The business that is Premier League football is moving on rapidly, with foreign billionaires pumping money into clubs and sponsorship deals boosting finance for all of the owners. Football has moved on in the past ten years with money now becoming one of the biggest, if not biggest, aspect of modern day football. Off the field issues are now publicised in the press and chairman and owners now have more say than ever in Premier League football.
Last week Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley sold the rights to St James Park, and it will now be called the Sports Direct Arena. The Magpies supporters were outraged at the decision to change the name of their historic stadium, just another move from the owner that has not been appreciated by the fans. Ashley claimed that the sale of the naming rights could bring the club around £10million a year that could be spent on improving the squad; something that is surely the most important thing for the club in the long run.
It is time for supporters to let the owners deal with the off the field situations and try to make money for the club that can be spent on moving the club forward. Ashley knows the meaning of St James Park to the fans but he, rightly, feels that moving the club forward to the next level is more important than the words on the top of a stand or being mentioned in newspapers.
Geordie supporters can call the ground what they want, but if Ashley spends the extra finance on a goal-scorer or a pacey winger will the fans be upset then, pushing the club on to challenge for European football and becoming the force that they used to be in the Premier League. The most important thing in a football club is how they are doing on the pitch, if they are not playing well and losing games then the fans will be the first to jump on the bandwagon for new players, management and ownership.
I understand the history of St James Park, but it is just a name that the fans can still stick with if they please but they must think of the long term future. Manchester City are a club that are not short of money, but they find every way possible to keep topping up the bank balance. They sold the naming rights of their ground for over £100 million to Etihad, something that can now be reimbursed into the club; a win-win for supporters and owners alike.
Fellow North East clubs Sunderland and Middlesbrough have had to move grounds in recent years that have not worked out well for them, moving to a new area that produces lower attendances and unsatisfied supporters. Ashley needed to make some money some and this was a clever idea to improve the side for the supporters to be able to acknowledge his work.
Clubs such as Leicester City and Coventry City have moved to new stadiums away from the city centres that have affected attendances and support, making the move looking pointless and money making. Newcastle have not moved stadiums and abandoned their historic home, they simply changed the naming, something that can be ignored if necessary by the Magpies loyal followers. It is surely time to take a reality check of situations similar to this, if the team is improving on the pitch; something which Newcastle have undoubtedly done in recent years; then fans should back the players and staff to make the correct decisions.
The decision that Ashley made to just come out and tell the supporters of this name change may have been pre-meditated in the fact that the club are on good form and that may calm the fans reaction to the decision, but it did not work. I am not sure he would have made the statement on the confirmation of The Sports Direct Arena if the club were in the bottom three at this stage of the season.
It would have been a better decision to put it out to the fans and explained exactly what was going to happen, rather than come out with it at this stage of the season. Hopefully though, Newcastle supporters will see the benefits of money coming into the club on the pitch.
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