shirt numbers


FA Premier League
UEFA Leagues
Olympic numbers

Euro 2008

UEFA final

For some years the English Football Association (FA) applies the rule that all teams playing in the Premier League have to wear the same type of shirt numbers. Some English teams also use this typeface in international competitions. The ruling typeface is Optima Black. The typeface Optima was designed as a text face. Consequently, the numerals are too wide for the football shirt, so someone decided to squeeze them horizontally to about 60%. As a typographer I have to protest against this kind of letter torturing. Carefully designed forms are deformed by this treatment, because vertical strokes are made thinner while horizontal strokes retain the same thickness. This is most obvious in 2, 4, 5 and 7, where the horizontal bar is becoming much too heavy. The stroke widths are adjusted in the FA numbers, but it still looks as if they have been packed in a tight box for too long.
Just as the numbers on the shirt of the Italian team (see: Italy) the shirt numbers of the Premier League are based on a foreign type design. Optima was drawn by Hermann Zapf, a German designer, born in 1918. I'm not a straightforward nationalist, but the English have some great type designers who can be honoured by using their figures in the national football competition. I don't know if Eric Gill (1882-1940) was a football fan, but his typefaces Gill Sans and Perpetua (see: Ajax) can be a good starting point for superb shirt numbers. Or perhaps the FA should contact a contemporary English type designer.


PS. In May 2007 a new typography was released for the coming season of the Premier League. The numbers look like a sans serif type, but some of them have very little serifs. In the 1 the flag is chopped off and it has a kind of serif on top like the number 1 from the tupeface Albertus. The design is more open, compared to the preceding numbers, which gives a better legibility in 2, 3 and 5. The 6 and 9 have big counters, which also improves legibility. The numbers look like typefaces as Myriad Condensed, Frutiger Condensed, Fago, Info and Transit. It looks as if the numbers are furthermore squeezed horizontally to about 85%, which results in relatively heavy horizontal strokes in for instance 2 and 3. The 1 looks too thin.

To summarize: the design is legible but dull. A missed opportunity for the FA to create a distinguishing corporate look.

Figures from Optima Black, squeezed to 70 percent with a small outline. For the Premier League the shapes are slightly adjusted.


Figures from Myriad Condensed Bold, squeezed to 85 percent.