Bunhill: Burying the 1990s

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The Independent Online
THE London Capital Club, a posh new place that will open on the site of the old Gresham Club in the City, is getting horribly worked up about a time capsule it plans to bury in its foundations.

Scheduled to open in August, the Grade Two listed building in Abchurch Lane, is being transformed into the kind of swanky marble and thick-pile carpet affair designed to suit a guest list that includes the Earl of Gowrie, Lord Palumbo and Baroness O'Cathain. After all, with membership costing pounds 1,000 a throw for gentlemen and lady members (no men-only club, this), the Hong Kong owners, International Capital Clubs, cannot afford to scrimp on the fittings.

Later this month, the owners will bury a sealed chest of goodies under the floor of what will be the brasserie. But what to put in it?

'If someone opened it in 100 years' time, we would like them to get some idea what the City was like in the 1990s,' says Michael Longshaw, the club's manager.

I gather it has already been decided to put all the national newspapers of the day in the chest (including the raunchy Daily Sport) but the the management is not sure what else.

For reasons best known to themselves, they intend to tuck a bottle of wine and a few magazines in the capsule, including Hello], the Beano, Private Eye and the comic Viz, though quite what someone opening the capsule in the year 2094 would make of strip cartoons such as Sid the Sexist and Baxter Basics, is anybody's guess. Newspaper cuttings documenting City scandals such as the Guinness affair and BCCI will also be included.

Longshaw is looking for further suggestions. Perhaps a mobile phone, a City bonus slip, or even a redundancy notice might be appropriate.

JOHN WARDLE, chief executive of sports retailer JD Sports, will be at Wembley this afternoon for the Manchester United v Oldham FA Cup semi- final. Sipping champagne in his executive box, he will be praying for an Oldham victory.

The reason is that JD Sports has sponsored Oldham for an absolute song. Last season, when JD took over the sponsorship from Bovis Construction, the company signed a two-year deal committing it to pay just pounds 95,000 a year plus additional sums for a good cup run. This compares with Manchester United's recently renewed deal with Sharp electronics, which is worth an estimated pounds 1.5m per season. If Oldham win the final, he will have to shell out an extra pounds 50,000. But Wardle will sign the cheque gladly. In today's game, an estimated 7 million will see on TV the JD Sports logo splashed over the Oldham strip. And if Oldham upset the odds and win, more than 11 million could watch the final.

Wardle moved into sponsorship as he felt it was a good way to build awareness of his brand. Together with his partner David Malkin (a Manchester City supporter) he founded JD Sports in 1985. It now has 28 branches and last year featured in the Independent on Sunday's Top 50 list of mid-market companies, after increasing its sales by 23 per cent to pounds 18m. Its niche is fashion sportswear, particularly training shoes, where it devotes a separate room to different manufacturers such as Nike and Reebok. Sports equipment such as cricket bats and tennis rackets is not stocked. 'We chose football because the people out on the terraces are our customers,' he says. 'Though we are a national chain we have more stores in the North-west than anywhere else, so a team up here made sense.'

He says his business couldn't afford Manchester United or Liverpool and felt that sponsoring one of the big clubs might alienate supporters of some of the others. But nice little Oldham. Who would dislike them?

'Oldham is everyone's second favourite club,' Wardle claims. 'They don't offend anyone. They play nice football and the manager Joe Royle is a nice sensible type of guy.' It might be a day of divided loyalties for Wardle, however. He is a lifelong Manchester United supporter. 'No, no. I want Oldham to win. Definitely,' he says quickly.