After reading the title of this piece, you may think I am merely reporting old news, after all it has been well known for some time that Cardiff City are in the red to the tune of £70 million.
However, the Malaysian billionaire in charge of the club, founded in 1899 as Riverside AFC, has come up with a cunning plan turn the debt in to profit. Chan Tien Ghee has decided to do away with the traditional blue shirts and replace them with red shirts. The club crest has also been redesigned to fit in with the red theme. A large Welsh red dragon now dominates whilst the bluebird, whom used to glide so gracefully, is demoted to a more humble position at the foot of the crest. The words “Fire and Passion” are emblazoned across the lower middle, it all looks and feels very much like Welsh patriotism at its proud best, although the end result, in my opinion looks more like the logo for a guest ale you would find in your local watering hole.
Today I visited a number of Cardiff City FC message boards and read a number of posts on the issue, some were outraged, claiming that the club had turned its back on its history, that the Bluebirds won the FA Cup not the Dragons, some have asked for refunds on season tickets and others say they will stop going to games. Other users on the sites I read were more optimistic about the changes, noting broader appeal to football fans in Wales as a whole and the fact that the owner is the only thing holding the club up at the moment.
The proposed method behind the madness is that the change from blue to red will make the club more globally marketable, particularly in South Asia, where red is seen as a good luck symbol and an idol of prosperity. For Chan Tien Ghee’s sake, it had better be as lucky as he thinks it is.
The idea seems to be that sports shop owners in Kuala Lumpar will be ordering steel shipping containers full of Cardiff City shirts and other such branded items, selling the lucky red shirts faster than they can put price tags on them and getting another boat load in the very next day.
All right, so that is probably an exaggeration, but with Chan Tien Ghee reportedly pumping £1 million per month into the club just to keep it from going to the wall, I fail to see how changing a clubs home kit solves the financial problems they were left with when the ever colourful Sam Hamman sold the club.
Mission number one for the owner then, will surely be to get the club to a level of financial stability that does not require his input just to keep power going to the life support machine. Does he really think that he can sell Cardiff City branded items in South Asia for £1 million per month just because it is red?
It is no secret that Manchester United and Liverpool have massive fan bases in places like China, Thailand and Malaysia, nor is it a secret that those two clubs play in the same colour chosen by Cardiff, however, I do not believe for one second that the secret behind the commercial successes of these clubs is down to the predominant colour of their shirts. At the risk of sounding like I am stating the obvious, I actually think that Manchester United and Liverpool have supporters the world over because they have won the Champions League, the FA Cup and in United’s case, the Premier League. These two clubs were at the forefront of English football during the early years of the Premier League and worldwide television audiences, and much like people in this country who have no ties to a local team, they support the team that generally wins.
If the key to football success is to sell red shirts to superstitious Asians then why haven’t the likes of Charlton Athletic and Nottingham Forest, two teams with rich history in the top flight, got swarms up on swarms of fans dancing on the streets of Bangkok when they score or fans at pubs and bars having sentimental conversations about the good old days of Sean Bartlett and Scott Gemmill?
In this country your favourite football teams shirt will cost you in the region of £40. That means to generate the £1million per month needed to take the club off Chan Tien Ghee’s life support machine, 25,000 shirts need to be sold per month, working out to 300,000 Cardiff City shirts being worn in South Asia in the space of 1 year – and that is if they are selling them for the same price in Asia.
Beyond the anger of some Cardiff supporters who wanted to see the team remain in blue, there must be some degree of worry that the owner may be one who understands business but does not really understand football and all that it is about.
I can appreciate the club wanting to identify with Wales and being the only Football League team in the Welsh capital, but I would be worried about how many new fans the patriotic rebranding exercise will attract. The Welsh public are known to have a great affinity with the game of Rugby Union, which has always been cited as one of the reasons that Welsh teams have underachieved in the past, and I don’t imagine many of them will give up the oval shaped ball for a round one, just because the football team now wears Welsh red. Football supporters in South Wales will already support either Cardiff or Swansea – loyal Jacks will surely laugh at the suggestion that they swap their club for a Welsh brand. Geographically that just leaves North Wales, which probably means you already support Liverpool, whilst some will be unfortunate enough to have been brought up supporting Wrexham (who also play in red), they won’t forget the day they beat Arsenal in the FA Cup to drive 3 hours down A roads to watch Cardiff play.
No other Championship club would attempt something like this whether they already play in red or not. The only thing that brings new supporters to a football club in their masses is success. How much success you achieve determines how big the masses are, and yes, Cardiff City can count themselves a little bit unfortunate to have not been promoted to the Premier League as they have been knocking on the door for a few seasons, but to pull off the success that this rebranding is intended to achieve the club will need to do more than just do what Swansea just have done in the past twelve months.
Either the chairman has gone mad in thinking up this far fetched marketing plan is the only way to save the club, as Cardiff fans are being told, or, this an example of another egocentric man with more money than sense using a football club as a toy box and justifying his actions through either lying or veiled threats.
I myself would hate it if my team changed its colours for any reason, (in saying that I support an English team, outside the capital) If Cardiff City do get promoted to the Premier League then I am sure most Cardiff fans will be able to tolerate the red as a symbol of Wales, however if Cardiff remain in the Championship and the financial situation does not improve then all that ditching blue will have achieved is to alienate sections of the fans. If things were to get worse at City and they started to slide away from their goal of reaching the Premier League or even end up staring nervously at the League One trap door, then Chan Tien Ghee’s leadership will come in to question and parallels with Blackburn Rovers’ owners, chicken farmers the Venkys, will be drawn.
If similar scenes to those witnessed at Ewood Park this season are witnessed at Cardiff any time in the near future, you can ensure that this topic will rear it’s head once more, being used to fuel the “Fire and Passion” towards Chan Tien Ghee.