As an Arsenal fan the importance of commercial viability in maintaining a successful football team has of course been rigorously drilled into me by the flagging PR machine of AFC. Yes Ivan, yes Arsene, I get it - financial sustainability and mercantile opulence can be celebrated like a trophy; forgive me though if I do not get the dates of our new Puma and Emirates sponsorship deals tattooed across my chest. The goal posts have been shifted; kit deals are as important as the players that wear them and elaborate intercontinental tours have replaced traditional European training camps, essentially any aspect of a club that can be altered in some way to make it more marketable to a global fan base is done so, regardless of tradition. There is no doubting the significance that marketing ploys and sponsorship deals have in generating the necessary wealth needed to compete at the highest level, but there has to be a line and last week Doncaster Rovers crossed it.
While many of the premier league teams are able to spend their summers abroad on polished multinational tours, capitalising on the lucrative emerging markets in football, it seems Championship teams have to be more creative in their quest to attract new fans with untapped wallets. Regardless, Doncaster's absurd idea of signing up Louis Tomlinson from One Direction is a heinous, untenable crime, one which in a just world the footballing gods would see fit to fervently punish with dubious last minute goal concessions, perpetual injuries to key players (except Louis, you've made your bed so lie in it) and the signing of Bendtner on a long term contract.
Without an up to date profile on football manager/FIFA I'm going to struggle to comment on Tomlinson's playing credentials but what I can say, and with some conviction, is that this is most definitely not a signing based on footballing ability. Even Arsene Wenger can see that and apparently he seldom sees anything. It seems that whilst teams have been out trying to rally the support of the various international markets in the Far East and beyond, Doncaster Rovers have opted to tap into a completely fresh market; prepubescent, die hard One Direction fangirls. What they lack in size though they make up for in fanatical passion and commitment to the cause, just look at the way they bombarded GQ with death threats when Harry Styles was inadvertently insulted - it was Football Factory all over again.
Despite hiding behind the facade that this is a charitable move designed solely to raise funds for Bluebell Wood, a Yorkshire Children's Hospice, you can't help but think that the charity was an afterthought in this bizarre transfer. Searching "Doncaster Rovers" on Twitter is evidence of just how much exposure this stunt has brought to the club (whether negative or positive), I came across a multitude of tweets in foreign languages where the only other word which made any sense to me whatsoever was "Louis". Maybe I did come across some genuine foreign Doncaster Rovers fans; I think it more likely their hearts lie with Louis and that they wouldn't even be able to tell you what country Doncaster was in (sorry Doncaster fans, I just never had you guys down as having a global fanbase).
Regardless of whether this was an honest charitable act or a predictable marketing ploy to raise the club's profile you have to ask where will the madness end? Hopefully this move is not the start of a sinister trend in football which will see the cast of Glee, Justin Beiber and Mickey Mouse invading our sport in a bid to capture the next generation of fans. The potential wealth generated through shirt sales, ticket sales and no doubt other merchandise scares me. Perhaps the penny pinching dream time of Ivan and Arsene will see the value in what Doncaster have done and sign up Lady Gaga on a free transfer; she has a global cult-like following and I'm guessing the majority of her fan base have little to no interest in the English Premier League (a sweeping generalisation I know, but realistically the two are chalk and cheese). It would open up a whole new world of merchandise as well with Arsenal branded lobster Tiarra's and replica kits made out of strips of beef fillet (and boots of rolled sirloin). Would signing Gaga really be any different to the Louis Tomlinson? Maybe I'm just being facetious; ultimately any charitable act is worthwhile, even if it has come at the cost of the club's dignity. I certainly don't see their fans embracing this move at all and we are a long way off them singing "One Way or Another" when Louis runs out at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Mind you the way Arsenal's transfer window is shaping up I'd take Blondie on a free right now.