The Cardiff Kit Controversy

Posted by John Devlin

The dust has settled somewhat on the biggest kit controversycardiff-h-12-13 of the summer – namely the decision of Cardiff City’s Malaysian owners to switch from the club’s traditional blue shirts (a colour they have worn since their formation in 1908) to red. The changeabout has come as part of a radical rebrand of the club and includes a new ‘Red Dragon’ badge replacing the team’s familiar blue bird crest that of course gave the club their nickname.

Its a radical decision that has, suprisingly, not found universal disapproval amongst the Cardiff fans. In fact many are behind the switch, their opinion no doubt sweetened by the massive investment Cardiff’s owners promise, an investment that will attempt to lift the side out of the Championship and clear their debts.

Clearly firm believers in the financial wallop of a strong brand the club’s owners chose red as the colour as it is believed to be lucky and powerful in Malyasia with the new red dragon badge, apparently, also an Asian symbol of good fortune. According to the club’s owners, this is all designed to celebrate the clubs’ Welsh nationality and to integrate the club firmly into Asian culture.

Its not the first time a club have completely overhauled their colours in the past few decades (e.g.Leeds, Doncaster, Leyton Orient and Crystal Palace – several times) but is one the first in recent years and it seems to have sent shock waves around the, thanks to the internet, increasingly kit savvy football fans.

There is some credence in what the club’s Malaysian owners say in that red has been proven to accompany the majority of the UK’s leading sides in the modern era but is that a good enough reason  to abolish over 100 years of history at the whim of the man holding the purse strings?

What worries me is that the tail is now firmly wagging the dog. Whereas many of the above mentioned colour changes were made no doubt to improve the clubs concerned’s fortunes few were spearheaded purely by a financial and marketing perspective with hard cash providing the sole reason for the change. It could be said that the club have sold their soul in order to become financially secure. In these difficult economic times can any football fan blame them? Is it just good business sense?

I still think its a real shame that the tradition and heritage of the Blue Birds has been discarded under the potentially false perception that success will follow the rebrand. If red is so powerful why doesn’t every side just play in the colour?! Tradition and identity are now being eroded at an increasingly fast pace in the football world. Shirt sponsors bring in valuable cash and don’t impinge TOO much on the club’s identity but a wholesale badge, colour and brand ethos chews it up and throws it away. All for the sake of supposedly making the club a stronger brand – especially to the far east.

Its a massive risk and one that could quite easily flop dramatically.

The biggest disappointment for me is the fact that the rebrand occurred less than a month after the club’s owners issued this statement on the 10th May denying earlier speculation that a rebrand was imminent:

“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.”

So what the hell happened?! Why have the club’s owners lied to their supporters? And why has this statement not been highlighted by the media once the rebrand was confirmed. This to me, is the more serious issue here. Club’s owners just toying with clubs and supporters purely for financial gain. Clearly since the above statement was released there was another change of mind and the new red and black kit and, to be honest, rather unfinished and rushed looking badge unveiled.

The fact that the club have not made a clear break and added insult to injury by announcing a blue away kit makes the whole situation farcical. I would suspect that the blue kit was intended to be the home design and the red the away but when the decision to go ahead with the colour change was finally made they simply switched the designs. The links to Wales, which I don’t believe was a major issue when the rebrand was first mooted, could be seen as being merely a lure to appease supporters.

A rebrand is much more  than simply changing colour – it involves massive personal emotional investment and commitment by everyone involved, in a football club’s case, this includes the fans. Perhaps the Cardiff faithful will 100% back the move or maybe we’ll see more blue replicas on the terraces than red.

Cardiff have set a dangerous precedent. If this kind of control over a club’s identity and heritage can be wielded by the owners on a whim how long will it be before more clubs make similar changes? And what next? What will stop club names being adapted to include their sponsors’ brand? Its happened with stadiums for several years now and could well happen to clubs sooner rather than later.


22 Responses to “The Cardiff Kit Controversy”

  1. Tony Says:

    As you stated its obvious the blue kit was made by Puma to be the home shirt .Kit designs are made long before the season ends.

    Will be interesting to see how many home shirts are in the crowd compared to the away one.

    Also how will Cardiff fans feel when Ipswich,Leicester,Millwall and others come to Cardiff wearing their normal blue shirts.

    I predict Cardiff back in blue by 2014 .

  2. Mark Jessop Says:

    If it starts a trend and Notts County decide to change their home kit will that leave Juventus with a bit of a quandry?

  3. Jay29ers Says:

    Yeah good call, Tony. I touched on a solution in the last couple of paragraphs of this http://bit.ly/KhSM4s

    The hope is surely that they’ll wear the Away kit for Home games against teams who ordinarily wear blue, forcing their opponents to change, as they would have had to do traditionally anyway. Remains to be seen if that will come to pass.

