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Mon, 18 Nov 2013 16:00:00 GMT | By Daniel Storey

To celebrate Cardiff's success or attempt to preserve history and customs?

It should have been a cause for overwhelming celebration, a time for togetherness and rejoicing. Cardiff City had just beaten their greatest rivals Swansea, the first ever top flight South Wales derby won thanks to Steven Caulker's second half header.


To celebrate Cardiff's success or attempt to preserve history and customs?

What's more, Cardiff had moved ahead of their rivals in the Premier League. Twelve points from their opening ten games had taken them up to twelfth, ahead of pre-season expectations. New signings Gary Medel, Caulker and Peter Odemwingie had settled in deftly, and there was genuine cause to believe that Cardiff could survive in their first ever Premier League campaign.

However, there was a cloud hovering over the Cardiff City stadium, a gloomy, moody air that made sour all that was sweet, made grey all that was colourful. After the final whistle, a large group of supporters gathered in the now romantically named Canton Stand at the Cardiff City Stadium, banners protesting their unease at the ownership of Vincent Tan. Despite the club's augmented league position they urged him to leave, offering promises that they would never accept his alterations.

It had not been a good week for Cardiff. In the days leading up to the derby, Tan had sacked the club's hugely successful Director of Recruitment Iain Moody, replacing him with an unknown 23-year-old Kazakh by the name of Alisher Apsalyamov. Apsalyamov's employment ahead lasted mere days before he was suspended pending visa enquiries. In the meantime, it had been revealed that Tan had been trying to pass on suggested tactics to his manager, and last season bought Slovenian international Etien Velikonja above the head of his manager.

Tan's stranglehold on the club continues therefore, having already sucked the blood out of the club's identity and tradition. Before the beginning of Cardiff's promotion campaign 15 months ago, the Malaysian entrepreneur announced that Cardiff's home kit would be red, ending 103 years of playing in blue, simply because the owner considered the colour to be lucky. The club's badge would also be changed, the Bluebird pushed down the pecking order (and I'm sorry for the pun) with a red dragon taking pride of place. Finally, the club's nickname would be changed.

When questioned as to why the changes were made, Tan's answer was calculated, claiming that the Bluebird 'brand' had brought minimal success, whilst the club had little choice but to accept the changes. Board members understood the fears of supporters ("The change of colour is a radical move that will be met with unease and apprehension by some supporters") but were powerless given that it was one of the stipulations of the owner's £100 million investment.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from Tan's actions is that he wishes to have complete control over his investment. Moody had been viewed as a powerful figure and a confidante of the manager and was therefore removed. The tactical 'advice' to Mackay served as a reminder that despite the adulation from the fans, it was thanks to Tan and Tan only that Cardiff were taking their seat at English football's top table.

The words from Malky Mackay following the match were telling. The victory was dedicated to "our staff, our players, our fans," cleverly omitting one individual, and went on to praise the effect that the departed Moody had had on the club in his recruitment of Caulker and Medel.

Again, however, it was the owner that immediately imprinted his own opinion on the waiting press, usurping his manager's comments. "I will explain [the situation between himself and Mackay] when I need to explain."

Whilst the breakdown in communication between manager and owner is concerning, this is nothing compared to the worries initiated by a total degradation of the relationship between fans and club. The actions of a Malaysian businessman have forced Cardiff supporters to make a choice in this question of principles, an evident moral dilemma. Do they celebrate the results and success that Tan's money has invited (although his investment is in the form of loan, not gift)? After all, they have waited over 50 years for top flight football. Or, do they dig their heels in, a potentially vain attempt to preserve the history and customs that they feel are an integral part of what makes Cardiff City a social institution?

If Cardiff fans choose the second option, as those protesting last weekend clearly have, how far do they take this? If they stop going to matches others will surely take their place anyway, and matchday revenue is a decreasing slice of the pie in any case. The end solution is to create a new club, an AFC Cardiff, but such a project requires an incredible amount of time, effort and money. This is not what they signed up for - they simply want their club back.

Even if they choose the first option and celebrate the club's achievements, it is undoubted that this has now been tarnished, spoiled through power and greed. Individual moments of triumph can be enjoyed, but when the initial rush of joy has been enjoyed, emptiness still exists.

The sad answer for Cardiff fans is that there is no right answer, hence the current split. Supporters who have been friends for years now disagree on the very building blocks of their shared love, an unquestionably shaky foundation for positive development.

Tan's insistence on total control forces all of us to ask questions of the sheer fabric of football fandom. What is it that we love about our clubs and the game? Is it the sense of togetherness, the communal sense of pride and a common love, or is the simple desire for victory and success? Do we love the club as an abstract entity or do we hold dear its tangible component parts, the kit, the badge or the nickname?

The rather chilling conclusion is that, actually, it doesn't matter what choice we make, and it makes little difference whether you are Bluebird or a Red Dragon. As modern day football supporters we have so little sway, such a meaningless influence on the direction in which our clubs are being taken. Football is ever-increasingly existing as a lucrative soap opera - we have little choice but to pay handsomely to watch it unfold.

One thing is certain - in South Wales, where once stood proud a social institution and community club, now sits an expanding organisation in the sports and leisure industry. Which rather makes the football fan in us all die that little bit inside.

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