I’m no fan of Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal but when sponsors like Adidas start putting pressure on the manager I have some sympathy for the dithering Dutchman – it sets a worrying precedent.
To reiterate, I genuinely think LVG’s useless. I wrote a pretty shitty piece a while ago stating my belief he simply had to go if United were ever to get back to anywhere near where they were under Alex Ferguson, to maintain the attacking traditions of the club etc.
But I am not the sponsor who provides them with their kit.
The sportswear company’s chief exec Herbert Hainer had this to say via Suddeutsche Zeitung, although actually it came from the BBC as you have to pay/register for the German site, and fuck that.
“We sell more jerseys than expected, the foreign share is 60%. We are satisfied, even if the actual way of playing of United is not exactly what we want to see.”
So let me get this straight Hainer, you’re selling more of your generic merch than you’d expected to but still deem it worthwhile to question the “way of playing”?
I have no issue with sponsors in sport, but their involvement should be purely commercial. For better or worse football is now a product and a capitalist enterprise, that genie popped out of the bottle a long time ago there’s no way back, but just because you’ve paid out to have them wear your shirts it shouldn’t mean you get to dictate tactics.
There are certain things sponsors can and maybe should use their voices for, morality issues for example. Tiger Woods lost a number of deals in the wake of his infidelity scandal, had Adidas chose to question whether it is right to employ a known prostitute user or a guy who had an affair with his brother’s wife I’m not sure I’d agree with them but I’d see why they were worried about that kind of association with their brand. To weigh in on the finer nuances of how the game is played however – is complete bullshit.
The German multinational corp do have a fairly questionable record on consistency. Horrendously named NFL outfit the Washington Redskins raised a pretty good point back in November when they blasted Adidas for backing an initiative to change high school sporting logos or mascots “from potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism“, while continuing to profit from professional teams that do exactly the same thing. This seems more than a little hypocritical to me, if you back a plan or ideology you should fully back it, not ignore it when it doesn’t make commercial sense. But that’s the problem with corporations, at the end of the day the priority is money, everything else comes in a very distant second.
What if a sports team they are associated with questioned, for example, their ethics? They’ve not got the best reputation when it comes to hiring workers in the poorer countries of the world, although then again they’ve not got the worst either. I don’t want to get into that too much as it’ll take me away from my main point but give ‘adidas labour standards’ a search and see what crops up. Like I say they’re not too bad but they could be better, how would they feel if United or any of the teams they’re involved with started to say they didn’t want to be associated with those practices?
Not particularly well is my guess.
So far Louis van Gaal has been able to stand firm in the face of criticism from fans, former players and the press, as well as the spectre of an out-of-work Jose Mourinho hovering around seemingly waiting for the Manchester United board to wield the axe. Executive vice president Ed Woodward clearly wants to give his appointment as long as possible to get things right but time is quickly running out for the ex-Ajax manager.
And money talks, meaning Hainer’s comments will certainly have been noted by the United hierarchy, given the £75million-a-season they’re pumping in. Whether they have any impact on the eventual outcome I’m not so sure though, but that’s simply because I feel LVG is already on borrowed time.
The comments from the very top at Adidas raise concerns that transcend Manchester United, the Premier League and football in general. Sponsors are here to stay but if they start trying to influence athletic matters – and publicly – you have to worry where that could lead; these people are businessmen and money makers, not people who are driven by a love of football or any other sport, and ultimately that is where the concern lies for the genuine fan.
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