Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sponsorship is something that you unfortunately can’t seem to get away from in the modern game. It’s everywhere. On the front of shirts, the back of shirts, shorts, training tops and every aspect of every Club such as the website, programmes, cars and so on.

I’m not saying it’s all bad. Far from it. Many clubs need that level of interest from companies and individuals alike just to survive. You don’t want to upset your sponsors and suppliers or you’ll end up like Livingston!

Every football show on commercial television has to have a sponsor. It can’t just be brought to you by ITV or Sky any more, someone else is just itching to part with their cash so that they can bring you your enjoyment. How nice of them. Just be thankful you many of you reading this don't have to watch North American coverage of games where each 10-15 minute segment of the game is brought to you by someone, as are the corner kicks and throw ins. For those of us that do have to watch it, it's infuriating.

All that’s really missing is "this chant has been brought to you by…", which could be a gap in the market that choir the world over may wish to exploit in forthcoming seasons. It's come close to this I feel this season in Vancouver, where the Southside section, but not the Southsiders themselves, has been sponsored by the local radio station The Fox. As low key as their presence is on matchday, it just doesn't sit comfortably with me.

I was really pleased to see East Fife go retro in their player sponsorship this season, by going back to the good old shirts, shorts and socks sponsors for the home, away and third kits. As a kid I always thought it was great that you could feel that you were helping to spur on your favourite players by paying just a few pounds to sponsor their socks.

It’s been disappointing that there hasn’t been a higher take up rate so far. Only ten quid to sponsor someone’s socks and you don’t even have to worry about being presented with them at the end of the season. It's something I'd like to see Vancouver Whitecaps doing for their first MLS season in 2011. Just to make the fans feel that little bit closer to the players.

It's even better when you do get awarded with what you've sponsored at the end of the season. I have my signed Jamie McGowan top to show my commitment to the Fife two seasons ago!

It’s really hard for Clubs to find new and attractive ways to get sponsorship money. Most things have been done before, either by them or one of their rivals, so when something new does come along it really grabs the attention and I was quite taken by something that AFC Wimbledon have been doing of late.

Fan run Clubs like the Wombles and FC Manchester tend to lead the way in a number of initiatives that not only capture the fans’ imaginations, they bring in a fair wad of cash at the same time. What Wimbledon have been doing is raffling off a spot in the official team photo.

Everyone interested buys a raffle ticket, or tickets if you’re really keen, and the lucky winner gets to line up with the players and management for the official squad photo that is sent to all the press etc. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you’re captured forever with the team you love.

So simple, it’s genius. It’s a cracking idea and one that most fans would love to be a part of. I don’t know why other Clubs haven’t pounced on the idea, but it’s one I’m throwing out for East Fife and Vancouver Whitecaps for next season. Some lucky person could be featured in AFTN’s Bayview Bible squad photo collection for eternity.

Apart from this idea, I’d still love to see East Fife to do some kind of sponsored brick scheme that many clubs have done now. Buy a brick with your name on it and have it displayed at the stadium for all time. If nothing else if could stop the amount of balls that fly over the walls at present by making them higher.

It would also be a nice touch if the Whitecaps can ever get approval to build their own stadium. I remember visiting Sunderland's Stadium of Light with my best mate Stevie to find his brick. Oh how his little 40 year old face lit up!

If sponsorship has to be tolerated in the modern game, at least make it fun!


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