The club's announcement of Dream Team as its front-of-shirt sponsor for the next two seasons has divided opinion among Leyton Orient supporters.
On the one hand, Dream Team is extremely closely intertwined with the Sun newspaper – its website refers to itself as 'The Sun Dream Team FC' - and it is a statement of fact that a significant number of football fans up and down the country have very deep-rooted feelings in respect of the Sun's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster. This was demonstrated only last year when the Football Supporters Federation passed a motion calling for a boycott of the Sun due to this. Looking at the club's Twitter account when the announcement was made, there are clearly a number of fans who feel the choice of sponsor is at best disappointing, at worst terrible.
On the other hand, other supporters take the legitimate view that the club needs all the income it can get – and of course, outside funding that can help the club play at the highest level it possibly can is to everyone's benefit. There is also the argument that the club (along with many others) has had a number of gambling companies as sponsors in the last decade or so, with all the issues around inappropriate marketing to children that that entails.
Putting aside any moral issues that individuals have, it is disappointing that the club has chosen a sponsor that is clearly so divisive. The club is still in a transitional state, at its lowest finishing position in the English football pyramid in over a century, so anything that has the potential to divide supporters in this way is surely to be avoided.
The club has of course selected a sponsor that provides the greatest financial backing (and by all accounts, some distance ahead of other offers), but there is a question as to whether that incentive is worth the disbenefits. First, the loss of replica shirt sales from fans who have already stated that they will not purchase one as a result. There is also the risk of brand reputational damage to the club – both in the eyes of those existing Orient fans who consider the choice to be in poor taste, but also by potential fans in a very diverse local community (at a time when it must be top priority to rebuild our links to the community in a credible and genuine way after the vandalism of the previous regime).
The success or otherwise of this sponsorship will rest in part on the financial aspect - but perhaps the eventual judgement will be more on what coverage the deal brings, whether that coverage helps or hinders attracting future fans, and whether it helps build the Orient 'brand' or not.
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