I don’t usually pay much attention to advertising – even though I’ve provided the voice-over in a radio advertising campaign on Beacon, BRMB (both now rebranded Free Radio), WABC and Signal (okay, I was the producer, but it still counts – I’m available for hire as a voice artist!).
But I do glance occasionally at the type of people advertising on my Facebook wall. My usual reaction is indifference, interrupted by sporadic feelings of “how on earth did this scamster get approved by Facebook” (answer: Facebook don’t approve ads. You pay your money and you take your chances).
But this evening my reaction turned to annoyance when I saw, under the heading “Samsung Football“, the text “Samsung and Chelsea FC are running free coaching in Dudley for 6-13 yr olds. Sign up!”
Why should this annoy me?
Well, for a start, I think we have regional football teams in this country for a reason. It’s bad enough that too many arm-chair supporters in the Black Country and elsewhere will support Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal because they once watched them play a match on the telly. It’s even worse when they fork out silly-money for a replica shirt so that some very over-paid sportsman can get even more money. But we can’t do anything about people’s personal tastes.
But clubs should not be able to market themselves outside their conurbation. Yes, I understand that football is a global business. And, yes, you will see Barcelona, Real Madrid and even Borussia Dortmund replica tops around the UK. And, yes, Manchester United has a club shop in down-town Kuala Lumpur (and, presumably, elsewhere in Asia – I’ve only seen the one in Kuala Lumpur. And, yes, Manchester United has a tie-in with “Air-Asia”, the “official budget airline of Manchester United”, according to the large advertising display at KL airport the last time I was there.
BUt while all that is true, football at its heart is also a grass-roots game built up in regional leagues leading onto the Conference and the lower echelons of the Football League.
Dudley doesn’t have a professional football league team. But it does have plenty of non-league outfits competing for fans AND, competing for players – including youth players. And just across the borough boundary you’ve got West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and, in Walsall, the Pride of the Midlands, the Super Saddlers.
It is bad enough that these clubs have to compete with the big-time-charlies because of the balance of television and newspaper coverage. It is even worse that a club like Chelsea feels it appropriately to trespass well outside its west-London home to market itself to potential fans and players in the Black Country.
To borrow a Black Country phrase: Go play up your own end, Mr Abramovich!