A furloughed engineer who started making football shirts for the home team turns it into a booming business

When Will Morgan was laid off from a job he loved as a civil engineer, he knew he was going to have a grueling time.

Coronavirus had just arrived in Britain and was spreading rapidly, people were confined within their own four walls and for many – Will included – there was very little to occupy them.

The 27-year-old football fanatic from Newport couldn’t even count on the beautiful game to take his mind off things – another cruel victim of the pandemic at the time as fans were shut out and grassroots football games cancelled.

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Spurred on by the financial difficulties facing his beloved home side Rogerstone AFC, Will racked his brains for something that could keep him busy and benefit the club.

In April 2020, he consulted designers and manufacturers to work with him to create his own image for a home kit for the team in hopes he could sell a few shirts to fans to generate revenue.

“I was looking for ways for us to get a kit cheaper than what we were already paying for, so I contacted a few factories and put together some ideas,” he told WalesOnline.

“I paid five pounds to have a badge sewn on and initially all it was was a vehicle so Rogerstone had a cheaper kit.

“We have a lot of players and have decided to give each player their own squad number. I made over 100 kits and distributed them to everyone at the club.

“I made a website and put the shirt on it and thought I would sell maybe 20 or 30 and give all the profits to the club as a way out.”

Will Morgan with all his shirts for the clubs he currently works with

Will’s favorite shirt, which is the first one he designed and the one that shocked the whole club when it went viral

Within days, the dark green kits which feature the recognizable logo of local Rogerstone brewery, Tiny Rebel, captured the attention of fans and sold like hot cakes. While Will, who is now well into a new engineering job, was pleasantly surprised by the response, he had no idea what was to come.

After Tiny Rebel shared the design on their social media pages, thousands of orders poured in all the way to South America and Australia.

“It just went crazy,” Will explained. “I was selling about 15 hours per hour the first week. We sold 2,000 kits very quickly. I couldn’t figure out why. I think we sold a lot because people like the design, but the Tiny Rebel affiliation definitely helped.

“Barely a fraction of the people who bought the kits were Rogerstone fans. You see 80 or 85% who didn’t attend a Rogerstone match. We were getting orders from the US, Europe, America, Australia – everywhere.

“I never realized there was this huge community of football shirt collectors. People all over the world are connected through this online football kit community. was crazy.

“I didn’t even have a Facebook or Twitter page for shirts at the time, so that was the priority at the time.”

Will made a shirt for his local club while on leave in 2020 - but then had huge demand on the popular Wales scene
Will made a shirt for his local club while on leave in 2020 – but then had huge demand on the popular Wales scene

Although the majority of the revenue may have come from unexpected online sales, what makes him most proud is seeing the shirts worn on the Welsh grassroots circuit.

At the time the players were allowed back on the pitch, teams that visited Rogerstone asked if Will could also make their kits and now 20 clubs, including semi-professional teams, are sporting Will’s kits, the latest being Llantwit Major FC.

“Word of mouth and away teams coming to see the kit and wanting their own was a big part of that,” he said. “We had a few pictures of players wearing the kit and a few messages started coming in. It really happened organically, starting with the teams playing in the Gwent leagues.

“Some clubs are very specific about what they are looking for and others are much more open. I often get a theme from a club and from there I brief my designers. Once I get the design , I send it off to be made and once it’s done it’s sent back to me, funnily enough it’s actually similar to the engineering process I see on a daily basis at work.

What started as a hobby has now grown so big that it has become a VAT registered limited company. The large number of stocks meant that Will had no choice but to establish a base in central Newport, far from home.

“In 2020 it was sort of like taking an order of about 20 kits from a team and packing them up. I didn’t really need the space. But now that must change. I’ve set up an online club shop for any team that buys kits from me, including training and playing gear, and I have a base to store stock.

The Rogerstone Away Shirt which is also sponsored by Tiny Rebel who are big supporters of the club
The Rogerstone Away Shirt which is also sponsored by Tiny Rebel who are big supporters of the club

The Nantyglo jersey features the round towers in the design
The Nantyglo jersey features the round towers in the design

After investing in the right gear, Will can now customize the training gear himself, which is growing in popularity.

“The money I brought was reinvested in the sustainability of the business,” he said. “I invested in an embroidery machine, a heat press and a die-cutting machine, which gave the business better potential.”

By the end of 2020, Will was serving five clubs and had sold hundreds of shirts online. It now sells to 20 clubs and has sold over 8,000 worldwide.

“If it hadn’t been for the pandemic and the furlough, it wouldn’t have been where it is now. Being off for three months helped me focus my efforts on it and get it off the ground.

“If you had told me that it would be a limited company two years later, I would never have believed you. It wasn’t even something that was on my mind.

Asked about the challenges he faced following the success of his side hustle, Will said, “I work during the day and do this in the evening, which usually isn’t difficult. Saturday mornings can be crazy for sending kits to clubs.

“There are definitely peaks where the kits get really busy. I once sold 1,500 shirts in a single drop, so turning those numbers around and packing them can mean working until the wee hours. But in general it was manageable.

“It’s worth it because I love doing it. I’ve been on the Rogerstone board for five years and everyone I talk to at other clubs has the same mindset. They want a kit that will make a statement for their club and get them some attention and it’s great to be able to facilitate that.

Will Morgan with his shirts at Rogerstone AFC The Welfare Stadium
Will Morgan with his shirts at Rogerstone AFC The Welfare Stadium

Although he did not disclose his three-year business plan, he is confident that further sales and more clubs will commit in the immediate future.

“I’ve had more clubs in contact outside of Wales and some of them may end up showing up for the start of next season,” he said.

His outfits have not only caught the attention of clubs, they have also raised awareness among spectators and boosted pride in local history. Many kits, including Nantyglo, Tredegar and Newport Corinthians, are designed to celebrate iconic landmarks.

The Tredegar jersey features the town's famous clock in the design
The Tredegar jersey features the town’s famous clock in the design

“It’s about celebrating that,” he added. “One of my favorite kits we’ve done is Newport Corinthians which we did for their 60th anniversary. It’s a design based on the Transporter Bridge and is sponsored by local band Goldie Lookin Chain. It’s a beautiful kit and it’s really striking with the bridge in front because their floor is in the shade of the bridge above.The design has nailed that connection.

If Newport Corinthians are up there, what is their favorite kit of the 20 so far?

“It must be Rogerstone’s home kit because it was the first one I’ve done and it reminds me of how excited I was about what we were doing. Every time we play there I’m taken back to that time. .

To learn more about Will’s business and see his kits in full, visit his website here.

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