Blackburn Rovers had a slightly new home kit for 2003-04, in that private health insurance firm HSA replaced AMD Processors as the club’s main sponsors.
Otherwise, the strip was unchanged, but a second straight season participating in the Uefa Cup allowed Italian manufacturers Kappa to flex their muscles.
In 2002-03, the Rovers kit had to be modified for continental ties against CSKA Sofia and Celtic with the addition of a white box for the numbers. Rather than doing similar for 2003-04 after a sixth-placed Premiership finish earned them qualification, this time around they had a special new European home kit.
Featuring the reversed seams which characterised many of Kappa’s kits of the early 2000s, the Uefa Cup kit had the makers’ logos on the sleeves, allowing the club crest to be centred on the chest.
A bespoke number font adorned the built-in white space on the back and the shorts, which were a modified version of the normal home set, with the navy panels removed.
However, the socks were exactly the same as those used in the normal course of events, with navy a bit too prominent considering its absence elsewhere.
Unfortunately for Blackburn, the new kit only appeared in two games, the 3-1 first round first leg loss away to Turkish side Gençlerbirliği and the 1-1 home draw which eliminated them.
As far as we know, the first instance of a bespoke European home kit for an English club was the Manchester United strip worn in their 1999 Champions League win, and kept for three seasons. We don’t think any club has had one since Liverpool’s in the mid-2000s, but we stand to be corrected on that.
As well as Blackburn, another English club had a European kit in 2003-04 and it too had a short lifespan. It’s one we will look at in the near future.