The new owners of Blackburn Rovers, Indian poultry giant Venky’s, are reported to be considering renaming Ewood Park either to Venky’s Stadium or to adopt a different name depending if they can find a sponsor willing to purchase the naming rights to the stadium in Lancashire.
If the plan to change the name of the stadium goes through, this will be the first time in Premier League history that a current ground will be renamed to a sponsor’s name. Only a handful of clubs in the Premier League feature stadiums that are named after sponsors (Arsenal, Wigan, Stoke City and Bolton). But Emirates Stadium, JJB Stadium (now DW Stadium), Britannia Stadium and Reebok Stadium were all named after sponsors when those new stadiums were built. No Premier League club has ever changed the name of its stadium without moving to a new venue.
As the new owners of Blackburn Rovers, the Venky’s corporation has every right to change the name of their stadium if they want to. However, I believe it’s a slap in the face of Blackburn’s rich history to suggest changing the name of the stadium which has been Blackburn’s home since moving there in 1890. And this is the same Blackburn Rovers who are one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888. The same Blackburn Rovers who won five FA Cup trophies between 1884 and 1891.
To be fair, when Arsenal, Wigan, Stoke and Bolton left their previous grounds and moved to new ones adorned with sponsor names, each of the grounds were a step up for the clubs. But Blackburn’s Ewood Park is already a modern stadium except for the Riverside Stand which is in much need of replacing. So it’s not as if Blackburn should move to a new ground especially when it doesn’t have to. Perhaps a better alternative would be for Venky’s to build a new stand to replace the Riverside and then name it Venky’s Stand or something similar? After all, it’s that side of the ground which is most prominently seen when watching games that are televised from Ewood Park.
It’s important to note former Blackburn Rovers owner Jack Walker, the steel magnate, never renamed Ewood Park in his name despite pouring millions into the club and building three modern stands to replace the previous ones. If anyone deserved to have the ground named after him, Jack Walker did. Instead the main stand at Ewood Park, pictured above, is adorned with his name. The Jack Walker Stand is one of beauty.
Having visited Blackburn’s ground, I can tell you that the supporters are proud of the club and especially the legacy that Jack Walker has left them. For the Venky’s to walk in and suggest, just three days after buying the club, that they’re considering naming the ground after their company is disrespectful to Blackburn Rovers, its supporters and everything that Jack Walker did. Let’s hope that the Venky’s change their mind and decide to keep the Ewood Park name and focus on other ways to generate more revenue for the club so they can get the club back into Europe. The naming rights of the stadium should not be high on their priority list.