  4. EricGeneric Says:

    I very much doubt that will happen, Jay.

    Excellent article, John. I basically agree with every point you made. A pretty sad situation…

  5. Davidr1986 Says:

    I can’t believe that the owners just went ahead and done it after backtracking that’s one of the worst parts of it, if my club decided to ‘re-brand’ I think it would totally alienate such a large part of the support and our colour is who we are and stretches back our entire history and alludes to the very foundations of the club – started by a catholic church group who were all Irish born therefore we’ve always played in green and the club name literally translates from roman as ‘Irishmen’ so it would just wrong for us to be in a colour that the owner prefers and I imagine this is how many Cardiff fans must feel

  6. Denis Hurley Says:

    Hibs fan David? Nobody ever seems to acknowledge their Irish roots even though they’re older than Celtic!

    As a Cork City fan (oh go on, here’s a plug: http://www.corkcitykits.com), when the club changed from white/green to red in 1997 I felt alienated and didn’t really support the team with the same vigour until green returned in 2002.

  7. Ronan Smith Says:

    Hey Dennis, i lived in Cork in the mid-eighties (in Ballincollig) there was a great sports shop on the corner of Washington Street (‘Finns Corner’ I think it was called) great for GAA and ‘soccer’ shirts, haven’t been back for a while – is it still there??

  8. Rich Johnson Says:

    John raises a very interesting point and one I find quite fascinating. Several clubs have wholly rebranded in the not too distant past. My own team, CCFC (Cov that is) became the Sky blues 50 years ago, but the outcries seem to be so much more vociferous these days and it’s that which fascinates me.

    So much seems to be said about tradition (NB I’m not referring specifically to Cardiff here), yet in the ‘olden’ days, there didn’t seem to be so much fuss about preserving what had gone before. Feels almost ironic that we strive to preserve the past when that very past itself wasn’t that bothered about its own past…if you see what I mean.

    Note I’m not saying no-one cared in days gone by, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of outrage and I’m curious why. More interest in the game itself? A feeling of lack of control over ‘our’ clubs? A sense that, in this moneyed age, we must preserve what’s left of the souls of our clubs?

    And who’s to say that, in 50 years time, there won’t be another outrage when the ‘Red Dragons’ decide to rebrand to the ‘Golden Lions’ or some such?

    As a final point, Coventry tried to change the club crest several years ago and there was an outcry, again with tradition being cited…but the actual crest itself, despite being comprised of lots of symbols from the city’s history, only came about in the 80s, so was only around 20 years old at the time…exactly when does something start being traditional and sacrosanct?

    Anyway, enough rambling…as for the CCFC situation, I feel very sad that so many supporters are happy to have the whole identity of their club discarded for the sake of a few silver coins. Will that money still be there in 5, 10 years’ time? Possibly not. I can’t help but feel the impact of the rebrand will outlast the cash by a long time.

  9. Mark Jessop Says:

    When, under Don Revie, Leeds changed to all white in the early 60’s in recognition of the mighty Real Madrid I don’t think anyone was that bothered but if Leeds’ new owners (whoever and whenever they may be) decided to change back to our traditional Royal Blue and Gold i’m fairly sure there would be a public outcry.

    I think Rich makes a very valid point when he says we are trying to preserve a history that wasn’t that bothered about preserving itself!

  10. Davidr1986 Says:

    Your right Denis I am a hibee! We’ve had our very own mini ‘rebrand’ for the first time in about 80 years we’ll not have emerald green as first choice colour, this year we are going back to our original colour of bottle green which has been present in some form or another since 2007 however it’s taken over completely this year, another positive to go with your own kit preferences is that the home and away kits are completely interchangeable as the away is white with bottle green!

    Back on topic, people use examples of Leeds etc who changed colours 40 years ago, I think the notion of preserving history in footballing culture history has became such a big issue, again the best example I can use from personal knowledge is from my own club where they tried to ban flying of tricolours at Easter Road, and it’s only in the last 20 years where it’s became acceptable to associate ourselves with our irish roots an the reintroduction of the Irish harp etc back into the club badge. Likewise this can also be seen where for odd games here an there in 60/70s where Arsenal would wear plain red shirts or red shorts and it’s only been a recent thing where arsenal refuse to wear change shorts in order not to detract from the ‘Arsenal look’, in my eyes they’ve not had the ‘Arsenal look’ in years as it should be with red socks!

    However even though this desire to hold tradition may be a fairly modern thing, it doesn’t make it a bad thing, for example the most modern Hibs badge is superb and reflects the clubs roots in Ireland, Edinburgh and Leith where the late 80s badge previously was a hideous non-descript mess which looked like it belonged on the side of a beer bottle!

