Nike Air Max Megadome here we come

Olivia Blair ON SATURDAY
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The Independent Online
How often, in today's moneyed, get-rich-quick football climate, is a club as small and as unsophisticated as Scunthorpe able to steel a march on its more wealthy peers?

The answer is, about as often as John Beresford scores a goal, which is very occasionally. Yet in 1988 the Irons (without the aid of a Football Trust grant, since this was before the Taylor Report) became the first club since Southend uprooted to Roots Hall in 1955, to move to a new stadium, vacating the Old Show Ground in favour of nearby Glanford Park. Last night Sunderland continued the trend, and by the time Reading and Oxford complete relocations next year, the total cost of new ground development since Scunthorpe set the ball rolling will top pounds 200m.

Nothing wrong with that; most of the clubs concerned had their hand forced by the recommendations of the Taylor Report, and by the increasing demand for seats generated by football's current popularity.

However, less commendable are the names being chosen for these new stadiums, which in some cases appear to do nothing but pay lip service to a club sponsor or further inflate the ego of a well-to-do chairman.

Glanford Park and the Bescot Stadium (which became Walsall's new home in 1990) are understandable - if uninspiring - choices, being the names of the localities. Wycombe chose Adams Park in honour of patron Jack Adams, while the Deva Stadium was so-called since it's the Roman name for Chester. An elderly Northampton fan suggested Sixfields after a popular local recreation area, while Derby's Pride Park was favoured by many fans (Pride of Derby and the New Baseball Ground were among the other choices, but perhaps Dark Park would be a more appropriate choice after Wednesday night's floodlight failure fiasco) and is the name of the estate on which the ground stands. Headline writers should have some fun with that one.

Bolton's Reebok Stadium simply reflects the current influence that sponsors have on the game, which I find worrying. At least Middlesbrough's Cellnet Riverside Stadium is almost universally referred to without the sponsor's prefix, but how long will it be, for heaven's sake, before we have the Ford Puma Park, the Kelloggs Strike Stadium, or even the Nike Air Max Megadome? Huddersfield's choice of the Alfred McAlpine Stadium spoils what is a magnificent ground.

Stoke's selection of the Britannia Stadium is marginally more acceptable, even if it merely pays homage to a small(ish) building society who paid just pounds 1.3m over 10 years for the honour; at least it wasn't named after the nearby Trentham Lakes, or called the Sideway Stadium (pronounced Siddaway) after the local area of the same name, which sounds like a place where Ray Wilkins ought to finish his career. Martin Smith, editor of The Oatcake fanzine admits the fans were upset at first: "We wanted it named after Sir Stanley Matthews, but it's grown on us. It keeps the regal link with the Victoria Ground, and when we heard Sunderland's choice, quite frankly we were mopping our brows."

Ah, yes, Sunderland. Now am I alone in thinking that there's something rather incongruous about a club which is facing the prospect of playing host to the likes of Bury, Stockport and Crewe, and which hasn't won anything of note since the FA Cup in 1973, sharing a stadium name with one of the great European venues? Obviously not, because the reaction of the Sunderland fans has been as negative as Arsenal under George Graham; they'd have preferred the more conservative Wearmouth, or even, apparently, the Mackem Stadium. In fact, the only positive reaction has come from Newcastle fans who, inevitably, have christened it the Sunderland Stadium of Shite.

On a positive note the club should be praised for their ambition; the 42,000 capacity makes Sunderland's the largest new stadium of the decade, and there's provision to increase capacity to 68,000. But relegation put paid to the club's idea of selling the names of the stadium and all four stands to a commercial company; instead, Stadium of Light apparently has a tenuous connection with Davy's Lamp, since it's on the site of the old Wearmouth Colliery, and you're meant to be able to see the stadium lights on approaching the city. But Martyn McFadden, editor of the fanzine A Love Supreme, claims the name's far too long, and has completely taken the gloss off the move: `No one's talking about how wonderful the ground is - they're all complaining about the name.'

So, take note, Oxford, who are due to complete their move to an as yet unnamed new pounds 23m stadium next year. Reading, meanwhile, have already chosen to name their new stadium the Madejski Stadium after chairman John; I suppose it could have been worse, since Uri Geller is a committed Royals fan.

Of course there's another club starting life this season in a new home: capacity 10,600, ample parking, good amenities. Trouble is, Brighton's new stadium is located at least 80 miles from Brighton, it's called Priestfield, and it belongs to Gillingham.

Finally, a few suggestions for those clubs who might be considering relocation, or even just a change of name: White Hurt Lane (Spurs), St John's Park (Newcastle), Yellow Brick Road (Watford), Badison (Everton) and the Passport Office (Chelsea). Further suggestions on a postcard, please.

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