Despite there being over 100 miles between Cardiff and Reading, fixtures between the two clubs have always been lively and memorable. In 1927 the Bluebirds beat the then Biscuitmen in a FA Cup semi final and went on to win the FA Cup; in 1997, in the same competition, Nicky Hammond was the Royals’ hero in a penalty shootout win; on Boxing Day 1999 Chris Casper’s career was ended by a dreadful Richard Carpenter tackle; in 2008, Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici scored; in 2011 two injury time goals led to a post-match brawl; and in 2012 Reading beat City in the Championship play-offs.
It’s fair to say Cardiff v Reading has a more interesting history than most fixtures. Whether Friday night will live up to this billing, we don’t know, but it will enter this fixture’s record books for being the first time that Reading face a Cardiff City team wearing red as a home kit.
The kit change has divided City fans, but if you asked most Reading fans for their thoughts on the issue, then most would probably shrug their shoulders and express indifference. I have even heard some say they would not be too bothered by a similar change at their own club, if it guaranteed investment.
Cardiff fans themselves are divided on the matter. Some fans have turned their back on their club, refusing to go to games. Many oppose the change, but still want to support their team. Whilst there are others who believe Vincent Tan has a right to do as he wishes due to his investment in the club.
What gives one man the right to change over a century's worth of history and tradition?
It is this latter view that alarms me the most. For a start Tan has yet to honour his promise of turning debt into equity and Cardiff now have reported debts of over £100 million. Can unfeasible spending on transfers really be called investment when it increases your club’s debt? Tan himself said, "I will convert some of my debt to equity, but not all because the amount is very big. The club owes me maybe £120m and I put in £140m or £150m. Maybe I will convert £50m and leave £100m debt." Even if you take away the financial side, what gives one man the right to change over a century worth of history and tradition? Cardiff City Football Club’s home colours since 1908 have been, and should still be, blue.
A quick look at the kit history of Reading tells you how our own club has often changed kit design and colours. I’m too young to know why we went so long without wearing hoops in the past, but I am old enough to know that in 1995 there were rumours that the club were considering changing our home kit to stripes in our centenary year at Elm Park. Thankfully an angry backlash from fans saw that idea quietly dropped.
Last week Jon Keen wrote an excellent article asking what Reading FC’s identity is today. That same week the Cardiff City Mauve and Yellow Army blog wrote a similar article. It seems football fans are falling out of love with the game. It is not hard to see why with so many clubs now owned by foreign owners and playing in identikit bland modern stadiums.
A club’s colours and kit are a fundamental part of their tradition and heritage
If it has become difficult to identify with your club’s ethos or surroundings, then at least most of us can still identify with our club’s name and colours. A club’s colours and kit are a fundamental part of their tradition and heritage; indeed many would recognise a team because of their kit before their badge. If a Reading fan from the 1940s or 70s was transported to today, they would instantly recognise their football club if not its surroundings.
But if our Thai owners change our name or kit then that bond is broken. A red-wearing Reading FC, or Reading Royals FC, may still be based in Reading, but in reality it has ceased to become the town’s football club and is now a personal play thing. Red Bull Salzburg are an even starker example than Cardiff. In 2005, Austria Salzburg were taken over by Red Bull. Their famous violet kit went, their name changed. They went from being Salzburg’s football team to a Red Bull marketing ploy.
I’m not sure there is much difference between Red Bull’s actions and those of Vincent Tan. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity! Cardiff’s colour change has made his name known worldwide. The Cardiff City of today is his club. He can do whatever he wants and there is nothing City fans can do. For that reason alone, they deserve praise for continuing their protests into a third season.
If Tesco, or Waitrose seeing as we’re Reading fans, changed their colours or name you wouldn’t care because they’re not part of your identity. But if the town of Reading became Madejskiville in honour of John Madejski, wouldn’t you feel that was bestowing too much honour on one man against a whole community with a long history. If, for example, the British or English flag was changed to incorporate a Chinese dragon, in the hope of attracting Chinese investment, wouldn’t you be outraged!? I’m not sure what happened to Cardiff, and might still happen to Hull, is that different.
And if you don’t think what’s happened to Cardiff matters, then I’ll finish with a line stolen from the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers: if you tolerate this, then your club could be next!