Player’s numbers are standard in today’s game and are a big part in the commercial aspect of football. As players become their own brand, their shirt number is equally as important.
We must go back to August 28th 1928 for the first time teams appeared with numbers on their shirts in the English league.
Arsenal lead by their progressive thinking Chairman Herbert Chapman lined out wearing 1-11 while their opponents The Wednesday (now Sheffield Wednesday) wore 12-22. The same occurred in the Chelsea V Swansea Town match the same day.
The idea was that players (and spectators) could understand the position of their teammates on the field more easily.
However, the football association refused to sanction shirt numbers on the grounds they distracted from club colours so it was discontinued.
However, on July 5th 1939 it was finally allowed but with the change that both teams wore 1-11.
In 1965 when substitutions were introduced those on the bench wore 12, 13, 14 etc.
During the 1954 World Cup each player was issued a numbered shirt that he was required to wear throughout the tournament.
Argentina issued numbered shirts based on the players names alphabetically in 1978 and 1982 resulting in an outfield player’s wearing the number 1. For example, Ossie Ardiles in 1982.
It was a repeat of the 1928 game in the 1993 English league cup final that saw squad numbers issued with players names printed on the shirt above the number.
The following season in England all clubs introduced the system in the premier league. Shortly afterwards most leagues around the world introduced the same system.