Soccer jersey retailer Classic Football Shirts draws $38m investment from Chernin

Company sells rare soccer jerseys and boasts standout game-used collection

Cover Image for Soccer jersey retailer Classic Football Shirts draws $38m investment from Chernin
Classic Football Shirts' store in Manchester, England, offers a full selection of global soccer jerseys. (Credit: CFS)

The Chernin Group has invested £30 million ($38 million USD) in soccer jersey retailer Classic Football Shirts, aiming to help the England-based company grow its global footprint through content development and building out distribution capabilities.

CFS was founded in 2006 by two university students as “a destination for fans to buy rare and unique football shirts” and now sells to more than 100 countries via its website and English storefronts. This represents the first outside funding the company has accepted since its founding.

CFS captures the "nostalgia of the game" for soccer fans. (Credit: CFS)
CFS captures the "nostalgia of the game" for soccer fans. (Credit: CFS)

“Each football shirt tells a unique story and represents the history, culture, style — and the nostalgia of the game,” CFS founder and CEO Doug Bierton said in a release. “It’s a passion and obsession for the sport, from our team and our customers, that built the business to where it is today. It’s exciting to think about how we’ll connect with millions more around the world over a shared love of football.”

Chernin partner Greg Bettinelli told cllct that CFS, which has grown to around 160 employees, has been profitable every year since its founding. Though its main focus has always been "wearable" jerseys catering to the average fan, CFS also owns one of the largest collection of game-worn and rare high-end jerseys in the world, numbering more than 6,700 units.

The company acquired its “vault” using proceeds from the business and has never offered any for sale, utilizing the collection instead for content and storytelling — which it blasts out across social media to its more than 1 million combined followers across Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. One past collaboration featured a a video with David Beckham in which he toured the CFS vault and viewed “his career in shirts.”

Some of the standouts from the collection include a Sporting CP jersey worn by Cristiano Ronaldo in the famous 2003 match against Manchester United which led to manager Alex Ferguson signing him, Diego Maradona’s last Barcelona jersey worn in 1984 and a Beckham jersey from United's treble-winning 1998-99 season.

“We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do with those shirts,” Bettinelli said. “They’re for storytelling purposes. It could be the seed of a marketplace someday.”

Bettinelli placed Chernin’s investment in CFS within the context of past consumer businesses in its portfolio, such as The Athletic, Collectors and Action Network.

“It ties into where football culture now, how it's the global game and everything that's happening in and around football and its expansion in the United States,” Bettinelli said. “Global football culture is a thing. Classic Football Shirts is the leader as far as accessing hard to find in recent football shirts, and there's a big opportunity to grow in the US.”

Bettinelli believes the company’s authenticity and reputation as a curator — particularly as a result of their vaulted collection — will help drive the brand forward in the years to come.

“It shows the passion we have for the business, the importance we view of curation and how we think about the sport and the shirts that are connected to it,” Bettinelli said. “I think that storytelling part will be a big unlock for us in the future.”

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.