The Restraint of Beasts
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.