Vincent Tan speaks!

01 March 2013 09:07
Nearly three years after he first became officially involved with the club, I, and I would guess thousands of other Cardiff City fans, finally heard Vincent Tan speak yesterday when he gave an interview for BBC Wales' Sport Wales programme.

Like any good publicist, the Beeb chose to run with the most controversial aspect of what the club’s largest investor had to say and centred on Mr Tan’s apparent open mindedness towards a change of name for the club in their website piece publicising the interview. Hardly surprisingly, this provoked a furore amongst supporters and in the media and it was hardly a surprise when the club’s official site issued a “clarification” by Mr Tan that there would not be a name change.

Now it needs to be remembered that the club went back on it’s original intention to change to red last May, only to do an about turn a few weeks later and announce that the change of kit would be taking place after all, so, something similar should not be ruled out completely this time, but, I have to admit that Mr Tan’s comments on the club’s website do have an air of finality (for now!) about them and I fully expect the club to be competing in 2013/14 under the name Cardiff City.

I chose not to comment on what Vincent Tan was reported as having said until I had watched his interview – of course, this meant that I watched it knowing that some of what was said was now out of date (the BBC acknowledged this as well in their voiceover) and so, what did I think of what was said? Not a great deal really, because there wasn’t really much said that was new – the questions that I wanted answered like “what were the business motives for dropping the colour blue?” and “how is Cardiff City benefiting financially from the change of club colours” were never asked (not blaming the interviewer there, he was probably given a list of topics he could and could not ask Mr Tan about) and, instead, we got a lot of stuff we knew already.

For example, we already knew that the “re-branding” was designed primarily with the Malaysian/Chinese market in mind, but, significantly, apart from the man himself and few Tan lackeys, none of the Malaysians interviewed seemed to think that Cardiff City, playing in red or blue or in the Championship or Premiership, would have a significant impact on the public psyche in that country anytime soon.

There were some indications as to how Vincent Tan thinks though. By way of example, using my definition of the term, he just “doesn’t get” football – to be fair, he more or less admitted this by saying that his approach was very much business based. Also, his business orientated approach showed itself when he said he was happy enough to lose the custom of 25% of the club’s support if the rest stayed with him and, hardly surprisingly he pointed to the “sea or red” he looked out on at the last home game with Brighton as proof that this was, indeed, happening. There was also a dismissive attitude towards the hundred years plus of the blue kit and the “Bluebird brand” as he asked what success had this combination achieved apart from an FA Cup win nearly ninety years?

This photo by Jon Candy has been used by some to demonstrate the “overwhelming” majority of supporters who wore the free red scarves given out at our last home match. I’m ashamed to admit I counted how many were wearing the scarves they’d just been given in this photo and found it was just under 60% out of the 270 or so pictured. That’s quite an impressive figure, but some way short of the sort of numbers Vincent Tan claims are for his changes – Mr Tan turned our last home match into a kind of referendum on the re-branding, so, from now on, how about if all supporters who would prefer us to play in blue wear something in that colour to games?

I found this very interesting, because Vincent Tan had defined his parameters on a couple of very important matters. To deal with the hundred years of failure claim first, it appears that our major shareholder does not see Cardiff City’s appearances in the Final of both of the largest domestic cup competitions within the last five years as a success, nor does he think the blue/Bluebirds brand succeeded when they reached the Semi Finals once and the Quarter Finals twice of a major European club competition in the 60′s and 70′s. Vincent Tan’s re-branded reds are, probably, going to be promoted to the Premiership sometime in the next eight or nine weeks, so will that be a success under his terms? Well, hardly when you consider that blue/Bluebirds were promoted to the top flight three times and those feats appear to be seen as part of the century and more of failure as he sees it. Therefore, I can only conclude that Vincent Tan defines success, on the field anyway, for his reds as winning trophies alone – nothing else is good enough.

As for the proportion of the fanbase he can keep onside, Vincent Tan the businessman would surely have to concede that if the change to red was the success story that he claims that thousands of red scarves worn at the Brighton match showed it to be, then shouldn’t there have been a similar sea of red at every home match this season? He surely has to acknowledge that the sea of red (which, incidentally, was nowhere near as large as the 90%+ claimed by some) at our last home match was, to a large extent, down to the fact that the vast majority of the scarves being worn had been given away free to supporters as they entered the ground.

So, what can supporters do from now on if they want to show that Mr Tan’s version of events does not represent the whole story and that a large majority of them do not want us playing in red? There’s always the option of boycotting games – I won’t be doing that though while the changes are limited to us playing in red and, as will probably happen next season, we lose the Bluebird. It would appear that, in terms of the colour of our kit at least, most people feel the same way as I do – the numbers boycotting are not great, but they might just have had some sort of impact on Vincent Tan’s thinking when our gates were barely passing 20,000 at times in the autumn. However, since Boxing Day when the people who bought half season tickets have been added in, gates have consistently been at a higher level than in 2011/12 – those who boycotted this season are not being missed now.

The likely loss of the Bluebird will, almost certainly, result in  more current season ticket holders boycotting next season even if we are in the Premiership, but let’s not forget that there is already a waiting list of people ready to take over from them if that happens – maybe the numbers who boycott might turn out to be more than I suspect there will be, but I doubt it and, if the changes are limited to the current ones plus a new badge which does not include a Bluebird, then it’s hard to see any subsequent boycott effecting Vincent Tan’s thinking.

On the other hand, those red scarves weren’t given away on a whim and I can’t help thinking that Mr Tan had been disappointed with the sea of mostly black, grey, blue and red he had been looking out at in our first fifteen home league matches this season. Did he see those not wearing red as not being supportive of his re-branding? I don’t know about that, but he could well have thought that there weren’t enough who were showing their allegiance to him. I’m going to keep on assuming that this was the case and I’ll continue to make my feelings clear by wearing blue to games. I would argue that enough people wearing blue to games is the best way to record that you do not support the re-branding because our largest shareholder gets to see this and there are indications that he doesn’t appreciate it.

Source: Cardiff City Online