Interview:  Tom Rainsford | Owner of Retro Football Fair (RFF).


Today we had the pleasure of chatting with football shirt entrepreneur, Tom Rainsford, the man behind the UK's biggest and best vintage football event, RFF.  As soon as you meet Tom, you cannot help but be inspired by his energy, enthusiasm and passion for all things football.  I'm sure many of you reading this will have been to one of his brilliant fairs (those that have not been yet, think 'Football Shirt Heaven') and like us are keen to know about plans for 2024!  





FF:  Welcome Tom!  Thanks for joining us.  Let's start with which team do you support?  

TR:  Growing-up I was a Leeds United (from Norwich).  I switched early allegiances from 'the Canaries' as a 7 year old following relegation at the end of the 1994/95 season and seeing my favourite player (Ashley Ward) sold to Derby later that year. Fast forward a few years, I now live in Derby, but haven't been to Elland Road for years.  I tend to take in random games here and there, but love the beautiful game, aside from Manchester United.


FF:  Earliest football memory?

TR: My earliest football memory would be from the 1994/95 season, most notably Darren Eadie scoring against Notts County in the League Cup. That being said, I truly started to connect with the game during Euro 96 - I still get tears seeing Southgate miss the penalty.


FF:  How long have you been 'in the shirt scene'?

TR:  It started as a hobby in 2017 when I came across Twitter's shirt community.  I loved it and I found it a brilliant way to 'recalibrate' my mental health and connect with likeminded people in the community.  Fast forward a few years, it's now my job and I run the best football shirt event in the UK.


Image of Retro Football Fair event in Birmingham


FF:  So, when did you start RFF?

TR:  RFF started in 2019 when 5 of us, all independent shirt sellers on Depop, wanted to create the equivalent of a 'vintage fair' but solely for the football scene. Our aim was to showcase our the shirt scene to the public, attract more casuals and provide a football nostalgia filled experience.  

At the first event, we ended up giving away half of our spaces in an attempt to fill the venue, but today its a very different challenge, with us on the look out for venues big enough to cater for the demand.     

Over the years, due to work and life commitments, the other 4 organisers have stepped away, but each person who's been involved has played a key role in getting the event to where it is today. 


FF:  What's your proudest moment of RFF?

TR:  I think that would have to be the first event post pandemic. We were all nervous and unsure whether many would attend, however, it was rammed! We were hugely humbled, proud and hungry to do it all over again.  Such a buzz.  


FF:  What's the future for RFF?

TR:  I've always joked that I would like to see RFF operating out of a large national arena.  However I'm under no illusions that we need to grow awareness, the attendee base, sponsors and profitability. We ran 4 x events in 2024 so that was really positive, but it also highlighted a few areas that need improving before we can really kick on - these are now my primary focus.  I think right now 2 x large events per year is a good sweet spot, serving both the 'North' and the 'South' and importunely, giving traders time to restock.  Ultimately though, global domination! RFF in every country would be incredible.


Retro Football Fair x Football Finery Discount Code Banner



FF:  When and where is your next event? 

TR:  Good question!  Our next event is on 23rd June 2024 at the Big Penny Sociala fabulous venue located just off Blackhorse Lane in Walthamstow, London.  We have so many vendors signed-up (like yourselves!) bringing a range of amazing vintage football loveliness.  Tickets are just £5 which people can buy on our website here.  The 'FF Kit Community' can enjoy a 10% discount when buying their tickets if they use the code FOOTBALLFINERY at checkout.  


FF:  Finally, where is the world of football shirts heading?

TR:  I truly believe the interest is going to go from strength-to-strength.  You cannot help but notice the huge growth in football shirt content across all social media platforms, from a diverse array of people - its truly fantastic.  The growth of vintage fashion, celebrity interest, accessibility to football, increased coverage of the women's game - there are so many factors that have played a part.  I feel there'll always be a space for retro shirts, because of the emotional connection with the nostalgia and sentimentality that goes with that.  Unless football becomes obsolete?!!  Which will never happen!


Image from Retro Football Fair event in Sheffield