Sevco Fans In New Civil War Over Shirts Going On Sale

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Yesterday’s news about Puma and Sports Direct getting ready to sell Sevco shirts has caused some major ructions amongst their supporters.

It seems there’s a new civil war brewing, with official fan groups urging a continuing boycott whilst individual supporters are determined that they’re going to buy shirts come what may.

I have sympathy with both sides here, I have to say. I understand the boycott, sort of, at least in principle. As a practical matter it’s a non-starter and might even be damaging because Ashley has his iron clad clause committing the club to buying any unsold stock, but I do get why it looks like a good idea to some people.

Yet I also know that the “fan leaders” at Sevco aren’t idiots. They know, themselves, that the boycott does no good. They are endorsing it for two key reasons; first is that they want to stay in tight with the present board. In other words, they’re putting self interest in front of giving their fellow supporters good advice. The second reason is even more shocking. Some of them have a financial stake in the boycott, as quite a few folk are involved in their own wee ventures selling their own branded tat. Some have even abused charities to do so.

This is why I also have some sympathy with the fans who are saying “to Hell with being told what to do by these hypocrites and charlatans.” Many of these people have kids and kids want what they want, and what every kid wants at the start of a new season is a strip. These folk will buy the shirts regardless of who is selling them; they see the boardroom politics as being separate from them, and there’s nothing wrong with holding that view.

Football fans all get a using one way or another. If it’s not the clubs themselves it is unscrupulous sods like Ashley, or multinationals like Puma and Adidas and Nike hiking up prices, releasing a shirt every year (times three in most cases), knowing people will buy them regardless. Ashley was relying on the natural loyalty of football fans to the brand, and the natural human instinct to go with the crowd and keep up with the current trends.

Someone told me last night that shirt sales dropped by 80% last season; it sure didn’t look like it when you saw their fans in the stands. Besides, if that were true the invoice from Sports Direct, asking for the club to pay for unsold shirts, would have been far larger than the £350,000 that Phil mentioned in his article earlier today.

No, in point of fact I suspect that shirt sales last season held up very well and that they will be pretty good this season too. Expect to see a lot of folk out and about in their new Sevco shirts over the next couple of months. King is going to be humiliated by his own supporters when it comes right down to it; they aren’t listening, especially not to a guy many of them know has yet to put his own hands in his pockets and come up with the goods.

But a hardcore of fans will do whatever this guy says, and they see Ashley as the ultimate enemy and believe any person buying a shirt is a traitor doing damage to the club. Forget trying to convince these goons that it’s much more complicated than their simple minded way of looking at it suggests; these people are zealots and if they have to get in the faces of their fellow fans to make their point then they will. You only have to look at their forums to see that.

Ultimately, it’s King who is to blame for this. As some of their smarter fans have sussed, if he wanted to tear up this deal he would get his legal team on it and do it through the courts instead of simply, petulantly, tearing up contracts and pissing a whole lot of people off.

He’s the one who’s put the fans in this lousy position, because in spite of the good press he’s had and the spin in our media, that he in some way has bested Ashley, in fact he’s not moved Sports Direct one inch on the stuff that really matters. Ashley still has a 10% shareholding, and will seek an immediate injunction should King try to stop him using it when it counts. He still retains control of Rangers Retail Limited and they still have six years of their contract to run.

Ashley may have backed out of a couple of courtroom skirmishes, but the way he and Puma have raised the two fingers to King over this shows how strong their position is and how weak King has left himself and his club. For all his bluster, this is a disaster.

Many of the fans know this.

They’ll be buying the jerseys come what may.

That’s going to cause a few problems in the Ibrox stands.

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