Once again this week I had this lonesome chat after the club announced The Money Shop as its main sponsor for the next three years.
The company has sponsored the now Sir Jack Hayward Stand since 2009 and has stepped-up its deal by agreeing their name to be emblazoned on the front of the shirt.
Fans aren’t happy at the choice with the brand being slammed for ‘unethical practices’ and within minutes supporters had dragged up article after article of the firm being fined by regulators. But that wasn’t the end, as hours later a petition to scrap The Money Shop as sponsors was also launched and several Wolverhampton City Council councillors criticised Wolves’ move.
When the Twittersphere became abuzz with rumours of a press conference to reveal a new main sponsor, immediately jokes were made of who it could be. Doritos, Redrow, McDonald’s were just a few of the tongue-in-cheek suggestions from our fans but when the news broke of the true identity my heart sunk.
To have a Money Shop in Wolverhampton is a reflection of its demand for its services but to be worn by the heroes in old gold and black hits a raw nerve and feels, if I’m honest, cheap and tacky.
Wolves weren’t shy about it either and the lines selected by Jez Moxey to explain the move were predictable.
‘By 2019 The Money Shop and Wolves partnership would have flourished over ten years ‘ was one comment from the CEO, ‘They serve many people in the community’ was another ‘The Money Shop will be able to engage with Wolves fans’ that’s the problem Jez.
The announcement was calculated, before you reached Moxey’s comment you had to read through quotes from The Money Shop representatives giving mitigating circumstances as to why they are perfect for Wolves, ‘I have ensured that our corporate social responsibilities are at the heart of the decisions we make’, said Stuart Howard CEO of The Money Shop. I can imagine the average Wolves fan being swung by that line.
But in reality what really had me banging my head against the wall is yet again I’m struggling to understand the ethics and mindset behind the decision made at the club I’m supporting – a club which appears to be run by people who are out of touch with its supporters.
People will say the company’s sponsorship ‘has been around a stadium for years’ there’s an argument to be had there. But we know you can turn a blind eye to a billboard or two but to plaster a brand on a shirt that your team will wear and replicas that you or your children will own is taking it to a whole new level.
It is vital to remember that Wolverhampton is one of the most deprived cities in the UK. Like many, but worse than the majority, it has issues with poverty, education, alcohol abuse, drug abuse you name it.
They so easily lead to money problems and create a need for a quick fix loan, they are the formula for a perfect Money Shop customer.
As a result companies such as The Money Shop have thrived on people who in a time of desperation needed a short fix to make ends meet.
They have thrived on the very people who make up a large percentage of our city’s population who struggle to find cash to put on heating let alone pay out for a match ticket.
Wolves should be leading by example. They are the greatest ambassadors to this city, a city that has a self esteem problem. Wolves are the light that comes out of the darkness even when times are tough, because we know our city by our club.
They have an opportunity to represent our people, rich or poor – after all football crosses all classes. But this move suggests they are blind to the world outside Molineux and they can’t see the good through the daily interest rates.
For Wolves to jump so blatantly into bed with a company that has profited as a result of people in need, (again let’s not forget many of which live in Wolverhampton) is at best a worrying oversight and at worst a downright outrage.
It is my understanding that talks with the pay-day loan firm have been ongoing for more than six months, so make no illusions this wasn’t a rash decision by the board.
From next season our city’s club (OUR club they keep telling us) will run-out in front of thousands of fans around the country, (many who also have difficult backgrounds) week-in-week-out with ‘The Money Shop’ on the front. It is the sign of a club that is so far out of touch with its fanbase you have to fear if it will re-connect.
While that may sound a tad dramatic the rap sheet of Wolves’ public relations cock-ups in the last year shows no sign of improvement.
– Forgetting to invite fans to a pre-season trip to France.
– Selling Player of The Season Richard Stearman.
– The U-Turn over the sale of Benik Afobe.
– The utter shambles of the Sir Jack statue funding.
These are only in the last 12 months but there’s a deep concern about the view of our fans from inside the club. A view where Wolves are consistently misunderstanding its fanbase.
The Money Shop sponsorship is just another own goal from a club struggling to ignite interest from its supporters. From a club that is still mending bridges from the double relegation and from a club that appears to have run out of ideas to re-engage with a public frequently infuriated with the people running Wolverhampton Wanderers.