Half of Birmingham’s football fans will be singing the blues today after Birmingham City passed up a chance to secure a place in the Premier League.
The claret-and-blue side of the city are probably enjoying themselves, on the other hand. But it’s vital to recognise the importance of having teams in what is possibly the world’s most popular club competition in any sport.
It’s back to that tired old chestnut of the second city – where is it, really? Do we really care? But what’s certain is that the ability to be recognised by a potential investor or business owner in China could be worth millions to Birmingham; even more millions than those which could be brought in by the predicted boost in spending by football fans that is expected to follow if Blues make it up.
There have been many sterling efforts put into improving Birmingham’s image over the years, with a huge amount of success. But travel round regional China and it won’t be shopping centres or new libraries that they know and care about in Britain’s region cities – it will be football. The successes of Manchester United and Liverpool over the years have provided the kind of publicity boost that no town planner or regeneration expert can ever give – with all due respect to Birmingham’s politicians.
Of course, Birmingham City having a season in the Premier League isn’t going to wipe out that advantage but every little helps when it comes to promoting a city abroad. Having the city’s name in the league fixtures is itself a small victory.
Which is why, at 1.15pm next Sunday at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, every fan of Birmingham – the city, not the club – should be wishing Blues well in their efforts to go up.