Warm glow of the footballer’s botty

Wouldn't you like to be a footballer today? It's not just the obvious stuff - all the money and girls you can eat, all the Ferraris and Bentleys you can crash - but the fact that life, generally, is so comfy, nay luxurious. No nasty, communal, lukewarm baths or pitches like mud fields; today's players get the best of everything at their fab training grounds and state-of-the-art stadiums.

You can do good as well, with all that money, helping some poor teenage girl whose name you don't know and who you only met for a few moments, bestowing upon her the chance to earn £250,000 and completely transform her life.

Even when you are not playing, you can sit there on the bench in the lap of luxury, relax in the deep leather, the perfectly fitting seats, perhaps feeling a warm glow to your botty, as some of these modern seats can now be heated.

The transformation of the bench is a totally modern development. First, there was the increased number of subs allowed and the vast number of coaches and experts required. Now, we have a change brought on by the bench-making industry. Players sit in such style that they must feel like the king of a small African nation on his throne, or, perhaps, a Grand Prix winner.

I have become fascinated by the modern bench, getting really up close to the TV to try and spot the makers. When I am in the press box at Spurs, I lean over to see if I can touch the backs, feel the quality, inhale the aroma.

I've discovered that they are mainly the creation of Recaro, a German firm, founded in 1906 by a saddler in Stuttgart called William Reutter. He happened to be at the very heart of the world's first car manufacturing area, thanks to firms such as Daimler and Benz, and moved into coach-building, doing hoods and seats, calling himself Reutter Carosserie - later shortened to Recaro.

Today, Recaro is still huge in car seats, especially of the sporting type, and also child seats, selling stuff worldwide and employing 8,000 people. Football benches, provided first in Germany about ten years ago, are but a minor, piddling part of the empire.

The company's UK office is in Warwickshire and Sue Cosmovic, its sales and marketing manager, says that the first British club she provided bench seats for was Reading in 2006 - though Newcastle United also installed Recaro seats around the same time. Now, Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham, Glasgow Rangers and many other top clubs have the firm's seats.

Some cheap-jack clubs provide them for the home team only, but most big clubs do both benches, which normally means 28 seats these days. The total cost is about £20,000, but clubs, as you will have noticed, often sell space on the backs of these seats to sponsors - and some probably make a profit.

Individual fans now want to buy them, so they can sit in style in front of the telly at home, but Recaro doesn't sell them, at least not in club colours or club logos, for fear of breaching the clubs' copyright. I expect clubs to cotton on very soon, though, and their megastores to sell bench seats to daft fans. For a fortune.

Sue herself is not a football fan. "But often when I am waiting in an airport," she says, "I catch sight of a game and see close-ups of the bench - and spot our seats. I feel a little glow of pride."

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 15 February 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Everything you know about Islam is wrong