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Carabao Cock-up

21 August 2017 | Lloyd Hughes

I’ve blogged in the past about how football has sold its soul for money.

And this week, my blog is on a similar theme, taking a look at the Carabao Cup.

What is the Carabao Cup you may ask? I certainly did when I heard of it for the first time. This was a few weeks ago now when my local football team – minnows Cheltenham Town – drew West Ham of Premier League fame in the first round. After my initial brief thought of “good draw” my second thought was “wait…WTF is the Carabao Cup?”

I’d never heard the term before and presumed it was some sort of pre-season nonsense, much like the Audi Cup and its ilk which are commercial inventions to help sell tickets and boost club/match profiles.

It turns out I was only half right.

While the Carabao Cup is indeed a commercialised nonsense, it was no mere pre-season triviality, but rather the re-branded version of the Football League Cup, one of the UK’s ‘big three’ tournaments.

Carabao, it turns out, is a Thai energy drink, and it’s the brand which has secured a three-year deal to have the cup named after it in a rather transparent attempt to rival Red Bull’s well-known affinity with sport (think RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg – actual sports teams named after the Red Bull brand).

I appreciate that the Carabao Cup has a certain alliterative ring to it, but perhaps they should’ve gone with the Carabao League Cup to at least perhaps give a hint as to the competition to which it referred.

Admittedly it was once known as the Milk Cup, the Capital One Cup and the Carling Cup, but I rather enjoyed the season where it was known as the English Football League Cup thanks to a lack of sponsor. Nice, simple and to the point.

Naming aside, the Carabao Cup has faced controversy since its inception after an embarrassingly botched second-round draw, which saw 4 different ties drawn incorrectly. The shambolic event was hardly the brand association Carabao was looking for when forking out the big bucks for the naming rights.

Now, fresh controversy has since taken hold, with the decision to hold the third-round draw in Beijing, China. An odd choice for the English League Cup. But while this might be deemed acceptable given that English football has global appeal now, the timing of the draw is where it’s really plumbed the depths of commercialisation.

It’s being drawn at 11.15am local time meaning UK viewers will have to tune in at a laughable time of 4.15am.

The League Cup is already regarded as a ‘Mickey Mouse’, ‘Tinpot Cup’ competition and this just serves to reinforce that. Who the hell is going to get up at that time and watch it? Fair enough the draw is being held in China, but why not hold it at 3pm local time for a much more palatable 8.15am draw? Or, why not, given it is actually an English competition, hold it at 8pm local time to make sure everybody in the UK who wants to is already up to watch it?

According to the organisers, its 4.15am timing will give the ‘breakfast media’ sufficient time to report on the reactions to the draw. I’m sure sports reporters will be delighted to be up before dawn (not even the crack of) to make sure they get it covered sufficiently.

The decision is a bizarre one and has drawn ridicule in the media – probably not the profile raising that Carabao was looking for. But, ridicule aside, at least its brand name is better known now. Seeing a can of Carabao on sale, I will at least know what it is, so that’s something at least. Whether I choose to buy it or not is another matter.