It's doesn't take much for us at Sport Witness to be cynical and often that cynicism can mean we get things wrong. The most recent being our open hilarity at the prospect of David Moyes rocking up at Old Trafford. However, we're right with our cynicism more often than not, given the nature of rumours, and perhaps you should make your own mind up on this one.
On May 9th a Twitter account called Bring Ronaldo Home (@RonaldoHomeOrg) was launched along with a website. The general idea is that enough fans will pledge to buy a Ronaldo replica shirt that it will convince the club to buy the player back. However, the plan is a bit confused because on their very professional YouTube video (see below) they talk of providing the funds to pay his buy-out clause which they reckon runs into tens of millions of dollars. According to reports in Spain and The Guardian, his buy-out clause is actually €1bn, they may have wanted to check this first.
A club wouldn't have to pay that much but that's the figure which would force a sale from Real Madrid. Bring Ronaldo Home are asking for fans to pledge £10 towards buying a Ronaldo shirt and in some of their publicity they say this will be used to pay for him to come back, and in other bits they say it's a deposit on a replica shirt should he return before the end of August. If it was to pay for his buy-out clause, they'd need 85 million fans to donate £10 each.
Ignoring their video and returning to the claims on their website, the £10 is a deposit on a replica shirt, these are their own words:
'PLEDGE £10 NOW TO RESERVE YOUR MANCHESTER UNITED “RONALDO 7” SHORT SLEEVE SHIRT (NEW 2013/14 STRIP). PAY THE REMAINDER IF WE SUCCEED IN BRINGING RONALDO HOME.'
It appears that the deposit is simply to buy a shirt which they estimate will cost no more than £55 for adults and £50 for children. If that's the new kit it's not a terrible deal, but we noticed this condition on their payment page:
The claims vary about the shirt but we'll trust them it would be the new one and not a discounted one bought before a new edition came out. But, what if the scheme fails? What if pledging to buy replica shirts doesn't convince Manchester United to part with their money or Real Madrid to sell (remember, to force them it would take 85 million people), and what if Ronaldo himself doesn't fancy the move?
Bring Ronaldo Home say they will refund your £10 'pledge' less administration fees, but they're not sure what these will be. In their own words:
So, if you give £10 then you may get £7 back or you may get nothing at all if their costs, and that would be mainly personnel related, take up that money. Let's go half way on some figures and imagine they get 200,000 people to pay up (They claim to have 3700 in just a day of really pushing it), which totals a cool £2m. If Ronaldo didn't return then they would get £1m in admin fees at £5.
It could be £3, it could be the whole £10 swallowed up in costs, but seeing as they don't know then we've gone half way. That's a lot of money, clearly.
We checked out what's behind it and found the website, or a linked to version, was registered in Australia in April. The Ltd Co, based at a proxy London address, was incorporated on May 3rd. Should the Ltd Co, Equius, go to the wall (for whatever reason) then the chance of anyone getting a penny back is incredibly low, regardless of where Ronaldo plays next season.
So what's the Australia link? We were directed to an Australian website mUmBrella which covers the media in the country and they run a story on the two men behind the campaign, mumBrella open with:
'A pair of media and marketing professionals from Australia have set out to the UK on an unlikely quest to crowd source a bid to raise $80m to bring soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo back to Manchester United.
The campaign – which launched this afternoon – is being masterminded by Diageo Australasia’s former director of corporate relations Ron Ainsbury and the founder of digital business Catch Andrew Dent.'
Again, the figures appear to be all over the place. The most cynical may feel this is a ploy to take advantage of naive and desperate fans, take their money and run off with it. We feel it may be slightly more well intentioned than that, but still doomed to failure. A publicity stunt which started with a good intention but has got a little murky since.
Another chap involved is Angus Mullane, who is also in Sydney, and he has photos on his Twitter account of him designing the website and giving it a toast with a green smoothie.
Angus seems to have been busy recently, just as the campaign was starting he Tweeted the following on his personal account:
Things that concern us, other than the obvious, are the lack of a guarantee on the amount of any refund, and the way it appears the campaign is designed to look like it's official from the club. If you watch the video you'll see the club logo in it several times, along with matching fonts. It's almost similar to the recent season ticket advert sent out to supporters.
Another contradiction is that in the video they say that after getting the £10 pledges they '...will then use this raised money to buy him back', but isn't that meant to be a deposit on a replica shirt? More confusion.
Once we, and several Manchester United fans, started asking them questions on Twitter, they stopped Tweeting. There's been nothing since. We've contacted them further and would like them to clarify their aims and guarantees.
The scheme is not backed, as far as we know (and have asked), by any supporter associations and is certainly nothing to do with either the club or Nike. There are probably better things to spend £10 on, like a bet on Wigan Athletic to win next season's Premier League.
The promotional video: