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Football for Sale: Are British Clubs Losing Their Sense of Identity?

Is money rotting the very fabric of the beautiful game?

News has been released recently hat big spending Manchester City have been given permission by a local council to sell the naming rights of their City of Manchester Stadium to any and all welcome bidders. City chief executive Gary Cook hopes that a long contract will bring in up to £100 million in a deal with a big name company/corporation, with current shirt sponsors Etihad Airways expected to be interested in buying the rights. Arsenal, and the Emirates stadium are a guideline for Cook and City, as the 15 year deal that The Gunners signed with the airline brought in a vast amount of income that can be spent on the team and additional resources. The only sacrifice? The scrapping of tradition and sentimentality, as classic stadium names such as Highbury and Maine Road are made obsolete by the power of the pound.

Football fans are passionate beings, and feel a loyalty and bond to all facets of the team they follow, whether it be the club colours, nickname, mascot, badge or personnel. However one of the main affiliations fans identify with is their place of worship, the stadium they religiously attend to follow their team through thick and thin. Classic grounds of English football stand out as pillars of the game, with Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Upton Park, White Hart Lane and Anfield amongst others holding a special place in supporters hearts up and down the land. However football has lost some big names stadia of late such as afore mentioned Highbury and Maine Road, which have been sent to the graveyard also inhabited by famous footballing grounds such as Roker Park.

The sale of stadium names could also open a world of additional advertising, with clubs looking to cash in other facets of the game, which holds the threat of things getting out of hand. The next step would be increased sponsors on team strips, players advocating big name businesses and McDonalds signs popping up on the big screen when their sponsored players score, and television advertisements every time the ball goes out of play. Again, all these far fetched but feasible ideas could bring in more money to football, but go against the traditional values and principles of the game. In the end, does football really need more money?

In a era of professionalism money plays a massive part in the game, no doubt, and with the investment in Premier League football clubs the stakes are only going to rise. To succeed and in some club’s cases to maintain within English football’s elite, a sizeable investment has to be made. Despite this football clubs are now generally owned by wealthy investors or shareholders, and ran as a business; but what price for success and breaking even?

Would Man Utd fans abandon Old Trafford for £100 million extra to spend on new players, and attend the Starbucks Stadium every other week? The Kop, would they feel at home watching their new multi-million pound signings at Nike Road? My argument is no, and that despite the additional impetus on the pound sign in the modern game, some things are just too valuable to be discarded. Call me sentimental, but some things are worth more than money.

However the current trend dictates differently, as four of the twenty Premier League teams in Bolton, Stoke, Wigan and Arsenal all have renamed their stadiums to please sponsors and bring in extra money. With West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium and Tottenham dabbling with the idea of a new home, added to City’s potential rename, it starts to set a trend that other clubs may inevitably follow. With this increase in revenue clubs will prosper financially, and fans may be slightly consoled at the loss of their long standing stadium names if the money generated is put back into investing in new players, but the sentimentality and memories generated over the years will be washed away, and a new sense of identity, with a corporate feel, will be forced upon the club’s main source of income; the fans.

Read more from Gareth at www.ninetyminutesonline.com

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