About a year and a half later than it should have happened, all of the principal bodies representing Cardiff City supporters are finally uniting in a protest calling for the restoration of the club's traditional blue and bluebird emblem.
Cardiff City Supporters Club, Bluebirds Unite, Cardiff City Supporters Trust and the organisers of the club's two main Internet forums have all given their full backing to the protest march which takes place prior to the Liverpool game this Saturday.
One may, legitimately, ask "why the hell didn't you all pull out your collective fingers and get this organised in the summer of 2012?"
That was, of course, the summer that saw the club's controversial owner Vincent Tan swap Cardiff City's long established blue/bluebird identity for a red one with a matching red dragon as the club's new emblem.
Most Cardiff City fans were, understandably, less than enamoured by this development but promises of serious investment and a debt free club, coupled with some scurrilous "it's red or dead" propaganda from a locally based club director and a few high profile fans, meant that active opposition to the rebrand was effectively strangled at birth - almost literally. A protest group called 'Keep Cardiff Blue,' amidst angry and aggressive scenes, had its first public meeting disrupted by fellow City fans in favour of accepting the rebrand. Against this backdrop of aggression, intimidation and, frankly, apathy, meaningful opposition to Tan was almost non existent for the first twelve months following the changes.
Cardiff City swept to promotion in that first season after the rebrand and only towards the end of that campaign were the first strains of "we're Cardiff City, we'll always be blue" heard emanating from sections of the City support. With premier league football on the way, a victorious (red) open top bus tour, and an owner prepared to spend big in the transfer market, it was fair to say, at that stage, that most Cardiff fans were happy bunnies, or, maybe in some cases that should be happy dragons? Either way, aside from a small band of pro-blue dissenters, it was smiles all round.
One could be forgiven for thinking that genuine opposition was all but finished by that point. A group called Bluebirds Unite led by a redoubtable lady called Sian Branson soon put paid to that theory. The organisation, whose supporters rallied behind the slogan 'History, Identity, Pride,' staged a series of protest marches in the first half of this season. Unfortunately, with divisions in the fanbase continuing to grow and despite huge efforts and the very best of intentions, Bluebirds Unite were unable to gain sufficient numbers to force a rethink on Tan's part.
The best solution, as far as most us were concerned, was to see a more unified front from all of the main supporters representatives. What should have been a reasonably straight forward task has clearly proved to be anything but. Even well in advance of the divisive rebrand, Cardiff City fans have scarcely been a joined up bunch. Sam Hammam's period in charge at the club caused chasms within the supporter base. It's fair to say that there were plenty of Hammam 'believers,' but, paradoxically, there was a large proportion of fans that detested the very mention of the Lebanese businessman's name. To some, he was the man of the people; to others his full throttle embracing of the notorious hooligan culture at the club was several steps too far. By the end of his tenure, Hammam's messy, acrimonious split from the club, culminating in outrageous debt levels and frequent court appearances, did at least briefly unite the majority of fans against his kamikaze style of ownership.
There have been further examples of problematic splits amongst the fans that have proved difficult to heal when we really needed to stand together. When the Cardiff City Supporters Trust was started several years ago, it quickly faced an internal backlash from a number of influential fans. Set up on democratic principles, the trust and it's more pedestrian and methodical modus operandi was quickly dismissed by the same supporters as a 'lame duck' (or words to that effect...). Cardiff City fans were used to direct action, democracy would simply slow everything down... As a consequence, Cardiff's Trust has always lacked numbers and genuine influence.
So, why has the big unified protest suddenly become a reality?
The reasons are many and complex but, and as unscientific as it sounds, my personal belief is that Cardiff City fans have, cumulatively, just had enough. A cynic would say they've had enough because the South Wales club's season has gone down the toilet. Whilst they are not quite at the stage of needing snookers for the extra points required to stay up, relegation looks probable, rather than possible. Form on the pitch has, undoubtedly, been a factor in seeing fans 'turn.' Would a protest on this scale be taking place if Cardiff City were in the top half of the table? I don't think so.
To give City fans their dues, I think many supporters will join the protest next weekend because they've simply had enough of Vincent Tan. Failure to convert debt to equity - for many, this promise to make the club debt free, admittedly in exchange for losing a large chunk of the club's identity, was the major part of 'the deal.' As things stand, Mr Tan has continued to rack up debts at breakneck speed. The club's financial future looks anything but secure.
Aside from the financial issues, Cardiff City fans appear to be heartily sick of their club being turned into a circus at the hands of the Malaysian billionaire. This season has seen Tan dispense with the services, in an incredibly shoddy manner, of hugely popular and successful manager Malky Mackay, appoint a work experience kid as head of player recruitment, allegedly interfere in first team matters and issue (and swiftly retract) an illegal bonus offer to the players. Added to this have been numerous PR gaffs, including recently calling on fans to apologise for their disrespectful behaviour as well as lots more ill advised and clumsy episodes. For a successful and wealthy man, he appears to be incredibly poorly advised.
So, it seems that all of these factors, together with several City fans working quietly and tirelessly behind the scenes to pull all of the leading supporters representatives together has at last culminated in 'the big one.'
Whilst other protests have been well organised, they've failed to gain large enough numbers to demonstrate to Tan the weight of feeling behind a return of the club's traditional identity. This one, despite the officious call from supporters bodies for no banners, should have the pull to attract significant numbers of protestors.
What sort of impact it'll have on Vincent Tan, a man who recently described pro blue dissenters as a tiny but vocal minority, remains to be seen.