The current football season is drawing to a close and as the weeks go by winners, losers, promotions and relegations are being decided. Last week, Cardiff City confirmed their elevation to the Premier League for the first time since it’s creation 21 years ago. Whilst the majority of fans were understandably happy about the chance to rub shoulders with the best teams in the country (not to mention their fierce rivals Swansea City), the joy was tempered due to the boardroom politics that have seen the club undergo the initial stages of an alleged total rebrand driven by Malaysian owner Vincent Tan.
Cardiff, nicknamed ‘The Bluebirds’, have spent the last decade on the brink or promotion, often setting the pace in the second tier of English football before collapsing after Christmas and suffering painful defeat in the play-offs. This season, they have finally kept going and confirmed promotion with games to spare. The fact they changed from a blue-and-white to an red-and-black kit at the start of the season, at Tan’s behest, will not have affected the performances of the players or coaching staff, but his investment in the team almost certainly has helped Cardiff City. This change of colours was the price they had to pay for that financial input.
The question is why do any fans see this as a bad thing? Surely the point of supporting your football team is to see them be successful and, in this day and age, that’s not going to happen without wads of cash. If, in exchange for the money, your new owner wants to pick the colour of the home shirt, the design of the badge or the suffix of the team’s name then let them go ahead. If the red-kitted ‘Cardiff Dragons’ win the Champions League in ten years time, won’t it all have been worth it?
Even more baffling than objections to alterations in the teams uniform or name is the issue of stadium naming rights. Fans support the team, not the ground so why do people allow their noses to be put out of joint because someone wants to pay the club millions of pounds to sponsor the stadium? The name won’t catch on for generations, so they are basically getting annoyed at a sign (that they can ignore) and what Gary Lineker is contractually obliged to refer to your chosen team’s ground to on ‘Match of the Day’ (which, again, can be ignored). If this is seen as a defilement of the club’s history, why aren’t there more angry letters to ‘When Saturday Comes’ about shirt sponsorship or advertising hoardings around the pitch? To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw (or Sir Winston Churchill, depending on who you believe) “We have established you’re a whore, madam. We are now merely haggling over the price”.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating MK Dons-style franchises that would see a club move to a different part of the country on the whim of the owners, and I also understand that seeing owners take money for naming rights etc. but not investing the money in the team, reducing ticket prices, or improving the club’s facilities is frustrating, but to challenge for titles, teams need investment and it’s unrealistic for fans to expect every club to have a benevolent billionaire fan who can bankroll a charge up the leagues.