A few weeks ago I was flicking through the channels on my TV and came across Sky News. They were showing brief highlights of a game from earlier in the day and I didn’t initially recognise who the teams were. It wasn’t until I’d seen a team score a couple of goals that I realised that I was watching Cardiff City. Not being able to quickly identify a club that I had supported for almost twenty years was strange and it made me feel more correct in my decision to cancel my season ticket this summer after the football club scrapped its century old tradition of wearing blue shirts.
Identity is important to football and Cardiff City appear to agree as they ordered the change to red not only as a mechanism of looking more like Liverpool and Manchester United (as they sell shirts in Asia) but also to:
“..actively grow the brand and drive the brand in all its aspects…. Vincent Tan can see the red brand as driving the awareness of Cardiff City and he can use it to open a series of internet cafes or sell Cardiff City products through his retail outlets then great.” – Alan Whitely CEO Cardiff City
What is baffling for many is that the re-brand has been so poorly implemented. If a football club were to take the unprecedented move of re-branding after wearing colours for over a century then surely the new kit would be a brave design, something to set it apart from other teams in their division and country. Instead the club chose a standard red Puma template and created a badge using free clip-art images on-line. The stadium seats remain blue in colour. Cardiff City in their new red guise are not even the most famous red sporting team to play in the city. That honour goes to the Wales rugby union side who remain the biggest draw in the capital. The new badge of a Welsh dragon is equally as baffling. The motif taken directly from the flag of Wales is unsurprisingly ubiquitous in the country and can be found on many products from biscuits, to tea-towels to t-shirts. Rather than the re-brand setting Cardiff City apart as something special or something new, the club has effectively faded itself into football’s background.
After the club announced it’s intention to re-brand as a red club many journalists and football fans have been quite surprised at just how little opposition their appears to have been to the change. There are a few reasons why I believe fans have been so acquiescent:
Promises – The owners have promised that alongside the change of kit colour they will invest £100m into the football club. It’s irrelevant as to whether the owners are being truthful or not. We’ve all seen enough evidence over these past few weeks that football fans often leave their brain at the door when the subject of their football club arises. Despite having both Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale in charge over the past few years, many Cardiff City supporters are still willing to believe any snake oil merchant who promises the earth.
Status – The Premier League being viewed as the “promised land” is a theme that is familiar to most involved with football. But with Cardiff City it is goes far, far deeper than that. It’s an obsession. There are three reasons for this:
Silent opposition – Just as the zombies head to the mall in Dawn of the Dead because that’s what they always used to do, so Cardiff City fans head to the stadium every other weekend. Many people who attend games are very unhappy with the change to red (certainly no one has ever mentioned it as a good idea in the past!). However, following a football team is a habit that can be hard to break, especially when it’s a primary route to spend time with your father, your brother, your son or your friends. And it’s also unfair to expect people to do so.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the re-brand is Cardiff City effectively turning their entire supporter base from fans to customers. Despite the club spending over £10m in the summer (including signing local hero Craig Bellamy) and winning their first seven home league fixtures, attendances are down on last season. That’s despite most of those attending fixtures having already bought their season ticket before the re-brand took place. The walk up crowd to Cardiff games has been very low so far this term (though this might have something to do with the £32 match ticket prices – but that’s another issue altogether). Additionally offers such as guaranteeing FA Cup Final or League Cup Final tickets have led to the club having an artificially high number of season ticket holders over the past few years and a failure to get promotion will inevitably lead to significantly lower crowds next season. The club is at a crossroads like no other in its entire history.
There are a few possible outcomes, amongst them: