James Lawton: Newcastle fans: deal with it. That's modern football for you

Did you think, after all the warnings to the contrary, that he would ring-fence the name?

All right, bonnie lads, get it all out, all the rage and the disillusionment, assuming there is still much of it left under those rip-off souvenir shirts, but when the latest instalment is spent, maybe you should ask yourselves a question.

This may sound slightly callous at the death of the proud name of St James' Park and you're right, Sports Direct Arena doesn't have quite the same pull on the heart-strings; indeed, if it was any less romantic it would be a strong rival to the enchantingly named home of LA Galaxy, the Home Depot Center, but the necessary query is this: exactly what football planet do you imagine you're living on?

After all these years, after the Halls and the Shepherds of this world, saying one thing in one breath, plundering in another, making mugs of you and all the time getting a little richer out of your faith in the idea of a football club, your football club existing beyond the demands of business or the egos of owners who can, at least for a while, take the financial hit, what do you really expect of an operator like Mike Ashley?

Did you imagine, after all the warnings to the contrary, that he would ring-fence the sacred name of St James', where Jackie Milburn worked his sleek, home-grown magic and his young relatives the Charlton Boys spent their grocery round money on their expeditions from their mining town to the metropolitan splendour of Gallowgate?

Do you think any of that registers for a second in the world of Mike Ashley and his business partners?

Surely not because if one unpalatable truth has been rammed into every English football fan this last decade or so it is that he can no longer for a moment imagine himself as some scurrying figure on a Lowry canvas on his way to The Match.

St James' Park, like all the other parks, Burnden in Bolton, Roker down the road in Sunderland and Ayresome in Middlesbrough, were the beating hearts of the community. Sports Direct Arena, let's give Ashley and his partners some credit for honesty, is a newly created business opportunity.

Buy the name and the shirts and it doesn't matter if you sell airline tickets, as those whose names decorate the Etihad Stadium of Manchester City and the Emirates of Arsenal do, or insurance or mortgages, one stroke of the pen and more than a hundred years of highly emotional history drops into your business portfolio.

What we can be pretty sure of is a certain degree of bemusement in the heart of Mike Ashley today.

What do these people want? He might wonder about this after running his eyes over his accounts, totting up the hundreds of millions he he has now invested in Newcastle United and noting that after decades of futility, and his making a decision that some said was the most heartless and egregious in the history of the club, they are now sitting in the mythic top four, unbeaten and with Alan Pardew, a manager who had to run a gauntlet of anger and contempt, pulling strings with some of the inspiration of Kevin Keegan in those early days.

What they want, of course, is everything and, unfortunately, in English football this is no longer possible. You can't have the backing of a man for whom life has been one long battle to turn a business profit or some great Middle Eastern conglomerate or Russian oligarch and still expect the warmth of some community endeavour. Such desires can no longer be joined up.

So what is the solution? There isn't one this side of the extremely unlikely possibility that the Premier League is prepared to create a huge revolution in the working of the top flight of English football and do what the Bundesliga does.

This is to forbid any majority control of a single football club by a single business interest. Forty-nine per cent interest, fine, but no more than that because the Germans in their wisdom do understand business – it is probably why they remain the last hope of financial reality on Europe. They understand that business will always be business, which means in the end that the profit motive will always be supreme, and that the idea that the name of a football stadium can ever again be more important than a major injection of income is at the very best quaint.

The president of Barcelona, who probably understands that the financial affairs of his club and their great rivals Real Madrid are somewhat less than models of shining decorum, was saying only the other day that ultimately the club would always be independent, always in the control of its fans, whatever hazardous terrain that might involve.

In the shadow of the Sports Direct Arena it is, of course the purest fantasy. But then for some years so it had been in the old place called St James' Park.

Moss and Grimshaw arrive at the party
peopleKate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Grimshaw at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party
i100Amazing Amazon review bomb
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities