“What is a football club in any case? It’s not the buildings or the directors, the owners or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes…
A football club is a small child clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping their father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath them and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love, with the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging of the pride in your team.”
Those are the famous words of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.
Those words now resonate with football supporters for reasons that would have (in all probability) horrified the great man, who was a traditionalist, a man of pride and a man who represented his country at all levels as a player and a manager.
What would he have made of the situation we have now? Three clubs whose supporters have been forced to endure wholesale change to their very fabric of being, due to owners doing their own thing – not caring for the feeling of the very people who are the real backbone of the clubs they own.
Cardiff City FC were famously the first to be ‘rebranded’ with their owner Vincent Tan enforcing still unpopular changes into the team he had bought into.
Initially, when the announcement was made that after over hundred years of playing in blue, the Bluebirds were to switch to playing in red, supporters were outraged and mass dissent ensued.
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, former Labour leader and lifelong Cardiff City supporter Neil Kinnock – who first went to see the Bluebirds play with his father and grandfather and who now attends games with his grandson – were just two of tens of thousands of football supporters who decried the changes.
The outcry brought about a statement from the club and its owner, noting that because of the public outcry, the rebranding would not take place – thus meaning blue would remain the first choice kit, with the badge also remaining the same.
Less than a month later however, the changes went ahead – in no small part after some of the fans’ opinions changed following fears that the club would go into administration should the Malaysian owner decide to cut his losses after losing face.
The name change to The Cardiff Dragons, which was purported to be part of the rebrand didn’t come to fruition, but in interviews the change has yet to be refuted- instead questions about ‘The Cardiff Dragons’ elicit a “never say never!” reply.
Coventry City are now playing their home games in Northampton following owner Sisu’s spat with Coventry City council – the owners of The Ricoh stadium – over the payment of rent. Incidentally, rent which totalled a sum of less than half a million pounds, peanuts in footballing terms and half the cost of 1987 Sky Blues (then record) signing David Speedie.
The club was plunged into administration as a result and deducted ten points prior to the start of the season, so the magnificent Ricoh Arena football ground (home to football fixtures during the 2012 London Olympics) now stands with its seats and names of past Sky Blue hero’s around its circumference, sadly abandoned bereft of passion, excitement and action on Saturday afternoons.
Most recently, in August, Hull City’s owner Assem Allam, taking his cue from Vincent Tan, put into action his own rebranding by announcing that the club had re-registered as ‘Hull City Tigers Ltd’ and that the team would be marketed as ‘Hull City Tigers’ locally and ‘Hull Tigers’ nationally, also removing the ‘Association Football Club’ that had been part of the name since the club’s formation in 1904.
Allam said that ‘Association Football Club’ made the name too long, and he also disliked the word ‘City’ as it was too “common” and a “lousy identity.”
Supporters of all three clubs continue to fight the changes to restore tradition. You can’t help but wonder at the response the likes of Robson and Brian Clough would have given the owners of a club they managed in such circumstances – I envisage something along the lines of: “Don’t be so bloody silly!”
Do you think changes like these should be allowed? Comment below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.