccer boots

A century ago professional footballers received on average 2/6 (37c. Aus) per game and some were paid special bonuses in addition depending on their skill. The sum varied according to the size of the crowd but even the best players seldom got bonuses over 2/11 (45c Aus). Quality football boots made from russet calf with fluted toecaps sold at the same time for 8/6d ($1.26A) which was almost three and a half times what a player earned per game. Shin guards cost between 1/6d (22c Aus) and 2/11d (45c Aus), and football socks varied between 1/11d (30c Aus) and 4/11d (75c Aus). A hundred years later the cost of boots has dropped considerably and bares no comparison to the average wage, performance and appearance bonuses, professional players earn today. For that we need to be grateful but manufacturers are also being criticized for using questionable labour practice in their sport apparel. Although player's costumes have changed since early days of the game, football boots have undergone surprisingly few design changes in the last seventy years. The evolution of the modern boot has been a conflict between protection from the climate and injury against the freedom of the limb to perform better. Improved fitness of players combined with greater glittering prizes has had a positive spin on boot development but related changes appear surprisingly to be stylistic as the football codes have become more glamorous and not forged by a desire to play better or decrease the rates of injury. Published research supports there has been more injuries caused by boot innovations than appear to be resolved by new designs. This includes the adaptation and incorporation of new synthetic polymers. The incidence of football related injuries continue to be the focus for much concern but ironically safety changes to soccer boots are less likely to come from the professionals, as boot sponsorship has become a major source of income. Instead the genuine concern of Soccer Mums, especially in North America, where the game has become so popular with young children, their concerns and in particular their consumer dollar will forge better safety awareness.

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