Brand-happy City dish out the blues

DECADES spent in the shadows of a two-club town have afforded Manchester City fans an endearingly dour sort of optimism, so when I asked a bitter blue of my acquaintance whether their 2008 takeover would alter the way the club are perceived, he could state with some confidence: “Nah, not City.”

Back then, he wasn’t to know that over half a billion pounds of Sheikh Mansour’s money would go on what Chief Executive Garry Cook calls a “project”. But while hundreds of millions in transfer fees have enhanced their standing on the field and millions more have made City look slicker off it, more modest sums have allowed them to completely alter the face of football elsewhere.

In the Europa League last night, City prolonged Red Bull Salzburg’s ongoing failure to buy success beyond Austria’s borders. It’s five years since Red Bull acquired and adulterated the ailing Bundesliga side Austria Salzburg; rebadging and renaming the club in line with its brand-leading energy drink.

Hyde FC's Ewen Fields - or is it Manchester City'sBut just last summer, Manchester City were involved in the transformation of hard-up Hyde United from a club with not only “United” in its name but red shirts, to one without the offending suffix and colours. All in “celebration of our 125 year anniversary” according to Hyde FC, but the club soon unveiled white and blue strips bearing the sponsor City In The Community, which certainly underlined the initiative’s claim to make “a huge difference to the lives of those around us”

The kindest thing there is to say about this is that the manipulation of Hyde United has slightly more to do with football than Red Bull’s of Salzburg. Hyde FC’s Ewen Fields received more than just a lick of sky blue paint before City’s reserves made themselves at home, but in a move indecipherable from audacity or stupidity, they too have been retitled as Manchester City Elite Development Squad.

City fans had no more to do with this nonsense than those of the former Hyde United, but the non-league club’s dire straits, just as in Salzburg, put them in the path of an irresistible cash whirlwind.

Hyde badges old and newGarry Cook isn’t a football man but the former Nike executive understands brands, and City’s foray into Hyde illustrates the complexity of a supporter’s relationship with their club’s brand. It’s a word that evokes consumer choice, but as a fan there is no other club for us so surely we must be more than merely consumers of a brand. Therefore there is no choice, so clubs must be more than brands and fans more than consumers.

However, brought up on tales of past success and derring-do, good times are what fans’ hearts desire and don’t the brand-minded know it. That’s why decades of tradition can be warped or slaughtered in subservience to other, bigger, brands and they still turn up in Hyde, Milton Keynes, Salzburg, New York and Leipzig to watch the resultant footballing Frankenstein’s monsters.

“When the real is no longer what it was,” observed Jean Baudrillard, “nostalgia assumes its full meaning.” In Wimbledon and Salzburg (I hear there’s even a phoenix team in Manchester) there are indeed reminders that so often branding sells football fans short. There we’ll find the inspiration that it’s history and tradition that invigorates communities; that fans are not consumers; and that football clubs underestimate the power we wield at their peril.

10 Responses to “Brand-happy City dish out the blues”

  1. i agree with the sentiments you express to a degree but seeing as how city ‘saved’ hyde from going under i think a certain amount of licence is allowed after all it has become the home of city reserves or eds yes yes i know.and as for brands well you can thank man united plc for that little bit of joy.And its not as if you were forced to change your name when your club left the city limits even though you probably should have done in fairness to your fans.

  2. What utter drivel.
    What is the point of this article?…
    The EDS are the reserves…or the young reserves developing footballers.
    Hyde FC were Hyde FC before we got involved..they had already taken the name of Uni*ed out of their club name.
    MCFC have shook up the club in the past 18 months since the takeover, for the better.
    They have improved the ground and the facilities for fans, invested in players, training facilities, the local community and local charitys and those wherever they go (ie Spanish Harlem in NYC)
    Whereas Manchester (Not in) Unit*d cahrge their fans to watch a game whether they can even attend it or not, nice club!..They also stopped charities collecting at OT..Nice club.
    They took 50 years to compensate their own players involved in the Munich disaster…and then put the onus on their own fans to raise the money by paying to watch a game…which they saught sponsorship from AIG for…shocking.
    Shall we go on?

  3. Manyooo also took the FC off their badge years ago., no longer s Football Club, just a brand. One eyed anti-City drivel.

  4. Jenks – after 91 years, Hyde lost their “United” just 5 days before City announced their involvement. Coincidence?

  5. italias7482 – Yes, City “saved” Hyde, just as Red Bull “saved” Salzburg. Red didn’t suit City’s brand, just as violet didn’t suit Red Bull’s. I’ve seen Hyde’s absorption into City referred to a “necessary evil”, but it’s only necessary at City’s insistence.

  6. By the way, is it a City thing to assume that criticism comes from United quarters?! You’re sadly mistaken if so, but thanks for your comments.

  7. I take it the author of this blog is a Leeds fan, (even if his blog smells of the vitriol of the other United), and it seems to me he is all bitter and twisted that his teams spell of spending vast sums of money ended spectacular failure. Either that or he is yet another closet Rag who is obsessed with the goings on at Eastlands and cannot believe City are becoming a force to be reckoned with whilst also being at the heart of the community. Isn’t this the part where the club distanced itself from the fan, become a PLC and brought out about five shirts a season. Be you Leeds or nited it is you who is the bitter one.

  8. Vitriol? I have friends who are City fans (not my best friends, obviously) and I thought I was rather kind to them. It’s the likes of Bates, Mateschitz, and Cook with his “A New Model for Partnership in Football” that get my goat.

  9. so when I asked a bitter blue!!

    your a joker of a journalist mate why don’t you go ask a scum fan about his club or better still go ask a United FC fan.

    Noisy neighbors, Moneybags city and bitter blue!
    it would appear by your article that you are so far stuck up fergie you cant get out!

    If this is how it feels to be bitter then i am loving it!


  10. Apologies for the delay in replying to this post, it takes me longer to get through all the blogs and news articles now we city fans are at the top of the table.
    The response of your bitter blue pal is possibly evidenced here by the responses above. Yes we are still bitter and clearly we’ll stay the same for a long time to come and if you comment on us in less than a positive way we feel the need to comment, unfairly, on your ability as a journo.
    Unfortunately, your facts are correct but maybe your opinion is slightly askew.
    I simply have to point out the recent support of a previous player with the red and black scarves, the excellent £5 tickets for European games and city fans aswell as the web team embracing the player ‘Alan’ as examples of how city fans and the club perceive themselves.
    How you and everyone else perceives us is non of our concern and it never has been, see we do stay the same no matter what our league position.
    Next time you converse with your bitter blue I encourage you to buy the round in order to celebrate our wonderful success.
    Mine’s a brandy!

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