Yesterday, Bolton Wanderers confirmed that the club's primary sponsor for the next two seasons would be payday loan company QuickQuid. The response has been nothing short of vitriolic and the backlash is palpable. Petitions have been started and a protest is apparently planned. The outcries from the fans are loud and the media have commented freely.
In short, the reception from football fans, those that are Bolton supporters and those that are not, has not been anywhere near positive.
A petition on Change.org has, at the time of writing, 2,000 signatures and is quickly picking up steam. The comments, a few selected below, on the petition make it absolutely clear how a large portion of the fanbase feels.
"Happy and proud to wear the club badge, but no way would I advertise loan sharks who make money out of the poorest people in society. Those who buy a replica kit will be paying for the 'privilege' of advertising these scumbags."
"I refuse to show support for loansharks. I will refuse to buy any BWFC product with their brand on it. I encourage others to adopt the same attitude. Looks like I will be wearing vintage kits for the next couple of years."
"What a disgraceful decision. I am ashamed and angered that the directors think that it is right to support such an evil organisation which preys on the less fortunate. Perhaps the players could have the guts to refuse to wear the shirt."
While others reacted rather harshly to the news:
For my once proud club to sink to the level where we accept money from a bunch of parasites like this is beyond belief. I'd sooner see the club go under.
It isn't just fans voicing their concerns though, as a number of MPs have stood up. Sports Direct News quoted Bolton West MP Julie Hilling, who said:
"It is a very sad day for Bolton Wanderers, Bolton and the wider community. I'm very disappointed. It legitimises payday lenders. It encourages people to go to these companies."
The Purple Property Shop, another sponsor of the club, publicly stated on their Facebook page that their deal with Bolton had been cut short due to the club's QuickQuid decision.
It is with great sadness that The Purple Property Shop has decided to end its business relationship with Bolton Wanderers Football Club, following Bolton Wanderers' decision to accept sponsorship from Quick Quid (pay day loan company). We believe that a football club should support its community and promoting extortionate lending is at odds with this philosophy.
At the time of writing, that post had 280 likes and 81 shares.
The question that has to be asked is if the public outcry is worth the £500,000 (over two years) that Bolton are set to receive from QuickQuid. The fact of the matter is that Bolton Wanderers are in debt, albeit not to the banks, and the money coming in from play in the Championship is paltry at best. Those funds have to come in from somewhere along with cuts in other places. The Trotters have made drastic cuts on their wage bill already but those savings are not just coming from playing staff.
What if that £500,000 saved jobs around the Reebok Stadium for the people that aren't making £10,000+ per week. What if Bolton Wanderers were not handed comparable offer from any other parties or an offer that was nowhere near close to what the Trotters needed to be competitive? These are questions that must be asked.
Then, there is the question of clubs in comparable positions to Bolton. Just a few weeks ago, Sheffield Wednesday publicly announced that they had turned QuickQuid's sponsorship offer down with Club chairman Milan Mandaric telling The Independent:
"We felt the business model the company operates was not one with which we were comfortable to support as our main partner. In addition, we take great pride in our standing as a community focused football club and believe this partnership would not have been welcomed by the majority of our supporters."
Bolton Wanderers are not the only team to be sponsored by a payday loan firm. The trio of Newcastle United, Blackpool, and Heart of Midlothian all wear Wonga.com on their chests and the reactions from fans of those clubs was similar to that of the Wanderers faithful.
It is reasonable for Bolton fans to not want to wear the QuickQuid sponsorship across their chests but, as Anna said in her piece yesterday, dropping support from the club is wrong. Wear last year's shirt to the matches, find a vintage one, or just go in something else.
That piece featured a poll asking whether you, the fan, would be purchasing a new shirt next year and the answer (at the time of writing) is a resounding "NO." Only 24% of the hundreds of people that voted had said they would be open to purchasing the shirt with a large majority 50% saying "Not buying one! I'd rather wear last year's." It remains to be seen whether the club will rue the decision to sign up with QuickQuid or if they even feel the effects of the fans' planned abstinence from merchandise.
As of right now, the situation is a public relations firestorm and there is no one party, namely the fans, the club, and the sponsors, that is coming out a winner.