Kicking off sponsorhip or hacking off sponsors?

Date: 16th April 2016


By Donald C Stewart

The news last week that, after 10 years, there shall no longer be a Johnstone Paint Trophy is hardly front, or even back page news in Scotland. What do we care about the vagaries of a trophy that attracts the lower leagues with the promise of a Wembley date – with 60,000 in attendance. After all we have our own version – the Petrofac Training Cup – which was won by Rangers in a league and cup double at the weekend – in front of 50,000.

Sponsorship of our game has been a political hot potato for some time. Fans have always asked why it is that the SFA or the League are unable to find a big name to attach to the league or cup competitions. A marquee name would make us much more attractive, we hear. I often think that it makes some people believe that the race for the irn bru first division is much more exciting than just the race to the first division title.

Commercial money in the game has not always been about but it has been a recent development. In June 1977, following an attempt by Kettering Town to have sponsorship on their tops, the FA in England changed the rules to allow advertising on the front of the team’s shirts. Now we would hardly think a shirt was properly associated with a club unless there was the name of a local or national business strapped across the front of our replica XXXXXXl shirt. The fact that some teams, like Barcelona and Raith Rovers have taken the decision to use their advertising on the front of their shirts for good causes underlines how successful sponsorship and advertising has been.

Perhaps the biggest piece of controversy over the sponsorship debate comes from the stadiums. The place where we go to worship our teams has gone from being sacrosanct to the next piece of family silverware up for grabs. For some of us the stadium is not just where the team runs out but also a haven, the place of worship or has been the one constant in the shifting sands of our lives.

I have for years gone to Somerset Park and when it looked like we were going to be moving to Heathfield Industrial Estate I balked at the idea that it could be called anything other than New Somerset Park. And why? Somerset Road is where it sits and the “park” is therefore that park at Somerset – hence Somerset Park. It is not named after anyone and it has no connection to anywhere other than simply being at that place. And yet…

I have been to the Bet Butler, the Indodrill but am yet to the get to the Toni Macaroni. I simply don’t want to go but was there when the B and Q Centenary Cup was almost won by Ayr and present at our national final appearance in the CIS Insurance Cup Final at Hampden. I refuse to accept that we would have not managed to get to the Centenary or League Cup Finals without the sponsor’s help but know that financially we would not have won so much money without their support. Many have called the naming rights of your stadium as easy money from the sponsors as you really don’t lose anything but for me it is a heritable property that should stick to the clubs alone. But hey I know I am not likely to win this as football needs money and at some point I can imagine me going along to the Toys r Us stadium whilst trying to keep my ain toys still in the pram and accept the inevitable.

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