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 TT Shirts could become Collectable

They could become a collectors' item - a memento of the TT that never went ahead. That's certainly what Mervyn Hill, owner of Promenade Shirts and Embroidery Ltd, Queen's Promenade, Douglas, is hoping for if the TT is called off. His firm normally sells more than 10,000 replica TT shirts each year and has already printed 3,000 ahead of this year's festival.

However, with the event under threat due to the foot-and-mouth crisis and a decision on whether it will go ahead expected within the next few weeks, Mervyn is exploring other avenues to 'prepare for the worst'.

'I'm keeping my fingers crossed of course,' he said. 'If the TT is off it will be critical to so many Island businesses and we will be no different. It is fair to say that any cancellation or postponement will hit us hard. 'However, at the same time, I am in complete sympathy with the farming community and believe the TT will probably have to be cancelled.

Our Chief Minister, Donald Gelling, has a very difficult decision ahead of him. 'Whatever he decides will upset someone. You can never please everyone and, at the end of the day, farmers could lose their whole livelihood while people within the tourist industry could be severely hit as well. He has a very difficult balancing act and I don't envy him.' Mervyn believes that while damage caused by the postponement of the races will be 'an absolutely devastating blow' to many Island tourist outlets, media coverage could lead to 'a potentially worse scenario'. 'My main concern is not that the event might be cancelled but the knock-on effect it could bring.

If the TT is off, UK publicity could send out the signal that the Island is closed for the whole summer. If that comes about, people won't come and there will be very few holidaymakers at all. 'That is the worst possible scenario. Lots of T-shirts and no customers.

'Tourism Minister David Cretney has done the right thing by stating it is on at the moment. Mr Cretney is promoting the Island. Now is not the time to call it off.' Mervyn and his staff of 10 have been busy designing various TT T-shirts which include a Mad Sunday design, a Road Racing Capital of the World slogan, a standard TT 2001 shirt in various colours and, of course, an official Joey Dunlop tribute top featuring a photo of the 26-times winner which was taken at the Creg-ny-Baa last year, just a month before his death. 'Up to now we have printed 3,000 different types of TT T-shirts which we will endeavour to sell as normal both here and by supplying other shops in town such as Woolworth, said Mervyn. 'It is not just about TT fortnight of course.

We usually sell many later in the summer and the Joey tribute shirts should sell regardless. 'However, we need to sell 10,000 shirts to recoup our original costs yet have stopped printing for the moment as the odds are not good enough to keep printing. We are now waiting for a government decision. 'I am still hopeful because I am no different to anyone else and rely on the TT so much.

My staff work extra hours as the shop is open from 8am to midnight everyday during the fortnight. 'A few TT T-shirts are selling at the moment because people realise they could be collectors' items. A 'TT cancelled' motif is also being made which we will put on the sleeves of the shirts should it be cancelled. 'This would be effectively a limited-edition shirt. 'It goes without saying that we are not going to be in profit but we won't fold and will thrive to make the best of whatever the situation is. However, I fear for other businesses, many of which are kept afloat because of the TT.

'Many hotel and guest house owners will have spent their deposits by now, while the actual money they would have got from the full bookings often sees them through the winter. It could well be a long, hard winter for all those within the tourist industry.'

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