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Supporter for hire: Football fanatic offers fanship to highest bidder

By Chris Murphy, CNN
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012
In 1927, for the first and only time in its history, the FA Cup was taken out of England when Cardiff City (captained by Freddie Keanor, right) beat Arsenal 1-0. The goal scored became known as '"the howler" but Arsenal goalkeeper Dan Lewis blamed the sheen of his recently-washed jersey for the ball slipping under his body and into the net. In 1927, for the first and only time in its history, the FA Cup was taken out of England when Cardiff City (captained by Freddie Keanor, right) beat Arsenal 1-0. The goal scored became known as '"the howler" but Arsenal goalkeeper Dan Lewis blamed the sheen of his recently-washed jersey for the ball slipping under his body and into the net.
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Cardiff's rich history
2009: Ninian Park closes its gates
2009: Cardiff's new $75M home
2010: The quest for promotion continues
2010: Malaysian invasion
2012: Shootout heartbreak
2012: Bluebirds no more?
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Disillusioned football fan offers his support for next season in auction on eBay
  • Ben Dudley switching allegiance from Cardiff City in protest at club's rebranding exercise
  • Malaysian owners have changed club's colors from blue to red and changed badge
  • Dudley offering to support the team of whoever makes highest bid for 2012-13 season

(CNN) -- It is an unwritten rule in soccer -- once you nail your colors to the mast you must never even think about switching allegiances.

But for one diehard UK football fan, his disillusionment with his beloved club is so great he is offering his support to the highest bidder on eBay.

"With selling history and tradition the latest trend within football, I have decided to get on the bandwagon," writes lifelong Cardiff City fan Ben Dudley on his eBay page.

The straw that broke the camel's back for Dudley was the decision by the Welsh team's Malaysian owners to rebrand the club by insisting they play in red rather than their traditional blue to boost their appeal to Asian audiences.

So much so that Dudley is willing to trade his dedication to the Bluebirds' cause to whoever stumps up the most cash in the internet auction, whether it is Premier League champions Manchester City or lowly Ross County in the far north of Scotland.

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"It feels like the club have abandoned their local supporters," Dudley told CNN. "While they play in red with a dragon on the badge I've had my season ticket refunded and I'm not going to go to anymore games until they've reversed the branding.

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"I believe the board has thrown away the club's history on a gamble that is not guaranteed to make any money anyway. They don't understand the idea behind Cardiff being the Bluebirds and playing in blue. Cardiff have played in blue since 1908."

The rebranding move was met with outrage by supporters of the club, who play in the second tier of the English league, when it was announced last month.

Cardiff's Malaysian owners said the marketing exercise was part of a significant investment package that would help secure the club's immediate financial future after a debt-laden few years and help broaden their appeal in "international markets."

The club's chief executive Alan Whiteley acknowledged it would not be a universally popular plan and Dudley is living proof that resentment is still simmering.

"I've had a season ticket for the last nine years and I go to most away games as well so it wasn't something I have taken lightly, but the thought of watching Cardiff play in red at home wasn't something I could live with," he said.

"When the players come out or we score a goal we all chant 'Bluebirds' and obviously the bluebird has now been replaced by a dragon.

"The nickname is the Bluebirds but the team will now be playing in red. It will look silly, a stadium of blue seats, fans in blue shirts and a team playing in red."

But after following Cardiff the length and breadth of the country last season, when he watched his team in action 51 times, is he not apprehensive of the distance he might be required to travel to back his new team?

"It would be a bit of a trek up to Newcastle (some 322 miles away). I'm just hoping someone from Sydney FC doesn't see it and try to sign me up.

"A non-league team would be good but our local rivals Swansea and Bristol fans can't buy me -- anyone apart from that is fine."

The fan is dead, long live the phone?

However, it's not just Cardiff's rebranding initiative that has upset Dudley.

Aggrieved at the change football has undergone in recent years, with the huge amounts of money sloshing around the game through TV and sponsorship deals leading to exorbitant wages for players and a big increase in foreign owners, Dudley argues the sport is unrecognizable from the game he started to follow as a teenager.

"I wasn't around in the 1970s or 1980s but people who knew football at that time wouldn't be able to recognize the sport now and see the wages players are on. It's not the sport I loved when I was 14 and started to go to Cardiff games," he added.

"Fans aren't really the priority in football anymore; it is all about money and trying to make money from TV deals. I think (the owners) are trying to get a TV deal in Malaysia to show all our games as part of the whole making Cardiff the team of choice for Malaysia.

"They said the color red is marketable in Asia, they think Asian fans and Malaysian fans won't care about Cardiff in a blue shirt but if they play in red at home they will suddenly take Cardiff as their team instead of Real Madrid or Barcelona. It doesn't seem very likely to me."

Bidding for Dudley's football soul is currently running at over $300, which has come as something of a shock to him.

"With the price going far beyond anything I had expected, this is now a full charity auction. 50% will go to Help for Heroes charity and 50% to the Ty Hafan charity. The only money I will take from this auction is enough to pay the eBay fees."

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