When it comes to global lockdown fashion, Taunton Town are ahead of the curve after one supporter helped to launch club-branded face masks in Japan, writes Andrew Clayton.
Ben Mabley, who hails from the Somerset town, works as a Japanese-language commentator on Premier League and European football programmes.
Despite moving to Osaka after university to talk about the top tiers of football, Mabley still holds a dear place for his local side. Following regular discussions with club chairman, Kevin Sturmey, an agreement to use Taunton Town imagery on products arose, and a contract with production firm Pega Pega, which now allows Japanese citizens to don their very own Peacocks face masks.
“I went into business with a small, local brand here in Osaka, making football merchandise,” Mabley told The Independent. “I spoke with the chairman and asked whether it would be at all possible to use Taunton’s intellectual property and make official merchandise, which didn’t infringe on their existing deals, for the Japanese market. It was a way of promoting the club in this country, really, and hopefully making a bit of cash for them as well. We initially were talking about selling official Taunton Town kits and having them shipped over from the UK to Japan, but it was going to be a lot of work, when it would be quicker if we could make stuff here.
‘We’ve been talking about that for a few months, then obviously everything has changed with Covid-19 and the idea of a face mask was thrown up not that long ago.
“It has all moved very quickly because it’s got to the point now in Japan, were everybody has been wearing face masks since late February, but since it looks like it’s going to be around for a while, people are looking for a bit of individuality, not just the white or blue, surgical looking one. This is going to be something people are using here.”
Face masks emblazoned with the Southern League outfit’s logo can be picked up for just 1,200 yen, or £9.11, on the official Pega Pega website, and plans are in place to soon bring them to the United Kingdom.
“The long-term idea is things like t-shirts with Taunton Town branding, selling them for profit and donating to the club,” Mabley continued. With these face masks, because they’re quite a small unit price for each, with the first batch we want to donate 50 or 100 to Taunton Town, which they can sell and it wouldn’t have cost them a penny. From what I’ve heard, there’s been quite a bit of interest among fans and people around the club, so who knows – maybe we will be making more in the near future as well?”
Taunton’s link with the Land of the Rising Sun is not a new one, having been spear-headed by Mabley. As the voice of British football for most Japanese viewers, the Blackbrook emigre has worked hard to introduce the Peacocks to football fans, going so far as to wear a Taunton shirt while presenting his shows.
He explained: “I’m basically abusing my position, to get Taunton on TV as much as possible! My work philosophy on the Premier League is that I don’t like to just talk about the top six clubs, I talk about all 20 as well as the pyramid below and the system below that.
“It’s great for me because it’s my club, but the stories there give a case study to Japanese viewers, if you will, of football away from the professional leagues where you still have amazing people who are really proud about their work. It is a story people in Japan tend to like and I’m allowed to run with it.
“I would estimate, and this is a very basic barometer, that Taunton Town has more followers in Japan than any club below League One. People know about Taunton – it has its own Japanese Wikipedia page, which isn’t particularly common at that level! I’ve said it enough times on air that I don’t have to explain what I’m talking about and Taunton Town is part of the football vernacular here. There’s even been a small number of Japanese people who have told me they have been to Taunton and watched a game, because they’ve heard me talking about it. That’s good enough for me!”