If ever a sponsorship deal was a meeting of minds between club, supporters and product it came when Queens Park Rangers partnered with Guinness in the early 1980s.
Guinness were still brewing the black stuff in nearby Park Royal when they became QPR’s first ever sponsor for the 1983-84 season.
Once West London’s finest had agreed to emblazon Guinness across the 20th century design classic that is the famous blue and white hoops, the addition of the very best kit manufacturer of the day in Adidas, delivered a holy trinity of football shirt perfection.
The shirts marked QPR’s return to top-flight football and 2 innovations made that year’s Rangers’ kits legendary along Loftus Road:
1️⃣ Pairing those iconic blue and white hoops with a fresh red trim
2️⃣ The debut of the hugely popular Dennis the Menace away kit
The introduction of red as the third colour on the shirt made this Adidas design one of Rangers’ greatest kits and it’s a look manufacturers have come back to time and time again.
This shirt was worn between 1983-85, after an initial Adidas effort placed the badge and trefoil on a blue hoop in red.
A later version with even more red on the collar and sleeves (similar to the Subbuteo man above), was worn for the 1985-86 season and the Milk Cup Final defeat to Oxford United, that many West London physicists now suspect never actually took place.
Adidas had long been a fan’s favourite at Loftus Road, after QPR became the first team in England to wear the famous three stripes all the way back in 1976.
As well as introducing red to the hoops for the 1983-84 campaign, Adidas also launched the “Dennis the Menace” away kit which would become synonymous with QPR.
Red and black is the perfect opposite to the R’s beautiful blue and white hoops and given the choice, it would be the away kit most QPR fans would opt for season after season.
Prior to leading the club back to the top-flight, Rangers hero Terry Venables had taken the Hoops to the 1982 FA Cup Final, where Spurs needed a replay to beat the R’s.
His side featuring Terry Fenwick, Steve Wicks, Alan McDonald, John Gregory, Gary Waddock, Clive Allen, Gary Bannister and Simon Stainrod took the First Division by storm finishing 5th and qualifying for Europe in their first season back in the big time.
Venables left London for Barcelona having re-established QPR’s place at English football’s top table, where they would stay until relegation from the Premier League in 1996.
We’ll gloss over the cultural significance of Andrew Ridgeley wearing the shirt in Wham’s video for Freedom! as he enjoyed a kick about in China with George Michael. No, seriously. Go have a look.
Of course Guinness’ advertising is an art form in itself, but the stroke of Pure Genius came in supporting the club closest to their London base of the time.
QPR and Guinness celebrated the deal with perfectly cheesy promotional pictures of players supping the black stuff on Loftus Road’s plastic pitch that only served to pair that team closer to R’s fans.
QPR have always drawn support from West London’s strong Irish community in nearby areas like Kilburn, Willesden, Cricklewood, Hammersmith and of course Shepherds Bush.
Today, that support extends to fan groups on both sides of the Irish border who regularly make the trip to W12, as well as supporters clubs as far away as New York and Melbourne; who routinely meet for pints of Guinness whilst watching the Hoops at ungodly hours.
Sadly the sponsorship deal with Guinness gave way to Blue Star Garages for the 1986-87 season, whilst Influence Leisurewear replaced Adidas as kit manufacturer in 1989.
This Adidas shirt sponsored by Guinness, as well as the later 1985-86 version, are perhaps the most popular in QPR history and it may not be too far of a stretch to say that they are up there with the very best in English football.*
It’s the kit Rangers keep bringing back, often imitated, never bettered, and because of how well this kit comes together; QPR fans would love to see the return of Guinness to their shirts.
In case there was any doubt, we can report that the classic combination of Queens Park Rangers and Guinness lives on in the pubs of Shepherds Bush!
* These were the first two football shirts this author owned so might be a little biased!