    So all in all I’m all for preserving our clubs past and upholding tradition even if it does mean we wouldnt be as commercially viable in Asia!

  11. Azzy Says:

    I’m a Cardiff fan, and let me tell you, I’m still seething with rage at the change, all because of Vincent Tan.

    This man should not be allowed anywhere near a football club. He has ripped the heart and soul out of our football club with an act of blackmail, threatening to take his ball home if our kits weren’t changed to his favourite colour, with the rest of the board pandering to it.

    I was a season ticket holder up until last season and hadn’t renewed it because I wasn’t sure if I’d have a job in the summer (since been allayed), but I’m not renewing it now, nor will buy anything associated with the club until the blue is restored. Many other fans are voting with their feet.

    This is a lesson to everyone else that foreign investors will do anything to alienate fans and destroy history all for their own personal gain.

  12. Scott Grimwood Says:

    Least you know what your owner looks like. Most of us tractor boys haven’t a clue what Marcus Evans looks like.

  13. Steve gamlin Says:

    John let’s hope we don’t see club names become commercial, I remember watching the horse of he year show as a kid In the 70s, with I think Harvey Smith riding Sanyo Music Centre, totally ridculous!

  14. Spiderbait Says:

    On the Coventry rebrand, Jimmy Hill actually tried to change the name of the team to Coventry Talbot, to go with the truly awful talbot kit they wore at non televised games. Plus, Coventry City actually played in Sky Blue in their early days (by the way, check out that navy and pink kit…..nice!)
    http://historicalkits.co.uk/Coventry_City/Coventry_City.htm

    So that was not actually really that big a change. For Arsenal, its Red shirts with white sleeves and shorts, and they actually played in navy socks when they adopted that kit.

    As for Cardiff, the whole situation stinks. Cardiff, when the team was called Riverside, wore a yellow and brown kit, but changed to blue when they renamed the club.

    http://historicalkits.co.uk/Cardiff_City/Cardiff_City.htm

    Cardiff have in the Modern Era, before the takeover, actually had some pretty patriotic change kits, and Black and Yellow (from the Saint Davids flag) was becoming the clubs traditional change colours and was becoming as associated with the club almost as much as blue, remember the FA Cup run when they wore their change kit for most of the competition?

  15. Jon Says:

    Cardiff had a red change kit in the past, one time with green time to mirror the national team kit, but its not just the change that stinks, the whole whimsical reasoning behind it and the announcement of the change not happening and then stabbing the fans in the back by going ahead was the worst part.

    Anyway as for Steve gamlin’s comment about club names, its already happened in a number of countries for sponsorship reasons, including in Wales – Total Network Solutions FC, Flexsys/NEWI Cefn Druids, Technocover Welshpool, to name but three – the latter two clubs have since gone back to their traditional names.

    The most obvious examples were in Austria, notably Austria Salzburg getting bought by Red Bull, who rebranded the club and changed the colours from white and violet to the corporate white and red (with blue and yellow secondary).

  16. Jon Says:

    That first comment was meant to say “green trim” by the way…. this is what happens when you type before you think!

  17. Denis Hurley Says:

    Total Network Solutions have changed to a more normal name too, John – the fact that The New Saints uses the same initials is just coincidence!

  18. Denis Hurley Says:

    Though further reading has informed me that Total Network Solutions was bought by British Telecom

  19. Scott Grimwood Says:

    who became Intercabletel?. i saw then play Celtic in 1997. another team who changed name. what are they called now?.

  20. Denis Hurley Says:

    Reverted to Inter Cardiff, in Div 3 now though

  21. Azzy Says:

    Even the bookies are predicting the red kit will not last long, some giving odds as low as 4-1. This £100m investment is just a false sweetner from Tan just so some gullible fans would let him off for the colour change. This change has caused “civil” war amongst our fans, the true Bluebirds who want to keep the blue, and the turncoats who have sold their souls because they’ve fallen for the con-trick. I’d rather we play in blue wearing the Bluebird badge and in a full house and be stuck in the Championship or lower reaches of the Football league than be wearing a false red kit, awful badge and soulless stadium and in the Premier League.

    I know other Welsh clubs have had rebrands (like TNS) or name changes (like TNS), but in their situation they need all the money they can get which gets thrown at them due to the LOW being badly managed and marketed by the FAW, and lack of media exposure (only S4C show the occasional match on TV) and the clubs don’t get much from TV deals.

  22. Azzy Says:

    Incase you’re wondering about Inter Cardiff, they are now known as UWIC Inter Cardiff, after they merged with the football club of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, in 2000 after CableTel pulled the plug, and got relegated from the Premier division. They have fallen on hard times and are now in the fourth tier of Welsh football.

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