By the early 1980s in England competition sponsorship had opened the way to club shirt sponsorship. Abroad, the wearing of product names on club shirts was already common.
In 1978 Liverpool became the first British club to have a shirt sponsor.Sponsors names in England were initially limited in size by the Football League in order to placate fans and the 'non advertising' BBC. Some products cigarettes for example were considered 'not suitable' for football shirts, though alcohol products are still regularly featured on shirts. Most sponsors are private companies, but: WBA has had sponsorship from the Health Education Council; Millwall has promoted safe sex; and Hull City were sponsored in 1997/98 by the University of Hull