These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sponsorship Gone Mad

Published in the Slough Town v Windsor & Eton programme 27th December 2004

We are bombarded with adverts and sponsorship every day of our lives, but is it reaching ridiculous levels in sport?

Exeter players this week were told not to do any aeroplane celebrations if they managed to score against Manchester United in the FA Cup 3rd round. Everytime an Exeter player scores in the Conference and makes like a plane he gets £1,000 from their sponsors, budget airline Flybe. Man United fans said on this occasion it would be disrespectful because of the Munich air disaster.

A bit of armless fun? Or corporate sponsorship gone mad?

Meanwhile the Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires will have to pay a £34,500 fine for wearing the wrong t-shirt on television in October. Pires went on a French programme dressed in Puma clothing – which infuriated the French federation and their sponsors, Adidas.

Or what about the Dover steward who insisted on Slough fans removing our flags that were drapped over some advertising hordings?

Then there’s the cricket fans who were sent a notice with their tickets for this summers Championships trophy. The sheet, headed “Important notice to all spectators”, told fans what drinks and snacks they would be allowed to bring into the ground. If they brought a packet of crisps, it had to be Walkers. A fizzy drink, then it had to be Pepsi. Mineral water, had to be Abbey Well. All these brands belong to Pepsi, which is one of the tournament’s sponsors. As one enraged fan complained “The International Cricket Council have taken it on themselves to restrict the contents of my lunchbox”. Some cricket fans promised to turn up in fancy dress as coke cans as a protest.

Unfortunately this sort of corporate repression is becoming common place in the hyper commercial world that sport has become. At this years Olympics one journalist had to wait several minutes while a gateman did his best to separate his half-empty water bottle from a label that conflicted with a sponsor. In the 2003 South African cricket world cup, the country was so eager to please the sports authorities that it was prepared to pass laws forbidding the consumption of certain drinks in certain places. At the German World Cup you’ll only be able to get a McDonalds or Bud in the grounds.

These very same companies that sponsor the big sporting events are usually peddling the worst kind of junk food. Anyone whose seen the film ‘Supersize Me’ about the bloke who ate nothing but McDonalds for a month, will have seen how ill he looked at the end. I just wonder how our top sportsman or women would perform if they stuffed such garbage continually into their face. With childhood obesity reaching an epidemic in this country, will we struggle to find future world champions? Is it right fast food giants sponsor sports events?

I know at our level we could do with as much support from business as possible, especially without a ground to call our own. I just hope I never see the day when Slough Town stewards start checking our Christmas boxer shorts and socks to see if they are in the acceptable amber and blue colours, getting us to remove them if they’re not!