At best, any new sponsorship deal is met with indifference by fans of the football club in question. Who cares whose name appears on the front of the shirts as long as they’re pouring enough money in to help strengthen the team for the new season?
Cynicism can also set in when you realise you have to buy new replica kits for the family but it’s rare for any such arrangement to lead to hostility. That’s what’s happening up at Elland Road however as a certain casino has fans literally seeing red.
If Leeds United fans were looking for a casino provider to back them ahead of the 2016-17 campaign then they wouldn’t have necessarily chosen 32Red. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the operator unless you have a particular aversion to a certain colour.
Colours mean a lot in football: they define a team to the extent that Liverpool are Red, Everton are Blue, Norwich City are Canary Yellow and Leeds – well they are anything but red. Red is Manchester United – bitter rivals from across the Pennines – and although the two teams are in different divisions these days, that bitterness is keenly felt among both sets of supporters.
You may think that Leeds fans would be happy to see anyone putting their name on the front of the kit and throwing in a load of money to back things up. In 2015-16, no-one came forward with funds so we had the rare site in the football league of a team taking to the field without a shirt sponsor. As the club have themselves stated, their aim is to get back into the Premier League and battle it out with the best teams in the country.
“We are delighted to announce a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with 32Red PLC, the UK’s premier online casino entertainment brand,” said Executive Director Paul Bell on Leeds’ official website when the contract was announced.
“We look forward to building a strong relationship between our two brands both on and off the field as we seek to return to the Premier League.”
But the news wasn’t met with the warm reception that the club may have been expecting.
‘Better Dead than Red’ was a typical reaction on social media from Leeds supporters who were less than pleased with the club’s choice of sponsor while others declared that they would not be buying any replica shirts that displayed the 32Red name. Merchandising is a huge deal for clubs across the league spectrum so if this campaign were to escalate then this is one area where the supporters could make a difference if they were so inclined.
You could also argue that the fans should have better things to worry about. 15 years of turmoil doesn’t look to be coming to an end anytime soon with the club’s owner continuing his revolving door policy when it comes to managers.
It all shows just how deep feelings run when it comes to the colour on players’ shirts and there are precedents; both Everton and Spurs have seen their choice of sponsor criticised by supporters simply because of the intended colouring on the logo.
If Leeds were to finally get back among England’s elite then they may have cause to be thankful for 32Red’s input but for now, an uneasy compromise has been reached. For the 2016-17 campaign, the casino’s logo will be emblazoned across player shirts but it will only appear in blue!