Real Madrid and Manchester United last played each other in a friendly in the US in 2014 and drew a sell-out crowd of 109,318 in the Michigan Stadium. This week they played in the States again, but on this occasion there was no sell-out, in the crowd at least, as the 68,500 seater stadium was noticeably under capacity.
Where there very much was a sell-out though was in the commercial sense, as the teams were led out to the pitch by non-other than that sincere symbol of American capitalist culture – Ronald McDonald.
Ronald McDonald, or at least a man dressed as the iconic clown, was at the top of the tunnel ahead of the game, in a place usually reserved for a worthy mascot. This time, however, the bright red and yellow of McDonald’s corporate vision took centre stage as the teams filed out.
Had Ronald McDonald merely led the teams onto the pitch, it might have been slightly acceptable considering the game was simply a money-spinning friendly held in the US, and indeed, McDonalds' home state. But the face-painted monstrosity then proceeded to line up with the players and get involved with the pre-match team handshakes on the pitch
Now, there’s no escaping football sold its soul for television-rights a long time ago, but it seems that the beautiful game is prepared to sink yet further into the gutters of commercialisation.
McDonalds must have paid a handsome fee for the privilege and will no doubt be delighted with the subsequent brand coverage, but still…is nothing sacred?
Considering it doesn’t seem long ago that poor Bradley Lowery excitedly led the Sunderland and Everton teams onto the field, it’s hard to stomach that a formerly privileged role (often undertaken by genuine VIPs and dignitaries) and a dream opportunity for any football mad child has been offered to the highest bidder.
Will this become a trend? And will it creep into the fixtures that matter? What next, the Michelin Man leading the <insert brand name> FA Cup final teams out at Wembley? If so, it’s like another little bit of the game’s fast dwindling magic has died.