Whenever anyone asks me why I follow football, asks what I see in the game beyond 22 players kicking a ball about, I think of a comment Zlatan Ibrahimovic made in his press conference when he joined Paris Saint-Germain.
"My father is Muslim, my mother is Catholic, but none of that has anything to do with football. I'm me and football is a religion in its own right, and everyone is welcome."
Like religion, football should only be embraced voluntarily, and I have no interest in converting people who don’t understand its appeal. But football is now as big a business as religion, and there are plenty of people who want to package the game and sell it to the world.
The L. Ron Hubbard of football is Sky Sports, and since the inauguration of the Premier League they have invested millions into creating a game they can persuade non-believers to buy into. If television deals are an indicator of how popular football has become, then it’s clear to see how successful Sky were at promoting the game. From next season onwards, the income clubs will receive from broadcasters will be astronomical, and the title winner is expected to receive over £100 million for the first time.
Richard Keys, who anchored nearly 1,000 games for Sky Sports before leaving in disgrace last season, said of their early objectives: “We had to get in people’s faces; we had to make it exciting. We weren’t lying back and inviting people to join in if they wanted to; we were selling.”
The most embarrassing failures were the ones they pinched from America–cheerleaders, fireworks, and the razzmatazz that attracted a middle-class audience to sports events in the States just looked out of place in the grey, overcast Sunday afternoons of England. While most of these gimmicks were abandoned, there is still one survivor from those days—the club mascot.
Mascots in English football are like a hybrid between the ones used by American sports teams, where they spend the game inspiring the crowd to cheer on their team, and the corporate mascot, an anthropomorphic cartoon animal used to get people interested in a product.
Manchester City are a team in need of a good mascot. After defeat to Everton, and the title defence all but over, morale within the dressing room and amongst the fans is at a season low. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates at City who could raise their spirits, someone who can fulfil the obligations of a mascot in a way fitting for the Premier League.