The Restraint of Beasts

Posted by on Oct 29, 2009 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The news that Mike Ashley is seeking to sell off the naming rights to St. James’ Park is up there with Ken Bates’ electric fence at Chelsea, Colin Moynihan’s supporters’ ID cards and Newcastle’s own recruitment of Dennis Wise as one of the crassest notions in football history. Until now, I think most outside the Gallowgate have looked on with some bemusement at the Geordie fans’ vilification of Mike Ashley, but this is a case where they deserve more support. Although George Caulkin’s claim that the stadium is the most iconic structure in the city is challenged and knocked into a cocked hat by the presence of the Tyne Bridge, it’s nonetheless a classic arena and scrapping its identity would be nothing short of criminal.

Fans have already had to suffer the ignominy of the Fitness First Stadium at Bournemouth, the Causeway Stadium at Wycombe and the KitKat Crescent at York and stands and ends up and down the land have been besmirched with the monikers of publicity hungry firms. Thankfully, business analysts feel that no company would risk the adverse press that would surely accompany the rebranding of the Newcastle ground. Whatever next though? Ginsters Park, the Capital One Ground, The Waitrose Stadium?: at least the latter might be besieged with wayward shoppers, which might push attendances up. And nor do clubs like Arsenal and Coventry get off scot free in this debate. I for one don’t accept that new grounds should bear the mark of corporations either.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 50 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.


  1. Lloyd
    October 29, 2009

    In a way, those clubs who sell the naming rights for a new stadium can half get away with it if both parties intend to maintain the relationship ad infinitum (i.e. Reebok, Emirates). But how likely is that?

    The worst instances are where branded stadiums are rebranded between seasons — take Wigan and Huddersfield, for instance. If these cases continue, it's up to home supporters to unofficially agree on a name that will, in time, override this corporate nonsense.

  2. Columbine Harvester
    October 30, 2009

    I would expect it to get even worse. How long will it be before an English club sells its naming rights to a sponsor? FC Red Bull Salzburg and Mitsubishi Motors Mizushima FC are examples of biggish clubs that have made money in this way and not alienated their supporters one bit.

  3. Ben
    November 3, 2009

    Thanks for the support/sympathy. I wasn't aware of there having been any other clubs with old grounds that had been rebranded (rather than new ones that started off life as branded), so it's a bit of a worry that there are precedents.


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