Sponsor Or Soul?

Originally published in the Gooner Fanzine.

The decision to incorporate sleeve sponsors came in last season, and it was a decision that had every club licking their lips.

 

Yet another opportunity to rake in the readies, this small logo on each sleeve of a jersey would not affect the design of a kit, but it would affect the bank balance.

 

The ramifications of this separate sponsor really came into tangible form though, thanks to Everton.

 

Last season, they sported a rather conspicuous brand on their sleeves, and while it may have swelled the coffers, ‘Angry Birds’ took some of the gleam off of the shining money for the Toffees. While it isn’t nefarious, it is quite an embarrassing brand to have on your kit.

 

Now Arsenal have joined in and have their sleeves adorned for the first time – but it has caused somewhat of a stir.

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We now have ‘Visit Rwanda’ on our kit, and while it may sound like a harmless push to bring some much needed tourism and funds to a country that could do with a boost, connections with the country are not exactly wholesome.

 

Rwanda is synonymous with corruption and tyrannical regimes, coups and human rights atrocities in the past. The African country may be far removed from this these days, there are still things to raise an eyebrow to when it comes to our association with such a country.

 

Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, is thought to have used intimidation tactics in the last election, and placed restrictions on freedom of speech to suppress opposition movements. He has now been in power for 18 years.

 

There is also the small matter of the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi people by the majority Hutu government in 1994.

 

The country is on the road to recovery now, and is ranked amongst the least corrupt countries in Africa.

 

So, shouldn’t this sponsorship be a shot in the arm for a country aiming to do things the right way, to establish a proper income via tourism, rather than rely on the coffers of others?

 

At what point does the club have a responsibility to choose the right sponsor?

Just imagine if we were to appropriate another one on the different sleeve, but this one was for The Daily Mail?

 

Does the club have a role of advocacy in things? Could Arsenal have chosen differently? Or was it simply the sleeve goes to the highest bidder?

 

We hardly need the money, we could have quite easily have promoted a charity, perhaps our own in The Arsenal Foundation, or another one close to home, the Willow Foundation?

 

It wouldn’t benefit us fiscally, but it would be a fantastic PR exercise.

 

We could be sponsored by Toilet Duck. We could have the logo for Cillit Bang and a massive picture of Barry Scott salivating on the chest of our shirt. There comes a moment that no amount of money covers the utter shame you would have on pulling on the shirt.

 

It is a worrying development though. There will come a crossroads though, when sense is asked to take a back seat by a big wad of cash. The fallout from that would be kit sales – would that equate to another juicy sponsorship, or would it hit the pockets of the club harder?

 

What next? While this is a nice little money spinner right now, we could have collar sponsors, sock sponsors, shirt sponsors, boot sponsors. There is a wealth of blank canvas for companies looking to spill their cash all over a club.

 

Just look at a snooker player’s waistcoat, or an F1 car.

 

It’s clear that money talks, and it is a vulgar language when written on fabric.

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