Paddy Power, Farnborough and the Strange Saga of the 'Best Team in the World'

Greg LottContributor IAugust 14, 2013

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 10:  Argentina's head coach Diego Maradona talks with Lionel Messi at the completion of  a team training session on June 10, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

As a company known for its innovative and interesting marketing stunts getting into bed with Paddy Power was never going to be conventional. Yet, non-league Farnborough, the latest incumbents of the betting giants' support, have become the subject of possibly the Irish firm's most ambitious stunt yet.

Under a project entitled "the best team in the world," Paddy Power have assembled a cast of the finest ever practitioners of the game to turn out for the Hampshire side, in their Skrill Conference South campaign. From Zinedine Zidane to Pele, David Beckham to Franz Beckenbauer, Diego Maradona to Johan Cruyff; it is a side of such quality that it defies all logic.

Unsurprisingly all is not as it meets the eye as, personnel-wise, the Farnborough squad is unchanged from before Paddy Power’s investment. In a quite unprecedented step, however, the entire first-team squad, including manager Spencer Day, have changed their name for the season by deed poll to a plethora of the game's greats.

Next season, therefore, in the sixth tier of English football, minnows will face off against a team of impossible majesty. 

Gordon Banks will patrol his area behind a defence of Franz Beckenbauer, Paolo Maldini, Roberto Carlos and Bobby Moore. The central-midfield partnership of Zinedine Zidane and Lothar Matthaus will be supported out wide by Johann Cruyff and George Best. In attack, the two players widely regarded as the greatest who have ever lived will become a partnership, with Pele and Diego Maradona leading the Farnborough line. 

For this season, Lionel Messi will probably have to make do with a place on the bench, a bench that will also include Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and Gary Lineker.

Running the eye over this band of superstar recruits will be not one, but two of the world’s finest managers, as Sir Alex Ferguson ends his retirement to join Jose Mourinho in the technical area.

With the sponsorship, Farnborough’s stadium will also be renamed, with the moniker Paddy Power Park now adorning the small stand that runs one side of the pitch.

It is a genius move by Paddy Power, and it will ultimately result in very positive marketing exposure throughout the season. Yet the reciprocal agreement has also saved a Farnborough team that, due to a crippling financial situation were fighting against administration.

Money worries are no more and far from not having a club to support, Farnborough’s loyal fans can now lay claim to the world's finest-ever team.

In an interesting twist for me personally, Farnborough is only five miles away from where I live. I went to college there, know quite a few of their fans and even played in the same team as the newly re-branded Lothar Matthaus for a few years when I was younger.

Personally I see no detriment from the deal for any party. Paddy Power have created an outlet of genius marketing that will enhance their exposure substantially. Farnborough are now financially secure, saved from administration and can enjoy the highest profile they will probably ever have. 

Most of all, though, this will be a season of wonder for the Farnborough fans as they cheer on Pele et al, barrack Messi’s poor first touch and forgive Maradona his indiscretions. 

One thing is for sure: The players, manager, coaches and fans of Farnborough FC are unlikely to forget this season in a hurry.