Shirts Are Sacred

posted by Geoff Andrews at Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Shirts Are Sacred – Why Cardiff City Are Wrong. The decision by Cardiff City to change the colour of their shirts for the first time in over 100 years and in defiance of their long-standing nickname Bluebirds amounts to a serious surrender of values by a football club in the face of corporate power. It is a humiliating admission by the club that they are prepared to sacrifice a crucial element of their identity in order to gain financial benefit. In fact the implications are clear. They care more about the global brand than the local team. This is the unacceptable face of modern football. It represents the ultimate commodification of football culture. Unsurprisingly the decision has been met with much opposition by loyal fans who, on recent performances, deserve to be watching their team in the premiership. Equally predictably, the club hierarchy have made the usual noises about needing financial security and investment to compete at the higher level. Don’t be fooled, however. Shirts are sacred, and this is a step too far that will surely result in increasing conflict between ordinary fans and the corporate bosses. More worryingly, this decision could pave the way for similar moves by the owners of other clubs. For Philosophy Football our shirts have a particular meaning, given they display quotes from philosophers about football or from footballers about philosophy. In the past league organisers have asked us to change shirts, while we have been offered shirts with corporate logos backed by sponsorship. We have always refused for obvious reasons. Such a change would be a denial of the reasons of our existence. Traditional shirt colours remain important for all clubs however. When on a tour to Prague a few years ago we went to see one of the leading Czech Republic club sides which had just gone down the road of accepting commercial sponsorship. We estimated at the time that the cost of these shirts exceeded that of a season ticket to stand on the terraces. We know the cost for parents of buying new sets of replica shirts each year. There are many cases of outrageous interference by owners in the running of football clubs. My own club QPR endured a disastrous ‘four year plan’ during which owner Flavio Briatore attempted to turn it into a ‘boutique’ club. We know the effect of Blackburn Rovers’ owners Venky’s on the club’s status and there are many examples where the club stadium has been renamed to suit the business interests of the owners. Many clubs have chosen the away kits as the vehicle for pushing the global brand - QPR now advertise Malaysian airlines - but this comes across as the local club building its global appeal.For many this is bad enough, though now generally tolerated. The owners of Cardiff City could have used the away kits to market their business. Instead they wanted to rebrand the club entirely and to confront the core symbol and traditions of the club. It was unnecessary and this head-on confrontation with the fans (seemingly without cultivating the supporters)invariably leads to disaster further down the road. It would seem Cardiff would need to make a good start and get promoted next year or face a major and lasting opposition from fans. AS we know as well as anybody, shirts really are sacred, they embody the traditions and soul of the club, and owners should keep their hands off.