On Thursday January 8th 2015, I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting at the Cardiff City Stadium to discuss the future of the football club.
The period leading up to that point was probably the lowest I have ever felt supporting Cardiff, as I struggled to muster much enthusiasm, let alone passion for the club. That meeting reinvigorated me. Everyone present spoke passionately about the club and the urgent need for a return to blue.
Walking up to the ground that night, you knew that a reversal of the rebrand was likely. Otherwise why bother getting everyone’s hopes up by arranging the meeting in the first place? By the end, you knew it was imminent.
A couple of days later, Cardiff were entertaining Fulham in blue after 947 days in red. The assumption was that it would prove a quick fix to flagging crowds, civil war on the terraces and widespread apathy. Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case, but it was a necessary measure if the club was to have a future.
The club embraced the return to blue as quickly and completely as they did the sudden change to red and it was no less awkward and uncomfortable. It immediately felt normal, but different and the rebrand remains something of a dirty secret. It’s not really talked about, but its presence continues to linger.
The only way I can think to describe the rebrand now is that it’s like an affair that we have decided to try and get past. However, despite our best intentions, it still lurks in the background.
Before Neil Warnock swooped in and made everything better, it was a case of when we got cross about something relating to the club, it felt a little bit more heated and spiteful than it would have been before. It inflected everything and the anger remained just underneath the surface.
For some at least. If I’ve learned nothing else from writing a book on the rebrand and speaking to a wide range of people on the subject, it’s that no two opinions are the same. Everyone has a different theory on why it happened and why it ended. Also, everyone has their own personal take on why they felt the way that they felt at the time. People interpreted the rebrand in their own personal ways.
I spoke to some supporters that decided to walk away almost immediately and have never looked back. Others that accepted the changes grudgingly and others that never batted an eyelid. My personal stance was that I was dead against it, but would not let it tarnish my bond with the club. I could not understand the lack of opposition, but I’m no longer as black and white about what happened. It was sudden, unprecedented and complicated. We were all unprepared and caught on the hop.
At the end of the day, a large proportion of modern football fans are now self-serving and care more about the team than the club. When you consider the cost of attending football games and the way supporters are often treated, that is hardly surprising. It’s a cake and eat it mentality. The uprising against the rebrand coincided with a downturn in results and performances. Chances are that if Cardiff had remained in the Premier League, it’s likely that they would still be playing in red too.
At the end of the day, the worst thing you can do is give football supporters reason to pause and think about why they support a particular football club in the first place. Frankly, it’s a bonkers way to spend your time and money. Especially when that club is actively demonstrating how little they value you.
Having written about the club for a number of years now, I’m well aware from the feedback I receive that there is still a lot of anger out there. I was also aware that I was opening myself up to a world of ill-feeling and grief by addressing the rebrand all over again, but a book on the subject needed to be written. It was a period in Cardiff’s history that needed to be documented.
I wanted to speak to Chris Wathan, Terry Phillips and Steve Tucker, those that were tasked with writings about such an emotive and divisive event. In many respects, this is the sort of incident you may wait your whole career to report on, but what you write under such circumstances also carries great importance, significance and influence, both personally and professionally.
I was fortunate enough to quiz Mark Hudson and Kevin McNaughton, to find out what it’s like to play in that sort of environment, under those circumstances. It was great to get more insight from Mike Roderick on the Keep Cardiff Blue movement and Sian Branson on Bluebirds Unite. Both felt strongly enough to do something about their opposition to the changes.
I could not and would not have written this book without the contributions of these people, plus Lord Kinnock, Jonny Owen, Annis Abraham, Carl Curtis and Ali Yassine, all of whom were generous with their time and have passionate views on what took place.
Ultimately, there were two primary reasons why I ultimately decided to write this book.
First and foremost because I wanted to shed light on the likes of Roderick, who sadly passed away soon after speaking to me, and Dave Sugarman; dyed in the wool, life-long supporters who were unwilling to accept the changes and severed their ties with the club. The rebrand cost the club a lot of their most loyal supporters and not all of them have returned. That is the real tragedy of this story.
Most importantly because this cannot be allowed to happen again, at Cardiff or any other club. This is a universal story and it can happen to anyone. Hopefully this book highlights the perils of your football club changing overnight. It’s not pretty. It left Cardiff a broken club that needed to heal and may never be quite the same again.