Donald MacInnes: So it’s a no for Wonga, but a yes for the demon drink

 

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The Independent Online

Like most Celts, I’m fairly in touch with my feelings.

Indeed, as anyone who was in the cinema when I wept through Titanic will know, I’m significantly more than just “in touch” with my feelings. We actually speak every day. Sometimes two or three times. I really do wear my heart on my sleeve.

Well, you’ll be delighted to hear that this worn-out old cliché brings me to this week’s point; namely that, unlike me, football clubs wear their hearts on their chest. And I’m not talking about the club badge. No, I refer to whichever corporate logo or name is plastered across the solar plexus of your favourite players.

I only mention this curious, sandwich-board-style of marketing because of the news earlier this week that the payday lender Wonga is to remove its name from kids’ size Newcastle United shirts. I find this a little confusing. How many 12-year-old boys are at risk of getting into non-serviceable debt at the hands of Wonga? Are there that many little boys getting so desperate that they’ll sign up for a pocket money loan at anything up to 5,853 per cent interest? Let’s bear in mind that, for many years, the Geordie team’s shirt sponsors were Newcastle Brown Ale. Are payday lenders really more dangerous to a wee boy’s future than beer? I doubt most kids could even grasp the concept of short-term, high-interest loans. But they sure as hell know what Newky Brown is.

Booze has been a major sponsor of football for decades. Clubs started having shirt sponsors in the early 1980s and it wasn’t long before brands of lager or whatever appeared on shirts. In fact, this was a sure sign that football was getting clued up to its own floggability as a marketing vehicle. In the past, there was no sponsorship, but players drank like fish. Now, they live like monks (well, most of them), but advocate drinking every time they do their job. Everton have been sponsored by a brand of Thai beer for the past 10 seasons.

But who am I to criticise? You go where the money is. Plus my mate Jamie supports the Blues. Anyway, in 22 out of the last 30 years, Glasgow Rangers’ shirts have sported the name of three different types of lager. To balance things up, Celtic and Liverpool, too, have made millions of pounds from bevvy.

But, as a rule, I don’t really think we should have wee kids running about the park advertising a substance that kills thousands of people every year. I would rather have Wonga on a shirt than booze.

It’s all in the perception, of course. Recently, the football team of the University of Kent tried to secure sponsorship from an adult website which offers sexy videos for, um, mature relaxation. But the authorities wouldn’t hear of it. So, destructive, addictive, dangerous drug: OK. Payday lender and dirty pictures: not? Brilliant.

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