Any Other Business? You Can Bet On It

There’s always a section at the end of a meeting titled AOB – any other business.

Anyone who has ever sat in on a meeting fears this section. Will a jobsworth pipe up with another hour-long topic, preventing you from getting out and back into the world? Will you have the courage to be ‘that person’, raising a point when everyone else thinks the meeting is over. We have it on the Supporter’s Board and I always feel apprehension if I put my hand up as coats are being zipped up and chair Tony asks ‘any other business?’, surely hoping for a shake of head.

Well, today the acronym couldn’t be more relevant. Firstly, we’ve already conducted some business this morning, picking up Remy Howarth, but fans are of course hoping for a bit more by 5pm. In the meantime, the club have announced two other bits of news which are likely to get people talking.

The first is of relevance to collectors of memorabilia and those who still feel a programme is an essential part of the club’s matchday experience. They’ve announced that the club programme is back this year, still being printed, and is available as both standalone individual purchase or as a subscription. I’m a keen collector of the programme and I know a few others who are, so this is great news, plus I write in it which makes it even more relevant for me. The link is in the paragraph for you to buy your copies, ensuring you don’t miss out despite games not having attendances early in the season. I think the initial outlay for a full season looks expensive, but it’s a decent offer if you can afford to stand the cost upfront.

The second issue is likely to be more contentious. The club have announced that there is a new back of shirt sponsor, replacing Running Imp, and it’s the first appearance of a betting partner. As we know, the club turned down a front of shirt betting partner for this season, and we ran an article on it in the aftermath. At the time, the club felt that a betting partner was not right for the front of shirt, a feeling I believe is still the case. However, this is post-Covid and sponsorship is hard to come by, which has likely made attracting a betting partner for the back of shirt a necessity.

I think I made it clear at the time I didn’t have a fundamental problem with having a betting partner and, as a Supporter’s Board, we were perfectly happy to have one front of shirt. Fan opinion didn’t back that, with lots of people commending us for not taking a betting company front and centre of the current kit. This move does seem like a climbdown as such, but I think we have to have context here; would we want to put ourselves at a significant disadvantage when a compromise has been found? I get this is a contentious issue for some, especially given some of the club’s previous experience with gambling controversy, but remember this: match-worn shirts all have ‘Sky Bet’ on the sleeves. Betting partners are prominent in football these days and having one back of shirt is very different from naming your stadium after a company, or even having it feature on the front of the kit.

Still, Lincoln City have a betting partner and some will not be happy. It’s like any news that comes out of the club; someone won’t like it. As I said, I had no problem before and if anything, was more aghast at this news than the thought of front on shirt. I think that’s because we felt like we’d made a statement of integrity and to now backtrack looks like a compromise of morals for cold, hard cash. In a way, it probably is, but this isn’t a club selling its soul for a quick buck. We’ve had to readjust our thought process to plug a funding gap and have still retained our own integrity by not splashing a company front of the shirt, then indulging in a crass marketing campaign designed to lure fans into the world of gambling. I read somewhere (I forget which club) that a betting partner in the Championship was constantly deluging supporters with free bet offers through official club channels; that is where I would draw the line. I suppose the devil is in the detail.

Right, I’m going to sit and wait by my emails for news of arrivals, and then get my fingers busy and my hair gelled ready for a potential Friday night ‘In The Bar’ feed. I’ll probably do one anyway, just to catch up on today’s events and get your steer, if you’re free.