We live, as I have said on here before, in testing times, and one of the most vexing issues of the modern game is the sense of over-commercialisation which accompanies almost every football match that we see. One of the watersheds in the commercialisation of the game was the introduction of shirt sponsorship in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The sight of shirts festooned with brand names is now so commonplace that more eyebrows are raised when a club takes to the pitch in shirts without something printed across the middle of them, although the issue remains divisive to this day. In Scotland, child replica shirts are not allowed by law to have the names of alcohol companies, and in France it all goes a step further, with no football clubs being allowed to carry the names of alcohol companies on the fronts of their shirts.
All of this seems to be fairly typical of the ownership of Randy Lerner, whose time in charge at Aston Villa has, thus far, been one in the eye for the xenophobic arm of the people that are against foreign ownership of British football clubs. Lerner has run Villa in an exemplary manner, and it is starting to bear fruit already. He secured the position of Martin O'Neill (probably the second best British manager after Alex Ferguson) and has given him the freedom to manage the club. After a couple of the seasons of mid-table doldrums, Villa made significant progress last season and could be set for a serious challenge for a Champions League place next season. Quite asides from that, there is the moral aspect of the decision. Villa's kit manufacturers, Nike, may prefer to have their name next to that of a charity than next to that of a gambling company. The decision may bring positive publicity into Aston Villa and more people may buy replica shirts next season. However, this has to be weighed up against the needs of a charity which, as a hospice, receives no government funding and will benefit inestimably from the massive increase in its profile.
It's something that Doug Ellis wouldn't have done in a thousand lifetimes.