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How Stadium Naming Rights Are Getting Out Of Control

I'm Craven KFC Cottage

Traditional terrace tipplers still mouthing up their marmite at the news that Newcastle’s St. James’ Park will henceforth be known as James’ Park Stadium will be further aghast to learn that Chelsea would consider cashing in on Stamford Bridge. We are not too far off from Ethan Armstrong’s vision here at EPL Talk of sponsored songs and players. While the idea of selling naming rights in England is not new, what with the Emirates Stadium, the KC Stadium, Reebok Stadium and the DW Stadium; the practice is not nearly as common as in the United States, what with Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Pizza Hut Park, the Home Depot Center and virtually every outdoor or indoor facility in the country.

Once commercialization trends start they tend to spread as swiftly as beans on toast. The FA first allowed shirt sponsors in 1977, by the Premier League’s debut in 1992, nearly every club had a shirt sponsor. The underlying beauty of a football kit has always been its simplicity. From a purely aesthetic view, sponsorships rob shirts of their visual appeal. The sight of Liverpool and Olympique Lyonnais playing this past Wednesday sans shirt sponsors was refreshingly glorious.

Liverpool v Lyon Champions League No Ads

Some sponsorships are offensive, such as AIG with Manchester United and Northern Rock with Newcastle United, two firms that had to be bailed out big-time by taxpayers. West Ham United, with XL and Manchester City, with First Advice, are just two of several clubs that have suffered the indignity of their sponsors going belly-up. In the U.S., Citibank insulted the taxpayers who kept the bank afloat by splashing out $20 million a year to sponsor the new home of the New York Mets. These companies pay exorbitantly but the risk of a team performing poorly on the pitch and having the stadium become the butt of jokes remains. Can expect brisker business because of the sponsorship? Certainly not from irate Geordies.

What with the decreased presence of Englishmen in the Premier League, haphazard start times, subscription fees, Highburys and St. James’ Parks giving way to Insert-Your-Name-Here Stadiums and persistent talk of a 39th game abroad, fans have every right to question when they will see the benefits of increased commercialization.

Liverpool You'll Never Walk Alone If You Walk in Dr Martens

Of course, nothing forces fans to call St. James’ Park by its new name. Mike Ashley may pocket more pounds, but supporters aren’t, so why should they comply? Fans of the New York Mets, led by blogs NoMas and Uniwatch, set a fine example by organizing behind the rallying cry “I’m Calling it Shea” when Shea Stadium was replaced by Citi Field. Taking the argument further, supporters should demand that clubs offer shirts without sponsors on them, similar to how children’s kits are sold without an alcoholic brand’s logo. We already pay a hefty premium for replicas that cost nothing to make. Why should we walk about providing free advertising for firms that grace the shirts of our favorite clubs when they haven’t paid us for the honor. Clubs could offer two versions, with the sponsor-free one selling for a higher price.


Well, at least supporters can find solace in the fact that it will be hard for any ground to top the silliness of MK Dons’ stadium:mk.

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  1. scott

    November 6, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I guess I should clarify that while LFC has their name on the jersey in the form of the Crest…it doesn’t dominate the shirt the way names/crests/numbers do on American sports uniforms.

  2. scott

    November 6, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Have to admit that I thought LFC’s kits looked just empty without the “Carlsberg” on the shirt.

    However, I’m a relatively new fan in the last 10 years…so, I don’t remember the days without shirt sponsors. And as a Yank, I’m used to seeing either team names/nicknames and/or numbers on shirts, so that probably explains the emptiness factor for me to an extent.

  3. LI Matt

    November 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    It’s one thing if a club sells naming rights for a new stadium, like Emirates or Reebok.

    What is really getting people here is NUFC sold the name of the stadium they’ve played in for over a century. That’s unheard of.

  4. brn442

    November 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    The cat is already out of the bag with naming rights. Sponsor creep has been gaining momentum on both sides of the pond the last few years. The Emirates was a disappointing albeit unique case, as it was a brand new stadium plus I can see why it would hard for Arsenal to turn down 100 million pounds for 15 years.

    However, how much is too much? Is there a limit when Football says its soul is not for sale? It’s one thing to see teams in so-called third world and lower league teams with two, sometimes three shirt sponsors as bills have to be paid but now it’s in Serie A and La Liga. The League Cup was sacrificed to the commercial gods decades ago, when will the F.A Cup fall?

    Most knowledgeable football fans are willing to give in some to stave off the unthinkable – commercial breaks during matches but shirts looking like Formula 1 suits and stadia changing their names as often as a local bingo hall may be few steps too far.

  5. Jay

    November 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I absolutely hate sponsorship of stadiums. Full stop.

    • YourMom

      November 6, 2009 at 1:46 pm

      “I absolutely hate sponsorship of stadiums. Full stop.”……he says while sporting an AIG emblazoned kit and Nike trainers.

  6. Peter

    November 6, 2009 at 9:53 am

    “Traditionalism loses out to capitalism, and its a good thing, not a bad thing.”

    Sorry, I’m going to have to disagree here. I will accept the influx of foreign players because they enhance the game not hamper it. What I will not accept is the changing of traditional names of stadiums that have been around since the 1900s. Wheres the next step? Why don’t we change the name of Manchester City to Abu Dhabi City and instead of making them play a 39th game in every country in the world, why not make them play all their games in Abu Dhabi, and while we’re at it lets rename Wembley stadium.

    Traditionalism loses out to capitalism, it is a BAD thing, never a good thing.

    • YourMom

      November 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm

      Fair enough, get rid of shirt sponsors, the “Barclays” Premiere League, etc. Wake up, traditionalism is long dead. Long live the Home Depot Center and Pizza Hut Park. Re-insert head into sand.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      November 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

      It can be argued the over dependence on foreign footballers have been the worst form of capitalism. Prior to the mid 1990s English football was the most honest sport on the planet played and led by honest, working class men.

      Now American, Russian and Arab suits run the big clubs (except for the time being Arsenal) and foreign players have brought unsporting play including diving, disrespect for officials and idiotic and improper goal celebrations to the pitch.

      They have in fact ruined the character and virtue of English football. What the world sees today is not the real English game. Perhaps you can find it in the lower leagues, but hardly if ever in the top two flights.

      By comparison the renaming of grounds is mild indeed.

  7. YourMom

    November 6, 2009 at 8:41 am

    If I offered you a million bucks to change the name of this article to ‘Depends presents How Stadium Naming Rights Are Getting Out Of Control”, you’d take it in a heart beat. Traditionalism loses out to capitalism, and its a good thing, not a bad thing. Put your head back in the sand.

  8. Robert

    November 6, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Once naming rights are placed on a stadium, it is hard to overcome. In the U.S. Denver decided to replace the iconic but outdated Mile High Stadium and built an exact replicate that was slightly more modern. They sold the naming rights and it was christened Invesco Field at Mile High. Denver sports fan and media were outraged it was not simply named Mile High and publicly protested, but now whenever you hear it mentioned it is simply Invesco Field.

  9. Matthew N

    November 6, 2009 at 7:28 am

    People got all bent out of shape, said they would protest/boycott the stadiums if they did this in the US. The owners went ahead and did it anyways, and everyone still goes. In fact, sport is more popular than ever. It is inevitable. Naming rights are pretty much free money.

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