Having seen a lot of coverage in the press about the Football Association's decision to agree a sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines, I thought I'd chip in with my thoughts.
The main issue with the sponsorship deal, is that it would involve changing the name from the 'FA Cup,' to the 'Emirates FA Cup.'
The competition is the oldest knockout football competition in the world, and it's always been the 'FA Cup.' That's where the anti brigade have such a problem. Most of them are players or managers from well remembered Finals, and you can almost taste the nostalgia as they wax lyrical that the 144 years of history will be tossed aside by having to use this new name.
Now, while I can see the argument, and enjoyed the reminders of their stories, I'm not sure I agree. So what I thought I'd do is share my *own* favourite FA Cup story, before delving into my thoughts on the sponsorship...
Unfortunately I can't claim to be a player or manager from a famous final, but when I was growing up, in the run up to the final, both teams would stay in a hotel before the coach trip to Wembley stadium. It just so happened that there was a hotel almost at the end of my road, called the Selsdon Park Hotel, and most years one of the finalists would stay there.
In 1977, Manchester United were staying there, and since my brother was a fan, we wondered if we should go up there to see if we could see anything. We just wandered up during the week, and as we walked through the grounds unchallenged, we'd see the United players taking fitness runs.
On the day of the final, we went up to the hotel with our autograph books, to watch the team get on the coach. Then, bold as brass, we simply followed them onto the coach! We walked up and down saying hello and getting autographs - can you imagine that today!
In fact one of the players who signed our books, Lou Macari, is one of those against the sponsorship. Here's what I think...
The FA Cup wasn't sponsored at all last year, and that meant that the FA had to delve into their own funds. Although the Premier League is one of, if not *the* richest leagues in all of sport, never mind just football, it might seem that there should be enough money already, but although the Premier League clubs are all in the FA, the FA contains hundreds and hundreds of clubs, not just the Premier League, and the Premier League try to keep as much money as they can for themselves!
Hence the need for new sponsorship. Emirates Airlines have pulled out of sponsorship deals for the World Cup, citing worries over corruption allegations around FIFA, so they have sponsorship money available.
Let's not forget, the FA Cup has been sponsored before. In those deals, the FA insisted that the competition still be known as the 'FA Cup,' but 'in association with Budweiser,' to use the last sponsor of that type of deal.
Obviously Emirates wanted a name that tied their brand in a bit closer. If you ask me, you can look at the previous sponsorships to see why this new one is no problem.
Did anyone, apart from the contractually obliged FA and broadcasters, actually call it the 'FA Cup in association with Budweiser?' No, of course they didn't, everyone else just carried on calling it the 'FA Cup.'
No-one will call this new branding the 'Emirates Cup,' because there already *is* an Emirates Cup, a friendly tournament they put on. So, surely everyone will just carry on calling it, and you might be ahead of me on this one, the 'FA Cup!'
I'm pretty certain that's what will happen. I do see the argument that the amount of the deal, 30 million over 3 years, doesn't seem massive when clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United get that for their own shirt deals, but let's face it, the FA needed to get the sponsorship on board.
So, although in an ideal world the FA Cup would not need a sponsor, money talks in sport, as loud as it's ever done, so I think the Emirates deal is one that flies - just.
What do you think..?
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