The love affair with American Randy Lerner and his acquisition of Aston Villa is about to end. This morning, the BBC announced that Lerner is seeking a sponsor to have the naming rights to one of the most historic stadiums in English football: Villa Park.
However, Aston Villa strongly deny the story, but the BBC says the denial contradicts what they’ve been told.
While naming is common practice in the U.S., it’s less prevalent (until recently) in England. More importantly, no historic top flight stadium in England has a sponsors named adorned to it. Arsenal would have never dared to rename Highbury as the Emirates Stadium, so their move to Ashburton Grove made the naming rights decision much easier.
Bolton play at the Reebok Stadium, but they only moved into it in 1997 (from Burnden Park). So the Reebok is far from being a historic stadium. Villa Park, which has long been one of the finest stadiums in England, was opened in 1897.
While Doug Ellis was far from being a saint, the one thing he wouldn’t dare do is sell the naming rights to Villa Park. The decision by Lerner is a poor one, and you have to wonder whether his advisers or board members tried to debate this thorny topic. Sure, it’ll raise much needed funds for Aston Villa, but it’s the wrong decision for one of the most historic clubs in England.
Let’s see what happens and whether the story ends up being true or not.