Would The Real Vincent Tan Please Stand Up?
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of what now looks likely to be stage two of the rebranding of Cardiff City is how easy it has all proved for Vincent Tan so far. There were, presumably, meetings held at the club towards the end of last season at which the possible risks of him pursuing such an aggressive rebranding of the club were explained. Since then, though, he will have witnessed best case scenario after best case scenario. Under the broadly fallacious threat that the club would suffer complete financial collapse if he withdrew his interest in the club, the recolouring of Cardiff City was, with a few noble exceptions, broadly accepted by the supporters of the club, so it is utterly unsurprising to see stage two of the rebrand now starting to kick into gear, with Tan explicitly not ruling out a change to the club’s name in the summer – well, not for several hours, at least.
Over the last few weeks, rumours have grown regarding the club undergoing a name change. These had been fuelled in part by the suggestion that the club is preparing to let the ‘Cardiff City FC’ trademark lapse, but more notably by the behaviour of the club in other respects. A recent match against Brighton & Hove Albion saw the club give away free red and white scarves to all in attendance and, despite a few of them ending up pitch-side in protest, the level of anger on display was low enough for the stunt to have presumably been considered a success by Tan and those acting for him. The devil, however, was in the detail with regard to the scarves handed out that evening. They were were red and white, of course, but they also had the word ‘Cardiff’ emblazoned across them, with the word ‘City’ being notable only for its absence. Coming on top of a change of badge which relegated the club’s traditional bluebird motif to the position of a mere afterthought, it is hardly surprising that rumours that the club is now moving towards changing its name to ‘Cardiff Dragons’ (or similar) have become so prevalent over the last couple of weeks or so. “We haven’t discussed this. I’ve not really thought about this in detail”, said Tan in a lengthy interview with the BBC this week, “We will think about it when we know the final result of this season. Then we will think what’s the best way to brand it.” But similar statements were made with regard to the changing of the club’s colours last summer, before an about turn was performed and the club’s traditional blue and white kit was jettisoned after all, and throughout his entire interview he didn’t, although given the opportunity to by his interviewer more than once, rule it out.
But why should Vincent Tan care whether there are Cardiff supporters who are deeply opposed to all of this? Well, the short answer to this question is that he either doesn’t seem to or does, depending on which way the wind is blowing. “A few were upset but like in any business if we get 80% or 75% of the customers happy, with 20-25% not happy, that’s fine. If they don’t want to come to support our business, that’s fine. We need the majority”, he said in his interview, having apparently forgotten that, in statement on the club’s website on the fourteenth of June 2012, he – or somebody authorised to issue statements on his behalf – said that, “we sincerely would like to see all our supporters join us on this journey with the sole desire of making Cardiff City Football Club the best it can be. There is no reason why any existing supporter needs to feel disenfranchised. This is and always will remain your club.” Presumably such sentiments went out of the window as soon as he got what he wanted.
“I believe the change is for the better. And if you put in a lot of money, surely you have the right to make a call on some things you believe will make it better,” he said, a comment so bland that it would be utterly unremarkable were it not for the circumstances under which it was being made, and what followed it. “But if I find they are not welcoming and rude, then maybe I will find a new buyer and go off. But if I were to sell, I’d make sure I would leave it in good hands.” This time, however, there has been some form of a backlash, partly over the very idea of changing the club’s name, partly because of the “taking my ball home” attitude of the last comment, and partly for other reasons, and these have been enough to prompt a statement from Tan himself on the club’s official website this afternoon which reads as follows:
I can assure all supporters that we will not be changing our name from Cardiff City Football Club, a club I am very proud to be a part of. Our name is our identity and remains at our core. I would not want any of our supporters to be concerned that this change would be made, hoping that this personal commitment from myself removes any fears.
I believe the colour change is positive and will bring good tidings to Cardiff City Football Club. At this point of time, no decision has been made to change the club crest for the next season.
For the present day, all I would ask is that we all join together, continuing your excellent support at what is a critical juncture in our season. Our collective aim is to back Malky Mackay and his team as they work hard to bring us all success. Working together we can achieve great things in the name of Cardiff City Football Club.
But can Cardiff supporters rely on such promises? After an initial outcry concerning a change to the club’s colours in May of last year, a statement was released by the club chairman, Chen Tien Ghie, which stated the following:
We have no desire to cause offence or for people to think we have no respect for the club or its history as it would appear has been suggested in various quarters including by local assembly members. We would have hoped that the significant investment made to date would have already demonstrated our good faith in that regard. Indeed, we are disappointed that anybody would think the contrary. In the light of the vociferous opposition by a number of the fans to the proposals being considered as expressed directly to our local management and through various media and other outlets, we will not proceed with the proposed change of colour and logo and the team will continue to play in blue at home for the next season with the current badge.
A month later, however, the recolouring of Cardiff’s shirts was confirmed amid hysteria that the club would definitely collapse into administration unless Tan got everything that he wanted and, to quote a Cardiff supporter from one of the club’s forums at the time, “end up a feeder club for Merthyr Tydil [sic].” So, what exactly is to say that in, say, three months time, with giddiness at the prospect of a first season in the top division of English football for a little over half a century hanging heavy in the air, this apparent pledge won’t be back-tracked upon and shunted through as well? After all, there’s nothing to stop Tan from changing his mind on a whim, and historical precedent seems to confirm that consistency is hardly one of his strong points. Less than a year ago he said that, “There is no reason why any existing supporter needs to feel disenfranchised. This is and always will remain your club.” Earlier this week, however, he said that, “A few were upset but like in any business if we get 80% or 75% of the customers happy, with 20-25% not happy, that’s fine. If they don’t want to come to support our business, that’s fine.” Last May, his club stated that the rebrand wasn’t happening, and a month later precisely the opposite did happen. A few days ago, he was pointedly not refusing to rule out a change of the club’s name, and this afternoon he was.
All the time, meanwhile, the Cardiff fan-base continues to fracture, and this schism may well turn out to be the longest lasting legacy of Tan’s tinkering with the club. This season should be amongst the greatest in the history of Cardiff City Football Club, but bridges have been burnt already and the club itself has become something of a laughing stock amongst the supporters of other clubs. Perhaps, some have suggested, Cardiff City is already dead, that the history and heritage of the club has already been jettisoned in favour of marketing in the Far East and an apparent pot of gold at the end of the Premier League rainbow. No other club has had to undergo this sort of mutation in order to be successful, and it is tempting to see Tan as the “id” of the modern football club owner, the dark, inaccessible part of the personality of the sort of person, which knows no judgements of value, no good and evil, no morality, only money to be made from foreign markets and a global audience to parade his country in front of. The pro-red supporters may well celebrate winning the Championship in style at the the end of this season, but they can rest well and truly assured that there will be very, very few supporters of other clubs that will be jealous of them, considering everything.
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