Wednesday, August 15, 2007


From a game to a brand

I’m Arsenal. I’ve been Arsenal since forever. In fact I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t arsenal. There is no single definable moment when I staggered from the dark to the lights of Highbury. It seems to have always been in my subconscious. Maybe it’s geography; I spent some formative years a short bus ride away. Maybe parental influence; my old man is London. Or maybe it was given to me by a higher being. If you talk to sad old buggers my age most will say the same. Im Arsenal because … I am.

Without morning till night sports coverage we were left in the dark about pretty much everything but then we knew no other way. There’d be some coverage in the papers at the weekend and a couple of highlights programmes and maybe we’d buy one of the football weekly magazines but that was it. Football was a game and we were umbillically tied to our club in a way we never questioned or sought to understand. You no more wanted to change your club than you wanted to visit the dentist. We’d go to the game, buy a programme, maybe a scarf and that was it. We were Arsenal through and through but we had little to show we were. Apart from our soul.

Without blanket coverage most people my age fell into football the same way. It was hereditary or it was a shared experience with mates. The club was the focus; once in a while we’d get a hero like Charlie George but he was a hero because we wanted him to be. He wasn’t the creation of an agent or a packaging company. He was a hero because he was us and he was living our dream. And he liked to tell refs to fuck off.

Today in our neatly packaged world it’s different isn’t it? Kids grow up on a diet of Sky Sports News where David Beckham sneezes and the world knows. People have become familiar with players and through this familiarity they have chosen to follow their club. It’s almost like people follow a brand first and foremost, then the loyalty and addictive kicks in. Kids here in Asia grew up with Michael Owen and are still mad Liverpool fans. The Gallowgate hasn’t replaced The Kop overnight in the dreams of millions. They slowly absorb the culture of football that says the club is bigger than the player. They still look for a hero because this is the age of the cult but they start to understand what those of us who came to a football club other ways have known all along. A team is for life.

I’ve always felt that the same clubs dividing the spoils season in, season out would ultimately have a negative impact on football, that familiarity would soon breed contempt. This is in fact a frequent thought over the last couple of seasons. When we win it becomes irrelevant! Now I’m not so sure. Look at other sports. Golf seems to be doing well even though Tiger Woods turns up and everyone goes home. Federer’s Wimbledon monopoly hasn’t stopped people queuing to get wet every summer and how many people got interested in Formula 1 because of Michael Schumacher? Maybe the familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. What it breeds is comfort with a brand, or a person or a team, like it does in the market place. From following the German maybe people start to realize that while he wins every race the sport has value on its own. Schumacher moves on but the interest remains, maybe in the car manufacturer, maybe the sponsors. Likewise football. Cantona moved on from Old Trafford and the stadium didn’t disappear in a flood of tears. Someone else took his place and the club went on being successful and generating more fans. Fans maybe attracted initially by success or a player become fans for life. Which is all well and good but it does make getting tickets difficult for people like me as the recent generations have usurped my place on the terraces. Or the stands...

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?