Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getafe Team Dubai ?

In yet another sign of the increasing penetration of Spanish league soccer by wealthy middle eastern princes and companies, recently the Royal Emirates Group of Dubai announced the purchase of Spanish League side Getafe for the sum of 90 million euros.  The team is allegedly going to be re-branded at 'Getafe Team Dubai' under which name it will compete in La Liga beginning next season.

This is hardly the first instance of middle eastern involvement in European soccer.  Readers of this blog are aware of how much I heartily dislike the FC Barcelona / Qatar Foundation sponsorship deal announced earlier this season.  Beginning in a few months time, Barca will begin playing with the words 'Qatar Foundation' blazoned across the front of the jersey, replacing the morally sensible UNICEF logo currently on the kit, with the morally questionable Qatar Foundation logo.  I do not want to go over the reasons again why I dislike it; I refer readers to my earlier posts about the Qatar Foundation deal for a more detailed explanation of the reasons for my resistance to the new jersey.

And its not just Getafe and Barca who seem to be climbing into bed with various middle eastern princes and companies.  Last year Malaga was sold to the Qatari Royal family, for example.  And this trend is hardly limited to Spanish soccer-- the English Premier League also has sides owned by middle eastern interests:  Fulham is owned by Egyptian businessman Mohamed al Fayed, and Manchester City is owned by an Abu Dhabi consortium led by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

(In all fairness, hardly any Premier League sides are still owned by Englishmen, with team ownership largely being held by a variety of Russian, Indian, Chinese, and American investors).

By and large I don't have a problem with this except when the new owners displace existing team traditions, such as renaming a Spanish side 'Team Dubai.'  That, I have a problem with.  With that kind of team name, it no longer feels like Spanish soccer.  How about 'Tottenham Team Thailand?'  Or 'DC United of Arabia?'  It just feels wrong.

Soccer leagues are by and large for-profit organizations.  In a commercial world where profits are obviously more important than pretty much everything, these kind of things are going to happen.  So long as the new owners don't start imposing their own culture on the team and the city it represents, then fine.  But the minute they begin to superimpose their culture on local football traditions, they have lost the legitimate support of local fans of that side, in my opinion, and the fans should make their displeasure known.

'Getafe Team Dubai' is a horrible name for a Spanish football team, and the Barca - Qatar Foundation deal is hardly any better.