While the summer so far has been marked by an almost unprecedented level of bonhomie amongst City fans, the announcement of the club’s new shirt sponsorship deal with gambling company LeoVegas has created the first significant ripples in what had been a peaceful pool.
A number of fans have made it very clear that they disapprove of City being connected to the promotion of a betting firm and I have every sympathy with their point of view.
However, looking at the issue pragmatically, City play in a stadium where one stand is sponsored by Coral and in a league which is sponsored by SkyBet, with their logo on players shirts (albeit considerably less noticeable than the main sponsor’s) and all over TV coverage.
Even more pertinent is the difficulty that Championship clubs experience in finding sponsors compared to the constantly televised and Sky TV promoted Premier League. City have been fortunate to have a long-term sponsor in Aviva over the last nine years, but there is no queue of potential sponsors lining up to throw money at the club.
Ultimately, I suspect that we all have our own bête noire as far as sponsors go. I, for example, would struggle with one of those payday loan companies who present themselves as warm and cuddly in their adverts while imposing stratospheric APR rates on their unfortunate customers, but can live with betting companies.
Having said that if I, or someone I knew, had suffered from a betting problem I might well feel differently, so I certainly don’t intend to belittle the opinions of those who have stronger feelings than me on this issue.
Unfortunately, the increasing importance of getting additional revenue into football clubs is inevitably at odds with City’s image as a family club and inevitably there have been observations made about the apparent conflict that accompanies this deal. However one thing I would say about the City board is that they are considerably more socially aware than most and will have considered the pros and cons of this deal very carefully indeed.
It certainly won’t be an arrangement that they will have entered lightly or without considerable due diligence.
I do though fully appreciate why parents are reluctant to buy replica shirts for their children bearing the name of a betting company (and there would almost certainly be a legal issue there too), so I would think that the likelihood is that the club will make shirts available in the smaller sizes with no logo.
Adult shirts are more of a problem as common sense suggests that giving an option to buy logo free shirts might infringe the terms of the sponsorship deal as LeoVegas will obviously expect maximum exposure for their input. No doubt the club will be clarifying these issues when the kit is officially launched or shortly thereafter.
The reactions I’ve seen on social media suggest that while some fans will refuse to buy the new shirt if it carries the logo, the vast majority will go out and get it, whatever private reservations they may have.
Speaking personally, I have to say that after the initial novelty of a new kit has worn off I don’t give a second thought to the sponsors logo, and after nine years of wearing shirts emblazoned with the Aviva insignia I feel no more or no less included to invest with them or sign up for one of their policies. What matters to me is the football being produced by the players wearing that kit.
Like it or not, football is a game increasingly ruled by money. While most of us care deeply about how ethical our club is, the fact is that the game as a whole is often sadly lacking in that area and consequently the club must find a balance between sticking rigidly to a principle and avoiding making themselves uncompetitive.
The fact is whether or not the club was sponsored by a betting company there would still be betting stands in and around the ground, because it is a popular pastime which, when indulged in responsibly, can be great fun. Equally it can also cause huge damage to the vulnerable, so one could argue that the ease with which one can bet at a ground is potentially more dangerous than a logo on a shirt.
There is no doubt that this is a complex issue with strong arguments on both sides (and no absolute right or wrong) but I genuinely think that for the majority of fans the view is that if the deal with LeoVegas helps Daniel Farke to put a better team on the pitch this season then that’s what really matters.
Thanks to our friends at Archant for permitting us the use of Robin’s services over the summer months on a short-term loan deal