The marketing deal that's anything but black and white

Newcastle's owner has renamed St James' Park the 'Sports Direct Arena'. Will the plan backfire?

What's in a name? Quite a lot if you happen to support Newcastle United, and, like generations of the Premier League club's loyal followers, have made the regular pilgrimage to St James' Park.

In essence, the Sports Direct Arena trips off the tongue in an equally unpalatable manner to the Emirates Stadium, or the Etihad Stadium. The subtle difference, and it is a significant one, is that while Arsenal moved into their already branded new home in 2006, and Manchester City had only been in the City of Manchester Stadium for a handful of seasons before their sponsors got in on the act, Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, has done away with almost 120 years of history in an attempt to sell the long-term naming rights to one of the few remaining city-centre venues in English football, one that will for the time being carry the name of Mr Ashley's flagship retail chain.

Newcastle's notoriously publicity-shy hierarchy have been forced to mount a damage limitation exercise in the wake of almost universal opposition as supporters and ex-players join forces to pour scorn on the fulfilment of a plan first floated two years ago, when it was met with equal disdain.

Nufc.com, the influential Newcastle fans' website, outlined the problem: "The Emirates Stadium is the Emirates Stadium, it's never been anything else. Other current Premier League examples tend to be newly-built venues where naming rights were sold 'off-plan'. We have to be different, and give the impression of jettisoning decades of history to anyone with a spare bag of swag. Newcastle United play at St James' Park and always have done. Everyone knows that, regardless of what irritating branding is applied to it."

Malcolm Macdonald, a player to have represented both Newcastle and Arsenal in the 1970s, said: "The way Arsenal and Manchester City have done it is fine – they moved to new stadiums. But with Newcastle, it's about a football club's heritage, and you ignore that at your peril."

Derek Llambias, Newcastle's managing director who two years ago insisted the title St James' Park would remain as long as the current regime were in charge, yesterday continued his defence of the re branding.

Revealing that the sale of naming rights could be worth up to £10m, he added: "I totally respect the tradition and history of the club," he said. "But we need to move with the times. We're not disrespecting our fans. Far from it. We're trying to make it affordable and put players on the pitch. We've exhausted all our other revenue streams and if we want to compete, we have to bring more money in."

Name game: The sponsorship deals

Surrey County Cricket Club The Oval to The Kia Oval

The south London cricket ground has seen nearly as many name changes as it has test matches. It has been the Fosters, the AMP, the Brit Insurance and also the plain old Kennington.

Wigan Atheletic JJB Stadium to the DW Stadium

Many Wigan fans were outraged that their new stadium was named after a sports shop. Some were angrier still when businessman David Whelan acquired naming rights and stamped his initials on the ground in 2009.

York City Bootham Crescent to KitKat Crescent

Lower league strugglers York City endured the ignominy of being England's only football club with a ground named after a chocolate bar for five years after signing a deal with Nestle in 2005. Its name has since reverted to Bootham Crescent.

FC Dallas Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Complex to Pizza Hut Park

The £80m, 20,500-seater venue was acquired by the restaurant chain, whose headquarters are in nearby Addison, Texas. In summer when the mercury rises supporters wryly call the stadium "the Oven".

NYNEX Arena to the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester

In a rare occurrence of sponsorship going right, when the local paper linked up with the now-famous venue in 1998, the abbreviation "the MEN" caught on and is known by fans worldwide.

The Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa, Florida to The 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre

The 20,000 capacity American music venue, below, which has played host to the likes of Sting, the Foo Fighters and The Cure, got its not very rock and roll name from its legal referral service sponsor.

Charlie Cooper

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all