As I watched the U21’s last week playing in shirts numbered 1 to 11, I became rather nostalgic for the old days before shirts displayed squad numbers and sponsors’ names. I must admit that I find squad numbers very helpful in identifying new players but I don’t like sponsors’ names on shirts. Anyone ignorant of the commercial aspect of the sport would look at my team’s shirts and assume I was supporting a team called Zapaygo.
I also don’t like the fact that some of the big clubs have sponsorship deals worth more than my club. Manchester United gets £47m per year from Chevrolet, their shirt sponsor. And from next season, they will get £75 million per year from Adidas for the right to make their kit. Football clubs used to make most of their money from fans that came to watch games and not from TV and sponsorship deals. Nowadays, big clubs could make a profit even if they didn’t charge for admission. And even Birmingham City gets more money from commercial revenue than from gate receipts. And this, according to Professor John Samuels, of Birmingham University, is the reason why fans do not have more power: “If the fans want to show their power, it is not enough to stay away from matches to show their displeasure, they need to boycott the products of the companies which support the club.”
I do realise that we can’t turn the clock back and abolish sponsors and am grateful that Birmingham City aren’t sponsored by Wonga. I also know that local sponsors can really help smaller clubs. For example, Kirdford Cougars under-12 team is being sponsored by a local branch of Specsavers; they have provided new kits and a free pair of prescription sports goggles for one of the players. That sounds nice and helpful but I think that it may be taking things too far to have “a special post-season award to give to one of the players – the ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ trophy.”