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Football shirts: 'People put such value on these bits of polyester'

Football shirt-collecting is surging in popularity and as a consequence prices are spiralling. Why do these tops inspire such interest - and could pressure to impress on social media be leading some fans into financial trouble?

"People put such a value on these bits of polyester," says collector Iain Bentley. "Not just in terms of money, but sentiment. There's a romanticism.

"You could say this used to be a niche hobby, but I think it's found its moment in the spotlight."

With an interest born out of spending time at home during the pandemic lockdowns, the 34-year-old is one of a seemingly ever-growing number of people whose love for football extends beyond the action on the pitch.

Competing with his wife for wardrobe space in their Teesside home, the Middlesbrough fan has about 50 shirts with the majority belonging to the team he has supported since watching them in the FA Cup final at Wembley a quarter of a century ago.

While he enjoys wearing many of his tops, Iain's rarer 1980s finds are too precious to risk damaging.

"I've run out of room, but I don't want to box my collection up as I like to look at them and put them on - although not the old classics. I've two young children and the thought of having yogurt splashed on them horrifies me!"

Fellow collector Phil Delves recalls the thrill of his first forays on to eBay, fresh out of university and with money to spend from his new job.

"I could pay 10 or 20 quid and get some really nice shirts from my childhood. I used to tell people it was like I was travelling the world as I'd pick up a shirt from a team in Bucharest or Buenos Aires. It quickly became a passion."

Just over five years later, the Liverpool supporter has a collection "hovering around 160 shirts" covering a mix of teams and eras.



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