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Influence of Sponsorship in Football – Zoopla and West Bromwich Albion

This article is in response to recent events at the Hawthorns were West Bromwich Albion’s sponsors, Zoopla, want to dictate which players the club can pick by stating in the press that if Nicholas Anelka plays they will withdraw from their £3 million pound 2 year sponsorship.  They even want the club to sack him.

With sponsorship being the life blood of football from Sunday Football teams having their shirts bought by small local businesses and pubs to the likes of Arsenal, where their sponsors even pay to name the stadium, it is not surprising that they want to have their say in who plays for the club.

Clubs have many different sponsors from fans sponsoring individual players and members of the coaching team to those who sponsoring matches and selling alcohol to the fans before the game. Here we are talking about the main sponsors who are known as shirt sponsors.

Whilst Zoppla, whose Jewish co-owner Alex Chesterman, has justification to be angered by Nicholas Anelka’s “guenelle” gesture, they (he) do not have the right to decide who plays for the Baggies.  This will remain the responsibility, in the case of West Brom, their Head Coach and not even their Chairman or Director of Football can pick the team (unless you are Chairman of Cardiff City).

I doubt the contract will allow Zoopla to simply pull out of a sponsorship and take their money with them.  The only loser here will be Zoopla as there are many new sponsors out there waiting to take their place, even as far as field as China.  The present day sponsorship money is a mere drop in the ocean since the involvement of Sky Sports and the Premier League.  This season is being described as the £100 million pound season.

West Bromwich Albion have had a variable history of “shirt” sponsorship since their first in 1981 with BSR Houseware.  BSR were a Birmingham based record player maker, who took over smaller companies, such as our next sponsors, another Birmingham firm called Swan (Bulpitt & Sons) who made pans and kettles.  Their next sponsorship has to be their strangest (if not any club), No Smoking.   Then became a string of more local sponsors like, Apollo 2000 (who still have a store next to the ground), Sandwell (Local Council), Coucher & Shaw (Solicitors who were closed down by the Law Society before the end of the season), Guests (Truck hire), and the clubs longest serving and most appropriate sponsors, West Bromwich Building Society.

When West Bromwich Albion finally reached the Premier League, bigger sponsors (and money) came knocking at the door starting with probably the clubs biggest name and associated with our Great Escape Season with T-Mobile.  T-Mobile are an international company and sponsored many clubs around Europe.  We then appear to take a step backwards, probably due to relegation, with sponsors like HomeServe who made little impact.  Next to join in the sponsorship bandwagon was one of the many gambling sponsors with Bodog.  Bodog for me was a mistake for a family club such as ours.

Another piece in the shirt sponsorship history happened between 2008 and 2010 when, for whatever reason, we had no sponsor’s name plastered across our beloved blue and white stripes.  Personally I felt this was the best thing that has happened since the indroduction of the iconic 1978 green and yellow away shirt.  This is the main reason why I prefer to wear retro shirts.  Also, there are many parents and fans who are fed up of having to spent hundreds of pounds each season for a newly designed strip which has more to do with shirt manufacturer sponsors such as Umbro and Adidas.

One of the main reasons for writing this (and first ever blog) is my belief that Zoopla are deciding to make this press release a few days before the high profile Sky Monday Football game against Everton, rather than three weeks ago, is away of securing free advertising or,a more cynical view, to get out paying for the last six months of the contract.   The issue is highlighted in all newspapers and even mentioned on BBC Breakfast Sports news (rare as Wolves gaining promotion).

A final word makes Zoppla’s CEO slightly hypocritical.  I am sure that LoveFilm, who he founded, shows many items that he would find more offensive. Will he prevent access to certain items because they offend him personally.

One thing is for certain, I am sure there will be visits to GP surgeries on Tuesday following a fresh outbreak of Albionitis.

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