Monday 8 September ~
Have you heard about the new Manchester City energy drink? A week ago that sentence would have been little more than the lead-in for a weak school yard joke (punch line: it goes down easily but can leave a bitter taste), but a week after the Abu Dhabi royal family became involved in the club it has become a business plan. For it turns out that the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) didn’t buy City as a billionaire’s plaything but with the hope of making them “the Virgin of Asia and the world”.
According to today’s papers, what appealed most to ADUG about Manchester City was not their lovely sky blue shirts, proximity to Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter thrift stores or Richard Dunne, but the ideas of Garry Cook. Cook is the former Nike executive who was recruited to spread the City word by Thaksin Shinawatra this summer – top of his career CV is his work on the Nike Air Jordan brand that took basketball player Michael Jordan and turned him into one of the most popular trainers of the 1990s.
What so appealed to ADUG apparently was an 83-page document called A New Model for Partnership, outlining Cook’s vision of the future for football and City with a dystopian bleakness that would make Philip K Dick proud. In Cook’s view the Premier League will be reduced to ten to 14 teams with no promotion or relegation and City will expand their marketing with City cars, City branded phone cards, Red Bull energy drinks called City Powered, City Energy and City 24/7, City Eating restaurants, City credit cards and a string of Didi Hamann theme parks (NB one of these wasn’t in the document, just a suggestion I hope they take on).
This being Manchester City it is still difficult to imagine that this will ever happen; like a comedian trying to make it as a serious actor you can never really escape the feeling that they should really just be there to provide light relief. Which is, of course, the kind of 20th-century thinking that Cook’s branding exercise will beat out of me in coming years. However, beyond the 83 pages of speculation in A New Model for Partnership the only real evidence for the direction of the new Manchester City that we have to go on is a transfer policy based on signing the players that would most annoy their rivals for exorbitant fees. A tactic that doesn’t instantly paint a picture of a business-savvy 21st-century organisation, branded energy drinks or no branded energy drinks. Josh Widdicombe