Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughBolton Wanderers’ executives may have just made a Quick Quid for the club, but in the long term, their reputation may take a Pounding. - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Bolton Wanderers’ executives may have just made a Quick Quid for the club, but in the long term, their reputation may take a Pounding. - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Bolton Wanderers’ executives may have just made a Quick Quid for the club, but in the long term, their reputation may take a Pounding.

If the choice of business a football club chooses to emblazon on its shirts is any kind of moral barometer, then the directors at Bolton Wanderers have, this week, shown themselves to be completely devoid of integrity.

The club have signed a two year, £500,000 sponsorship deal with payday loan company ‘QuickQuid’. Of course, the heady days of having multi-national sports brands on the Wanderers’ club shirt are long gone, as proven with the previous two seasons’ advertising of a little-known Korean betting website. The downward spiral the club has endured ever since Sam Allardyce’s departure six years ago seems to have mirrored the drop in class of the official sponsors.

Do not assume that I am bothered by the social ‘status’ of a company that goes on the front of a football shirt, however. If, as the game has dictated in the past three decades, fans must put up with shameless advertising, then I see nothing wrong with large clubs advertising cheap, even ‘tacky’ brands.

Charlton Athletic once had a shirt partnership with ‘All:sports’, West Ham once had one with ‘XL Holidays’; both were budget brands in their respective sectors, and both went bust. But, in the ever gentrifying world of football there is actually something quite endearing about advertising being aimed towards the huge working-class fanbase the sport has. Every time I see Liverpool’s shirt, or Manchester United’s, I wonder how many fans who have followed those clubs all their lives actually know how ‘Standard Chartered’ or ‘AON’ earn their money. Well, one provides financial services to major corporations, the other deals in risk and insurance, and both pay £20m a season to have their logo printed on their respective clubs’ shirts.

So, for whom are they advertising? Neither Dave from Longsight nor John from Toxteth will be interested in the benefits of investing in the financial colossi promoting in conjunction with United or Liverpool; the motives of such massive organisations for associating themselves with world-known clubs are up in the stratosphere. They are targeting individuals or conglomerates with large sums of money who may have a passing knowledge of these super-clubs, not the average football supporter.

Now, Bolton Wanderers have announced their partnership with a business that do aim at the football-supporting masses: a loan company that offers quick, easy money in ‘ten minutes or less’, to almost anyone. Mike Dixon, of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, says of the ‘payday loan’ industry: “They’re making irresponsible loans to people who should not be getting (them).” Credit scores, proof of affordance – they are irrelevant to firms such as QuickQuid (a CAB study showed that almost 90% of 2000 loans between November and May did not require documental proof that they could be repaid), as it is much better for them to take on customers who cannot afford the repayments, and charge them higher and higher fees.

But of course, there’s nothing strictly bad about offering a service for people who need some extra money to tide them over until pay day. Imagine you asked your friend if you could borrow £20 for the next couple of days, and you bought them a £3 pint for their troubles, on top of the money you owed. Brilliant. That’s fair, and in concept, the payday loan is just like that. However, even though the interest rate on that is 15% (with a ‘representative APR’ much higher than the payday lenders), it doesn’t prove profitable enough for the lenders. So, they market towards people who have little income as it is, people who are desperate, people who may outweigh the potential problems of future debt with the problems of current debt.

Why do you think payday loan companies air adverts on daytime TV? Think about it, a large proportion of their potential catchment is likely to be at home during the day, watching Loose Women or The Jeremy Kyle Show. Long-term unemployment has been crippling the nation ever since global finance companies realised they had no money left five years ago, and, as bills continue to rise quickly while job opportunities rise slowly, the plight of people who cannot find work becomes more perilous, and promises of ‘quick, easy cash’ become ever more appealing.

Guess what? In Bolton, two of the three electoral wards that comprise the borough (South East and North East), unemployment is at 6% – much, much higher than the national average of 3.7%. Even the fairly affluent Bolton West constituency is close to the average at 3.4%. It’s not like the two more deprived wards are improving for employment either – they’re either stagnant, or in the case of the South East of the town, the job market is getting worse, and people in dire situations are becoming more despondent.

Only two weeks ago, 36 year old Boltonian man Antony Breeze committed suicide: spiralling debts of over £1600 owed to no fewer than three payday loan companies being attributed to his tragic death. Could the timing of this sponsorship deal be any more appalling?

Let it be known, before anyone raises the point of gambling chains or alcohol brands being advertised in football, that while it does not sit particularly well with my personal opinions, the dangers of gambling and alcohol are widely known. The most important difference between these sectors and the payday loan sector is that the latter is marketed almost exclusively at the despondent. Adults can enjoy alcohol or gambling, in moderation, but who really ever enjoys taking out a loan of any sort?

Even though I think their business practices are fundamentally reprehensible, my ire is not with QuickQuid, as they have every right to advertise wherever they wish. My ire is with the executives at Bolton Wanderers Football Club who allowed the company to advertise to their largely working-class fanbase. In an already largely deprived town (which sadly, Bolton is – I’ve lived there since birth), surely the club representing the district has a moral obligation to advertise services or products to its stakeholders that are not dependent on the defaulting of underprivileged people who may need short term loans.

Sheffield Wednesday recently turned down sponsorship from an unnamed payday loan company, as it would contravene the business model of what chairman Milan Mandaric calls a ‘community-focused football club’. Sadly, it appears that Phil Gartside and the other businessmen at the top of the Wanderers’ financial hierarchy have forgotten that the club they operate is at the heartbeat of the local community.

The executives’ (and therefore the club’s) allegiance with a company that is part of one of the most underhanded and devious sectors in the financial marketplace does not put the Bolton community at the forefront of their decisions.

I’ll be surprised if this boardroom decision is not met with a strong backlash from the Wanderers support.

No, not to that extent. This isn’t France.

Stef. H