Cardiff City supporters are coming to terms with the financial ramifications of the club's unfulfilled ambition that comes as a stark warning to other Championship clubs.
The controversial decision to cast aside 104 years of tradition by ditching the blue jersey and club crest sparked outrage among fans but is the legacy of chasing the Premier League dream – and failing. Cardiff's Malaysian owners have now convinced the majority of loyal Bluebirds that a change of colour is required to safeguard their future.
The reality is supporters had little choice but to grudgingly accept, although some are already demanding refunds on season tickets. Having taken over in April 2010, billionaire owner Tan Sri Vincent Tan and chairman Dato Chan Tien Ghee threatened to withdraw funding and ultimately the simple choice put forward was red or dead.
From next season Cardiff City will play in the alien colours of red shirts and black shorts, emblazoned with a Welsh Dragon logo rather than the traditional bluebird, relegated to an afterthought on the badge. However, the owners believe the re-branding will broaden the club's appeal in "international markets".
In return, the Malaysian businessman Tan, worth an estimated $1.3 bn (£860m) according to Forbes, and Tien Ghee have pledged to clear the club's debt – estimated at £70m – upgrade training facilities and strengthen Malky Mackay's playing squad.
"If you look at the context of what it brings, the whole investment package secures the future of this football club. It's as short and bold as that," said the Cardiff chief executive, Alan Whiteley.
"The financial problems the club has had in the past are well documented and have sat over us like a dark cloud. This gives us an opportunity to rectify those historical debts, invest in the infrastructure of the club and bring in new players who can help get us to where we want to be."
The priority is clearing £26m owed to the former Cardiff owner Sam Hammam – who triggered an era of decadence at Ninian Park when he took charge in a blaze of publicity in 2000. Cardiff have reached Wembley four times in the last four years, including the Carling Cup Final in February, yet the riches of the Premier League have proved elusive.