Chris Rees wrote an article recently, imploring the RFC for the team to ‘go clean’ in 2015. He included a photograph of Trent Captain and others wearing RFC jumpers with the Jeep logo missing. Rather than appearing ‘original’, the jumper appeared a little naked. We have become so used to seeing the jumper adorned (or besmirched) with advertisements that what is actually a kind of visual pollution, has become the norm, rather than the exception. Rees’s argument is convincing. Rees argues that the RFC, in order to win back some credibility after its appalling 2014 season (it was over by June), the Club should show that it is aware of its traditions and willing to give some substance to its forever repeated phrase, ‘like the Tigers of old’. The team of 2014 are not playing to win; not fighting and fighting until the end. They’re soft and indifferent. This is virtually the same team that played so well and captured the enthusiasm of many other teams’ supporters throughout 2013. This is a World Cup year, so there is plenty of other football to watch. But, no doubt many Tiger fans would still prefer to be enjoying their local team playing the local game.
Rees argues that the Club should remove the advertisements of Jeep and Bingle from the Team’s jumpers (front and back) and shorts. Hell, they’re probably on their socks too. Well, if they’re not, perhaps there is more advertising space. Given the Club’s history of ignoring its fans, it is unlikely that Rees’s calmly reasoned, logical argument will be given the time of day inside the (proudly impenetrable) four walls at RFC Headquarters. Perhaps an easier way of convincing the Club to re-consider the corporatisation of the RFC jumper is to first convince the players.
The primary problem with this though is that the players themselves already have seemingly direct individual relationships with the Club’s sponsor – Jeep. The players themselves drive Jeeps. For them to be seen in a Jeep furthers Jeep’s image as a sporty, macho and tough car. The late Tommy Hafey also drove one. He was a Tiger of Old – one of the men whose legend is central to the myth-making at Tigerland. Unlike the current team, however, Tommy was resilient, gutsy, and of great integrity. If he received a few easy bonuses late in his great life, well, he bloody well deserved them.
Hashim Amla, a South African cricketer, is one player to have stood up to his country’s sporting board and to have asked to wear a shirt that doesn’t bear the logo of a company he doesn’t believe in. Amla is no ordinary cricketer – arguably one of the best batsmen in the world. He has the statistics, reputation and respect of his peers to back this up. He is well-liked in his team and popular amongst his countrymen and cricket fans throughout the world. Why? He is non-fussed and he scores runs easily and plays in the spirit of the game. Because of his integrity, consistency and straightforwardness, the team’s management acquiesced: they let him wear a shirt without the Castle logo. A little earthquake; a small, but bold change.
During the 1990s, former basket-ball player and global icon, Michael Jordan was asked if he would endorse the campaign of Harvey Gantt to become Democratic senator. Jordan simply said, ‘republicans buy sneakers too’. The message was clear enough: Jordan didn’t want his line of Nike shoes to become ideologised. They were to remain neutral. He feared that his endorsement of Gantt would marginalise Republican voters. Perhaps, Republicans are smarter than he thinks and they are actually able to differentiate what is good for their feet and what (they think) is good for the nation. Perhaps they are not smarter than that. Jordan’s loyalty to Nike was such that, when accepting the Gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics he came up with the novel approach of draping himself in a US flag in order to cover up the Reebok logo on the official Team USA tracksuits. A bold nationalist statement was the best way to gazump the demands of corporatism. One doesn’t become a billionaire by accident, shrewdness is necessary.
And then there is the case of the Algerian national football team at this year’s World Cup. They returned home to a hero’s welcome and no doubt many great financial rewards and opportunities. They rode their bus through the centre of Algiers atop their bus covered in Algerian flags. In the middle though was also a Palestinian flag. The captain would later announce that the team was donating the money to a Palestinian charity. Why? “Because they need it more.” Sometimes such decisions can be made so easily and in an uncomplicated manner. The players no doubt would have been happy with their well-deserved bonus, but, no, they didn’t ‘need’ the money like those who live with daily limitations placed upon them in their efforts to live, to play, to work.
Richmond footballers are rewarded handsomely regardless of whether or not their performances are good, average or below par. The Club accepts money from a problematic sponsor such as Sports Bet. The Club’s main sponsor is Jeep – a macho, expensive and polluting vehicle. Some too might find such cars excessive in a time of environmental awareness, and well, to put it mildly ‘austerity’. I wonder what percentage of Tiger fans drive and can afford Jeeps. Call my work pathetic, but, I’d only have to translate 2,000 pages in order to ‘drive away’ with one of Jeep’s cars, oops, SUVs. I’d love to see my next work of translation to be published by Lontar Foundation with a huge logo on it: “JEEP: We love our Indonesian Literature as much as we Love the Tiges”.
At the same time, I wonder, does the Richmond Football Club have players making a stance in the manner of Hashim Amla who can reject the Club’s sponsorship or the entire Algerian football team who forego the payment of bonuses?. Or, does the Club only have players in the mould of Michael Jordan, who are only wanting to protect their financial interests? Come on Tiger players, don’t hold back.