We have frequently questioned the commercialism in sport and just how far some administrators are prepared to go in pushing the boundaries of what is good for a club financially and what is good for the club as a whole.
We are pleased to report that the fans of Swindon Town – the club this writer has supported since he was a boy – have spoken out and let the club know what is not acceptable.
Swindon Town had struck a sponsorship deal with the newspaper “The People” that they would wear a white strip in their FA Cup tie with Huddersfield Town rather than their traditional red.
The idea being that emblazoned on the front of the shirt in red would be the logo for the tabloid newspaper. This appearing as it does on their masthead; The club therefore sacrificing its image so that a sponsor could keep its.
To make matters worse, the new administrators failed to recall that it was The People newspaper which broke the story that Swindon Town had bet against a victory against Newcastle United in an away FA Cup fixture; the idea being if they lost they would recoup the cost of going to Newcastle, if they won the winnings from being in the next round would cover the costs. They lost! A story that lead to Swindon Town being hauled before the Football League later admitting to 36 charges of breaching league rules, 35 due to illegal payments made to players. The club having just won promotion to the then First Division for the first time, was relegated to the Third Division, although on appeal were re-instated to Division Two. The then chairman Brian Hillier was given a six-month prison sentence and chief accountant Vince Farrar was put on probation.
There is no doubt the club did wrong, there is also no doubt that the club was made a scapegoat, as Tottenham Hotspur in 1994 were found guilty of making more illegal payments to players than Swindon had and with greater sums of money involved were handed a 12 point deduction, a one year FA Cup ban, and a £600,000 fine. The club protested and the Cup ban and points deduction were quashed.
However football fans have long memories and “The People” would not find Swindon a great market for paper sales. The fans maybe could forgive the paper, which was ultimately doing its job, but the fans would not allow them to change the traditional strip for commercial purposes.
A petition was started and it was pleasing to hear that the club and the paper have now announced that the team will play in their traditional red shirts, white shorts and red socks. The People will still have their logo on the shirts.