The world changed significantly in the three months between the Premier League shutting down on March 13 and restarting on June 17.
NHS workers up and down the country battled heroically to keep the Covid-19 virus at bay while the death of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality in the United States sparked a global outcry against racism and discrimination.
In England as in so many places across the world, football reflects society and it was only natural that all involved with the Premier League wished to make their own statements of gratitude and protest.
Premier League players have worn the Black Lives Matter sleeve badge, designed by Troy Deeney’s partner, since the season resumed earlier this month
They have also worn a heart-shaped NHS badge on their chest to show gratitude for the health workers fighting against Covid-19
You will have noticed the heart-shaped blue and white NHS badges and the Black Lives Matter badges on the shirts of every Premier League player since the restart.
And for the first 12 matches post-resumption, every shirt also had ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back where the player’s name would usually be.
But in order for this to happen, it took a phenomenal through-the-night effort from the employees of a factory tucked away in the scenic fjords of Norway.
Avery Dennison are the official supplier of the badges, letters and numbers you see on Premier League shirts – a monumental undertaking that amounts to 15 million individual items precision cut by lasers each season.
So every time you see the name and number of your favourite player on the back of their shirt, or the gold lettering of the Premier League champions sleeve badge, chances are it was made in the tiny town of Gaupne.
But when the Premier League came to Avery Dennison earlier this month and said they needed 11,000 NHS badges and 11,000 Black Lives Matters badges, plus 21,000 extra letters, in double quick time, they swung straight into action.
And those supplies were just for the first 12 matches post-restart. Thousands more badges will be printed for the remainder of the campaign.
For the first 12 matches after the restart, players wore ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of their shirt instead of their surname
The shirt symbol was combined with players taking a knee to make a powerful statement
Simon Allen, global commercial director at Avery Dennison, told Sportsmail: ‘It was an incredible turnaround. We got the designs from the Premier League on the Thursday evening and team in Norway ran a night shift.
‘Then we were dispatching them from Norway on the Friday morning. We needed to get them to the kit men by Monday morning for them to apply the NHS and the Black Lives Matters badges to each shirt.
‘But the ‘Black Lives Matter’ lettering was the most time-consuming for the kit men. They had to lay out the 16 letters and they have to go in a new curve. Plus smaller letters had to be used because the normal ones wouldn’t have fitted across the back of the shirt.’
Such a swift turnaround gave the kit men at Arsenal, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Sheffield United two days to painstakingly print up two shirts for each player in their 25-strong squads plus a few spares.
Those teams were involved in the first couple of games back on the Wednesday. Kit men at the other 16 clubs had a few days extra to print up everything they needed.
Players also applauded NHS workers prior to matches during the first weekend back
The heart-shaped NHS design is simple but effective, appearing on the front of the shirt. The circular-shaped Black Lives Matter badge, designed by Troy Deeney’s partner Alisha Hosannah, is worn on the sleeve.
The letter ‘A’ in ‘Black’ is replaced by a clenched fist in the design.
Combined with the minute’s applause and players taking the knee prior to games, it all added up to a powerful statement from these influential young men.
For Tom Dyrdal, Avery Dennison’s business unit director in Norway, this short notice project was all in a day’s work.
‘We are like a fast response unit so any time there is an urgent need for anything like this we have everything fit for purpose because of a high level of automation,’ he told Sportsmail.
Match officials also wore the NHS and Black Lives Matter badges on their shirts
‘I have to admit it was a bit of a stretch this time! We had a deadline of 4pm or 5pm Norwegian time to get the badge designs over and it came with the final approval at 8pm.
‘But we can turn projects like this around in a matter of 6-7 hours. We have two major laser machines to cut out the designs and they are built for this purpose so we can increase the speed quite a lot.
‘The badges from the side are really thin but they are basically layers and layers of ink to make them robust enough. We can produce these with a high level of accuracy any excess plastic once they are cut out is reused so we have 100 per cent sustainability.’
Liverpool’s kit man would have had little problem printing the ‘Black Lives Matters’ lettering, which used a youth size rather than the normal size. After all, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s name is equally as long.
Avery Dennison’s challenge now is to ensure every kit man in the Premier League has enough badges and letters to sustain them until the end of the season late next month.
Avery Dennison supply around 15 million badges, letters and numbers to clubs each season
Then it’ll be on to the next task. A round of kit launches for next season and something very special for Liverpool fans.
‘On the press today in Norway now they have been crowned champions is Liverpool’s gold sleeve badge,’ said Allen. ‘The Premier League actually release the gold font for Liverpool to use.’
Avery Dennison are in their first season of supplying the Premier League but are keen to innovate.
‘In the future these patches will be more interactive, more smart,’ said Allen. ‘All of the Premier League letters, numbers and badges have a smart watermark in them.
‘So if you have the Premier League app on your phone, a scanner takes you to content the Premier League are hosting. You could do the same with the NHS badge or whatever campaign you are promoting. It’s the direction we are going in.’