Football FanCast columnist Tom Jones thinks that Newcastle fans will be up in arms if the St James’ Park name rights are sold.
Newcastle United fans were dealt a double blow last night. Not only did Mike Ashley reveal that he has taken the club off the market and will extend his two and a half year reign by staying in charge for the immediate future, but he also plans to welcome offers for the St James’ Park naming rights at the end of the season. If Newcastle fans thought that things couldn’t get any worse they were wrong, but would changing the name of their iconic stadium be the ultimate act of betrayal?
St James’ Park has been the home of Newcastle United since 1892 and the name of the stadium has become synonymous with the club. But it looks like this is about to change as the stadium is likely to be given a new name at the end of the season. Many clubs have already given in to sponsorship money and allowed companies to buy the name to their stadiums. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Bolton’s Reebok Stadium and Wigan’s DW stadium are three examples of company named stadiums. But all of these were brand new stadiums when their naming rights were bought, whereas St James’ Park has been named as such for over 100 years.
A Statement on the Official Newcastle United Website said “the club aims to maximise its commercial revenues; this includes renegotiating its club sponsor and kit deal, which expire at the end of this season, as well as welcoming offers for the stadium naming rights for next season.” So if Newcastle fans thought that the prospect of Ashley staying on was bad enough, then this statement will have further strained relations between the two. By changing the name of their stadium would some of Newcastle’s tradition be lost forever?
Newcastle fans have already reacted furiously to the stadium name change and to what is arguably Ashley’s most controversial move. But is he being deliberately hostile towards the fans or is he just looking to get some more money out of what has been a nightmare time for him? It could prove to be the most unpopular decision that Ashley has made during his time at the club, and this may just prove to be the final straw for any Newcastle fans who had a little bit of respect left for him. He should expect to receive an extended backlash from fans and relations between Ashley and the Toon Army will be even worse than they are already.
So Mike Ashley is hardly going to be a popular figure in Newcastle today but then I suppose he’s used to that already. This latest move will be viewed as the ultimate act of betrayal by much if not all of the Toon Army. But should Newcastle fans just accept that decisions are driven by money these days, and would changing the name of their stadium really be that bad?