First things first – it’s not really about the shirt. Enough people will buy it globally to prove Nike’s market instinct right. The shock value brings the publicity, which ensures the sales.
It’s more about what the decision represents – another blow to the ‘More than a Club’ identity. A club led by its sponsors, not by its people.
If Sandro Rosell had cleared his throat back in 2010 and announced what his board would do to Barcelona over the next four years, he would never have gained control of the club. Imagine the inaugural speech:
“We are going to break with over 100 years of history and have a sponsor’s name on the front of the shirt. We have gone for Qatar because they seem to be a fairly free of controversy. Eventually, the jersey will carry the words Qatar Airways, but to ease everyone into the idea we’ll start with ‘Qatar Foundation’ for the first three seasons with a little tree as the logo.
“For €150m they will also have the words Qatar Airways written into the seats behind the goal at the north end of the ground. We will also not be able to hang on to Pep Guardiola for more than the next two seasons, we will upset Johan Cruyff and take his honorary presidency off of him, oh and we are going to start playing in hoops instead of stripes.”
It is little wonder that Rosell’s then vice-president Josep Bartomeu, who is now president by default after Rosell bailed mid-term, is expected to lose the next club election, due in 2016.
Nike pay around €55m a year to Barcelona as shirt manufacturers and sponsors, but €20m of that is linked to sales and the club are understood to have responded to advice that a radical change would best boost figures and, therefore, swell coffers in what could be this board of directors’ last year in office.
So cocking a hooped snook at tradition, they’ve agreed to turn their back on 115 years of striped shirts (with the occasionally half-and-half number such as their first-ever shirt and the one they wore when they won the 2009 Champions League) and bring in the hoops.
Asides from feeling like another step towards selling out, it also represents electoral suicide. Any potential new presidential candidate now has an open goal when he stands for election in 18 months time. You can almost hear the candidates practising their speeches: “Vote for me and I’ll give you back your stripes.”
Atletico Madrid cannot sidestep responsibility
The knee-jerk reaction from Atletico Madrid’s president Enrique Cerezo after a pitched battle ended in one man’s death outside their ground on Sunday was entirely predictable. “This has got nothing to do with us” was also the standard response from clubs to hooliganism in Britain in the 1980s. Television money pouring into clubs played a major part in changing that because it came with the proviso that they cleaned up the image of the game.
When the exclusive rights to show La Liga games outside of Spain are finally collectively bargained for at the start of the 2016-17 season, the deal will be the biggest yet. More games than ever are being played at an hour that suits Asian markets to sweeten the deal. The poisonous images that went global on Sunday devalue Spanish football. Perhaps someone reminded Atletico Madrid of that fact after their original response on Sunday.
On Tuesday they took more affirmative action banning seven club members involved in the violence, and banning the supporters group jointly responsible for organizing the trouble. As cruel as it sounds when a life has been lost, how it looks to the rest of the world is often what really provokes a response that goes beyond the tired old standard: “It’s got nothing to do with us”.
GETTING SHIRTY - KIT CATASTROPHES
Coventry (1981-83) Incorporated Talbot logo into design of shirt but were forced to wear alternate kit due to television ban on sponsored shirts.
Hull (1992-94) Garish tiger-print shirt was not popular with fans also unhappy with club ownership.
Man United (1996) Changed shirts at half-time at Southampton (below) after players complained they could not pick out grey shirt against crowd.
Tottenham (2002-06) Suffered backlash from fans for including red (colour of rivals Arsenal) typeface of holiday company Thomson on to shirt.
Cardiff (2012-) Welsh side swapped from blue to red at the request of chairman Vincent Tan..
Southampton (2012-14) Ditched red and white stripes for Premier League return in favour of all red-top. Fans protested and the stripes returned.Reuse content