LAST weekend, community rugby league club Keighley Albion launched their new playing kit ahead of the 2021 season.

The launch had a strong back story and promotional campaign linked to the heritage of the town and the history of the 73-year-old club, tagged with the slogan #outoftheblack.

Albion were formed in 1948, as many amateur teams in the town had disbanded at the outset of the World War II, with many of the founding players being returning military personnel.

Initially founded as Keighley Athletic, the club changed its name to Albion after one season due to the association with the Keighley Albion Cycling Club - the host venue for club committee meetings.

The original club kit was predominantly black, with a red central band, and the team found instant success - winning the 1948/49 Keighley Challenge Cup.

With the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the biggest challenge the club has faced since its formation, once again Albion must unite and rise from these dark times.

As such, the slogan ‘Out of the Black’ was formed to promote the new club kit launch, with the 1948 team and the club's heritage featuring strongly on the associated videos.

The decision was made to honour the original club kit, by returning to a predominantly black design with red features.

Having been established 73 years ago, Albion are the longest continuous running amateur rugby league side in Keighley, and the only club in the town to offer a junior and youth pathway.

Albion cherish their rich history as one of the strongest and most reputable names in Keighley’s grassroots sporting scene.

As such, the club also wanted to extend the promotion to represent the proud history of the town.

Keighley is a former mill and market town as well as a civil parish.

The town's industries have typically been in textiles, particularly wool and cotton processing.

The club's promotion and kit launch focused on Keighley’s working class heritage, with “black the industry and the powder of ashes” and “black under the finger nails after a working day” featuring on the accompanying poem on the video audio.

One of the most iconic mills in the town was Dalton Mills, which was once the largest textile mill in Yorkshire, employing over 2,000 workers. This would become the location for the kit photoshoot.

The kit was produced by teamwear giants O'Neill's Sportswear, who are also the kit suppliers for current Super League champions St Helens.

Ironically, it was St Helens who first inspired the ‘V’ on the Albion shirts, as they were introduced ahead of the 1968 Bradford Cup final, replacing the iconic look of a predominantly white shirt with a red band.

The V-design was inspired by the look of the St Helens professional team, who had won the 1960/61 and 1965/66 Challenge Cup finals (both against rivals Wigan).

On both occasions, the Saints were the underdogs. It was felt that by taking on the look of St Helens, it may bring the Albion some luck on the day.

The new kit is also strikingly reminiscent of an Albion kit worn in the 1980s - predominantly black with a red-V.

This design was voted by the club's Facebook followers as Albion's greatest ever kit in a recent social media competition.

The Albion kits for all age groups are the same standard issue as Super League teams, including gel pellet chest grips, a GPS pouch and slim-fit playing quality.

The repeated V-design becomes more prominent from the base of the shirt, to visualise the effect of growing ‘out of the black’.

The video release of the new shirt is available via the following link:

In the past fortnight, Albion were announced as one of the top three clubs in Yorkshire for the number of junior and youth players registered for the 2021 season, with well over 100 players to date signed on to the U6-U18 teams.

In addition to this, the club has over 30 players registered for their Albion Antz (3-5 year olds), over 40 open age players registered for the first and second teams, and are set to launch a new girls only section for U12s-U18s in 2021.

Keighley Albion are keen to engage even more people in the character-building team sport of rugby league, with teams for all ages, genders, abilities and experiences.

However due to Covid-19 protocols, all players (including new players/trialists) must be registered in advance to participate in club training sessions - for more details, please contact the club through their Facebook page (@keighleyalbion).