The Premier League just doesn’t get it, does it? The world is crashing around Barclays’ ears, its chief executive Bob Diamond has just been forced to step down by the Governor of the Bank of England, its chairman Marcus Agius will be exiting in the coming months, and Bob’s top team of investment bankers will be heading in the same direction (if, that is, they had anything to do with BarCap between 2005 and 2008, which is highly likely).
And what does the Premier League do? It inks another sponsorship deal with Barclays Bank, this time for a whopping £35m a year over three years (or so Brand Republic tells us).
Granted, the boot is usually on the other foot. When scandal strikes, it’s the sponsor that generally assesses collateral damage to its brand and, if necessary, does the firing. For instance: Coca-Cola repudiating its association with Wayne Rooney, after the latter consorted with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant; everyone junking Tiger Woods once his elaborate sexual gymnastics came to light; Vodafone shaking a big stick at McLaren Mercedes (but not much else) over cheating on the F1 track; and Emirates Airlines threatening to drop its World Cup sponsorship because of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter’s limp-wristed approach to racism on the pitch.
But the scandal now engulfing Barclays is of such epic proportions that even the Premier League – not normally known for its ethical sensitivity – should carefully consider whether it is prudent to continue its association with such a blighted brand. Let’s face it, it doesn’t look too good, does it? ‘We’re a wholesome family sport, happy to take money from anyone – cheats and spivs especially welcome’.
Of course, the Premier League commercial negotiators have been unlucky in their timing. Little were they to know that, as protracted negotiations were nearing their conclusion, international financial regulators would hit Barclays with a £290m fine for manipulating the interbank lending rate. Even so, a suspension in the negotiations would now be the intelligent way forward – while the Premier League looks for alternative partners; and Barclays does the decent thing by withdrawing its offer. Tip for Premier League negotiators: try sectors other than financial services. It will save pain later.