See the team and buy the teacup, duvet and pension

Newcastle United are the latest club to put their logo on a wide range of goods, says Mark Rowe
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The Independent Online
EVEN the most defiant director of Newcastle United would admit the timing might have been better. The Geordie club, undaunted by the fiasco in which two directors boasted that fans were "ripped off" over replica shirts, last week applied to register the club logo as a trade mark for a long list of goods and services.

Among the proposals outlined by Newcastle United are plans to get involved in furniture, soft and hard drinks and kitchenware. The club is also perusing a range of financial services, including pensions, mortgages and unit trusts.

It is the latest advance by a soccer team into the lives of its supporters - Newcastle are being joined by the Italian giants Juventus, who have applied to register their logo for lighting parts, furniture and plates and cups. No one at Newcastle United was available for comment on the plans.

Newcastle are following a well worn path: clubs can safely assume the football supporter will always come back, whether a team is disgracing itself on the pitch or its directors off it.

The booming merchandising market goes far, far beyond the club store repertoire of Ryan Giggs duvets and David Beckham chocolates. You can buy Tottenham Hotspur milk in the supermarket and Manchester United is seeking new partners in the grocery trade in an attempt to improve its range.

The dash for supporters' cash was met with a weary cynicism from the Football Supporters' Association. The FSA's national officer, Kevin Monks, said: "It's just another way for the clubs to get money out of the supporters. Most clubs see fans as walking pound signs and they're always looking for something different.

"A few years ago you could get Newcastle United cigarettes in a black and white carton."

Clubs have also thought carefully about how the supporters spend their money and have endorsed the concept of the affinity credit card.

The Bank of Scotland has issued credit cards for 45 teams, including big names such as Blackburn Rovers and Derby County, but also teams from the bottom rung of the football League, including Rochdale and Lincoln City. The card works by typically paying 25p to your club for every pounds 100 you spend.

According to Stephen Curry, affinity card manager at Bank of Scotland, it equates to a "win-win" situation. "We get extra customers and the fans help to support their team. It costs the club nothing.

"We have seen the evolution of football as a business in the last few years and this simply relies on the strong affinity between a football supporter and a club."

Affinity accounts are also booming, offering incentives, such as reduced ticket prices. They are most popular with building societies, many of whom can trade on their name association with local clubs, such as the West Bromwich building society, which set up the first such account with West Bromwich Albion.

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