Got, got need: Panini stickers are back!
Cue the inevitable blitz of your local newsagent, the frustration as you tear open a pack only to be met with your 16th adhesive likeness of Graeme Le Saux, and the impromptu swap markets that will spring up in every park, office and school playground across the country.
But wait. Perhaps not.
The mere mention of football stickers is enough to bring a wistful look to the weatherbeaten face of any fan, a misty glaze over their eyes. For many of us, the hobby played a crucial part in the genesis of our obsession with the game. Weekly pocket-money could stretch to a packet of stickers and enough pick-and-mix to see you through the week-end. But sadly, no longer.
Whilst many have mourned the passing of the 10p Freddo – a chocolate bar who’s pricing taught millions of children the basic tenets of inflation – football stickers had, until now, remained comparatively untouched.
For this year’s World Cup in Russia, Panini have raised the cost of a packet of five stickers to 80p – a 60% increase on the flat 50p rate in previous International tournaments.
With 682 stickers in this year’s edition it has been calculated that, on average, you would need to buy 747 packs to complete the album: a total cost of nearly £600 (of course, this discounts the aforementioned swap markets: not only can these stickers teach children the value of money, but also how to barter).
Yet the prospect of spending hundreds of pounds to fill the album is a daunting one, and will surely turn many off the pastime.
But this risks ridding young fans of a crucial formative experience. Speaking from experience, sticker collecting exposes you to a whole world of football that was once alien. Players such as Stan Lazaradis and Gary Doherty are given life, and are eternally etched into your personal footballing database.
Perhaps it is indicative of the mass-monetisation of football, and shouldn’t come as any surprise. But there is something inherently innocent about collecting stickers. It reminds us of the good-old days, before we were exposed to the cynicism of modern football.
Not only will this price hike deprive millions of kids of the primitive joys of sticker collection, but it may even change the way young football fans are educated in the game.