RS McColl – Scotland’s First Branded Footballer

We have all heard of the branded footballer. Brand Beckham is probably the worlds best known for any footballer both past and present. But in 1901 Scottish international forward Robert Smyth McColl started his own brand and its one that remains to this day.

McColl had been a footballer for Queens Park in Glasgow’s southside at the age of 18. Two years later he was representing Scotland.

In his 13 appearances for the Scottish national team, McColl scored 13 times. That includes hat-tricks against Wales, Ireland and the ‘Auld Enemy’ England. All in the space of a year. That is a phenomenal record by anyones standards.

Always a smart young man when it came to money, McColl often rejected professional contracts that he deemed not good enough. When he did leave Queens Park it was to join Newcastle United who offered a pound more than rivals for his signature.

Newcastle also gave Robert a whopping sum of £300 as a signing on fee in 1901. The figure was used to help with his brother Tom who had a sweet shop, newsagent business.

Seeing that Robert had the footballing career that was well known in Scotland and in particular Glasgow, the bothers decided to change the name of the shops from ‘T N McColl’ to ‘RS McColl’. Basically they exploited the name, they found the brand!

As a footballer Robert McColl became disillusioned with life down south as he was being kicked regularly from pillar to post. In 1905 he returned to Glasgow to play for Rangers before returning to Queens Park in 1907.

In his final game for the ‘Spiders’ McColl would net an incredible six times against, now defunct, Port Glasgow Athletic. The achievement has not been equalled or bettered at Hampden since that day.

The game that he will be forever remembered for though was the 4-1 win Scotland had over rivals England, where he got that famous hat-trick (which was his last match for his country). The man showed his love and respect for the teammates he had that day and would often take them down to Wembley for Scotland away games funded from his own pocket.

One of his Scotland strips (which wasn’t navy blue but primrose and pink) is in the Hampden museum and that sparked my interest in the man, when I saw it in there years ago as I knew the name from the shops.

Robert Smyth McColl is also in the SFA’s hall of fame.

The RS McColl confectionary business grew from strength to strength will Robert and Tom opening up to 150 stores, often in  well thought out locations beside busy places like cinemas and train stations.

In 1931 the McColl brothers sold their franchise to huge chocolate and confectionary makers Cadbury’s although the brothers were kept on to help the running of the business.

In fact Robert, also known as ‘Toffee Bob’, managed a few games for the McColl factory football team, deciding to give his legs a rest and help out by playing in goals.

Robert Smyth McColl died in 1958 but left a unique footballing, business and social legacy that remains to this day.

Now 111 years after his initial stake in the company ‘RS McColl’ newsagents can still be found in Scotland’s streets. Will we say they same about Brand Beckham in 2112?

2 Responses to “RS McColl – Scotland’s First Branded Footballer”

  1. Thanks for that. I had no idea that the shops had their roots in Scottish football.

  2. Cheers Craig. Its a nice story that isn’t as well known as it should be in my opinion.

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