New identities play havoc in the name game, just ask Miss Evert-Mrs-Lloyd-I-should-say

'All of which leaves me no longer able to go to bed with my Rothmans as I have these past 25 years'
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The Independent Online

Distressing news reached me last week in the form of a press release, which announced that, as of August, the Rothmans Football Yearbook will be known by a different name.

I was fleetingly reminded of the old Monty Python announcement; that Mr Arthur Penis wishes his friends and relatives to know that he is henceforth to be known as Mr Art Penis. Might the new title, I wondered vaguely, be the Rothmans Footie Yearbook?

But no. Cursory further reading of the press release revealed that the edition detailing the 2002-03 season, and at least four editions thereafter, will be called the Sky Sports Football Yearbook.

Apparently, Sky Sports have weighed in with the dough because, after 30 years, Rothmans have had to drop their sponsorship following changes in legislation on tobacco sponsorship enshrined in the statute book - previously known as the Benson & Hedges statute book.

The legislative change, if you're interested, is outlined in clause IX of amendment XVII to law XXXII, which decrees that: "Tobacco companies will no longer be permitted to sponsor sporting events, clothing, ephemera... unless the odd million quid is bunged to the Labour Party, in which case, Bernie, we'll see what we can do."

All of which leaves me no longer able to go to bed with my Rothmans, as I have, on and off, these past 25 years. Instead, I will have to learn to go to bed with my Sky Sports, which just won't be the same.

By this I mean no disrespect to Sky Sports. I am a huge fan and voracious consumer of their output, and indeed have formed what practically amounts to a crush on Jeff Stelling, the urbane and handsome presenter who brings some sense to the borderline insane Saturday afternoon pursuit of watching Frank McLintock staring into a monitor while trying to articulate, with limited success, what only he can see.

Moreover, things change. But some changes are so disorientating as to be almost painful, and calling the Rothmans the Sky Sports Yearbook is one such. Maybe I'll have to deal with the situation in the same reactionary way as I, and I suspect thousands of others, dealt with the BBC losing the right to show Saturday evening Premiership highlights; calling the show Match of the Day regardless of whether it's on BBC1 or ITV.

In fact, if the programme went by the name it is most often called, it would be Match of the Day... or The Premiership... you know... whatever.

Sport, it occurs to me, has a unique capacity to nutmeg its followers with changes of identity, if not of essence. Only the most diehard supporters of Manchester United, and not necessarily even they, can remember whether the silverware their team won in 1992 was the Milk, Littlewoods, Rumbelows, Coca-Cola or Worthington Cup.

And it is not only sponsorship changes that create such confusion; sometimes we have to learn to call actual people different things. I must say I never bought into Andy Cole becoming Andrew Cole, but the tennis world had to get used to Billie Jean Moffitt becoming Billie Jean King in 1965, and in 1975, with universal regret, to the exotic-sounding Evonne Goolagong, on whom I had a fully formed crush, becoming plain Mrs Cawley.

As for Chrissie Evert becoming Mrs Lloyd, then Evert-Lloyd, then Evert again, and then Evert-Mill for heaven's sake, poor old Dan Maskell used to end up with his undergarments in a terrible twist.

"Oh, I say," he would rhapsodise, "a peach of a backhand drop volley by Miss Evert... Mrs Lloyd I should say."

Just as my children think there is a television programme that daddy likes to watch on Saturday nights during the football season called Match of the Day... or The Premiership... you know... whatever, so anyone getting acquainted with tennis in the early Eighties, via BBC Television's Wimbledon coverage, came to know the rather striking American with the nice legs as the quintuple-barrelled Miss Evert-Mrs-Lloyd-I-should-say.

Further difficulties in nomenclature arise when we discuss things that happened long ago. Do we apply modern conventions or those that existed around at the time? There are some clever-clogs around who will tell you that the celebrated Russian linesman in the 1966 World Cup final, the chap who ruled that Geoff Hurst's shot had crossed the line off the underside of the bar, was not Russian at all but Azerbaijani.

And now, in accordance with new diktats, we have to come to terms with the fact that not only was he not Russian, he wasn't a bloody linesman either, but a referee's assistant. The celebrated Azerbaijani referee's assistant in the 1966 World Cup final... it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue; or rather it does, stumbling awkwardly, just like the Sky Sports Football Yearbook.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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