Things have gone a little bit wrong for Toulon in the last 12 months. After their remarkable run of three European titles and a Top 14 title between 2013 and 2015, they finished last season trophyless, and have started 2016/17 in calamitous style. It’s a turn of events that has left Toulon owner/unconvincing Bond villain Mourad Boudjellal none too pleased – but at least he’s got the club’s new jerseys to cheer him up…
If you’re unfamiliar with the name Hungaria Sport, well you’re probably not French – but it’s a brand with a long and unique history. One of the oldest sportswear manufacturers in France, Hungaria was founded in 1932, and grew to be a prominent feature in the French sporting landscape – Michel Platini wore Hunga boots, for one – until the brand was bought and absorbed by Adidas in 1976.
And that was the end of Hungaria – until former Adidas, Nike and Burrda man Pierre Arcens bought the brand two years ago, and rapidly set about using his contacts and experience to bring Hungaria back from the dead, signing up not just Toulon, but also surprise Top 14 leaders La Rochelle, and Stade de Reims in the football.
But what of the shirts themselves? Well, the home and away jerseys are identical colour-swapped designs, and rather nice they are, too. Simple red/black jerseys with the corresponding colour yoke across the shoulders and sleeves – it might be a little bit Jean Luc Picard for some, but we think they’re both rather classy.
We like the way the yoke splits up the comically busy top quarter of the shirt – by isolating the sponsors, it feels much less cluttered, and combined with the white piping and contrasting side panels, it has a pleasingly retro, 70s vibe.
What’s not quite as straightforward is which of these shirts is which. Retailers have been selling the primarily red shirt as the home, as you would expect, but in the first few weeks of the season, Toulon have worn the primarily black shirt at home and the red away – quite a colour departure for the team that have always called themselves ‘the men in red’.
If the home and away shirts are united in their colour-coordinated retro-niceness, we’re a lot less sure about the third shirt. It’s white, but not… that weird sublimated pattern has the look of a pixelated image or some of the dreaded digital camouflage. Either way, we’re not sure we’re totally on board – but at least it’s a little bit different!
Toulon are one of the biggest clubs on the planet, with perhaps the most star-studded squad around, and so you imagine that the club was not short of supplier offers when it opted to move on from Qatari brand Burrda. And yet somehow they ended up signing up with a two-year-old company reviving a long-dead brand with minimal recognition outside of France – so what gives?
The answer is predictably, Boudjellal. The outspoken comic book publisher is nothing if not nostalgic – he spent his fortune bringing the club he loved as a youth from obscurity to the pinnacle of European rugby after all – and he had rose-tinted memories of the Hungaria brand from his childhood.
Mourad wanted a unique French supplier to partner with his “unusual club”, and he’s clearly found it in Hungaria – we’re impressed with their first efforts, and are intrigued to see what the partnership comes up with over the next few years.