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Ridiculous St James’ Park Name Change Won’t Affect Newcastle United Fans

It’s a rare opportunity that I get to incorporate the words of William Shakespeare into an article. Yet in the wake of Mike Ashley’s decision to rename St James’ Park, a friend promptly text messaged me asking what I thought.

Instead of swearing or talking about ‘the business of the modern game’, I instead replied; “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Pretentious as my response may appear, I feel in many ways it summates my opinion rather succinctly. I say that because on the one hand, with football clubs becoming far more business-like as the years pass, it shouldn’t surprise you to see stadium names be auctioned off to whomever stumps up the money.

Maybe it’s because I watch MLS and write about ‘Pizza Hut Park’ and ‘The Home Depot Centre’. By that I mean it has almost numbed me to the outrage of changing a stadiums name. Newcastle’s next game is the Etihad stadium for example. After that they move across Manchester to play at Old Trafford, which leads me to my next point.

If for a hypothetical moment the Glazer family were to auction the rights of Old Trafford, do you think any self respecting fan would call it by the new name? I for one doubt it. That’s because changing a name does not alter memories.

From observing Twitter I can already see, of those objecting, the majority maintain they will refer to the stadium as ‘St James’ Park’ irrespective of what signage is displayed in the stadium and on the wall outside the ground.

In the wider context however, I do question the change from a business standpoint. We’ve already seen the anger attributed to the decision. Newcastle fans hate it, and so do football fans in general it seems, so with that in mind, what company is going to want to attach themselves to that? It seems to be brand suicide almost, and the quickest way to earn castigation from your potential customers.

That is of course before we even consider the timing of such an announcement. The club are third in the Premier League and the news broke not too long after the BBC had spent an hour with Steven Taylor discussing how wonderful things were.

Managing Director Derek Llambias has been quick to validate the decision with suggestions that the money will be used to buy players. Unfortunately the pessimistic members of Newcastle’s fan base will ask if this is before or after the money received for Andy Carroll is spent.

A fragile relationship that has been devoid of trust for sometime, this latest announcement will have only validated those set against the current hierarchy. Citing Llambias’ promise in 2009 that St James’ Park would always remain as the stadiums name, this latest twist hardly serves as a glowing character reference.

Which is a shame in truth. The last three months have seen so many positive stories emanate from Newcastle. Be it; the playing staff, the togetherness or the fantastic league start, there has been so much to cheer about which makes this latest development harder to swallow because in the eyes of many it eradicates the good work that has gone before.

In truth this is far more likely to affect those in the media. With a local pub offering free drinks to any journalist that refrains from adopting the new name, a difficult decision comes to the fore. In the grander scheme of the game, it seems Newcastle are neither the first nor the last to undergo a name change. Whether these rebranding exercises will permeate to the fan on the street however still seems highly unlikely.

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  1. JW

    November 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

    At the very least if they insist on selling the naming rights, perhaps they could keep the traditional name within it. Something like “Sports Direct Pitch at St. James Park.” Oh well, perhaps that sounds somewhat ridiculous too… at least it’s something.

  2. MJMarch

    November 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    This is really no shocker coming from Ashley. The supporters already hate his guts and have no respect for him, so this is really just a small drop in the ocean of discontent built up towards him. Nevertheless, it’s a blemish on the club that came along at a time when everything was going just right. Yes, St James’ Park will always be called as such by those that care about NUFC football, and by most English football supporters in general. So it shouldn’t be that big of a problem as it would seem. I just wonder where the money is going. To the club or to Ashley… and is the Carroll money still even there to be spent? Yes, the club made their statement on that and supposedly it will be used on players.. but coming from them, that is still not reassuring.

  3. Pete

    November 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    “United we stand, divided we fall” – born in 1965 watching NUFC since 1970, played a Wallsend Boys Club against some famous names and proud to be a Geordie. I don’t feel part of my club but live on the memories. Of course we’ve won not a lot and the drwam will live on. Not even worried when Carroll moved, but St James is in my heart and soul and with full awaremess of the BIG commeercial GAME – you can market the name SJP based on its massive market share and international appeal. Nobody assocciates Sports Direct with Newcatle outside of North East. You don’t need the `SDA` label. Pardew did say in papers pre-season “we can’t compete in Premier League financially” No we can’t and we’ll find that out in the next two games unless we have very good luck on our side.You cant’ keep upsetting your customer base and expect to make a profit. The Atmosphere at SJP is so poor now, Level 7 corner `family section` was not ill-judged, (plenty spare seats in Milburn stand each game) but an attempt to break up the anti-Ashley chants and has destroyed the home away banter and stimulus for signing from other parts of ground.
    I’d pay twice the price to see Shearer, Bearsdley, Ginola, Waddle, Gascoigne.
    I guarantee with Ashley and Llambias their commercial reasoning is right, but you must look after your internal customers aswell as extrernal and this manager and hard-working team will be looking over their shoulders at end of Jan when we have drifted into bottom 10. Buy an Asian player from China, a top German, top Itlalian and Spaniad in addition to the French squad we have if you want to attract international appeal and worldwide support and merchandising not a `Jumble Sale style Sports Direct brand. NEWCASTLE UNITED IS STJAMES’ PARK AND ALWAYS WILL BE – That is Brand recognition. If we won the Triple under Ashley I’d still feel the same about the misguided treatment of the Clubs history and lack of atmosphere in our Sports Direct Library. Whitley Bay have won at Wembley last 3 years – thats success for you only 6 milles from SJP.

  4. Adam

    November 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    First off great article and I just about completely agree with all points. As a Newcastle supporter here in the states I will always call St Jame’s Park- St Jame’s Park regardless of what the stadium will be re-branded as. My two cents is that is selling the naming rights allow Newcastle to tie up a contract or two or bring in a new player, I will be ok with it. While I am not thrilled about all this, I understand the current climate that sport franchises are in and the current economic climate throughout the world. If (and this may be a big if) revenue received from all this is used to better the club, while I am not thrilled, I am also not ‘outraged’.

  5. Lyle

    November 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Making more money is an “injustice”? Ha, too cute. More power to Newcastle United to increase their wealth.

  6. Pork Romeo

    November 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Personally, I don’t care for the name change. I agree with the Gaffer. If a new facility was built, fair enough. I reckon the business folks at NUFC ran the numbers, but I think the name St James’ Park has considerable brand value in itself- like Highbury which has been leveraged on their redevelopment. If in NYC I might go to watch a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, but I would probably be less interested in Big Mac Arena or some other silly brand name. Finally, English football supporters have given a lot of ground as the football has gone global, so a little consideration for the locals might be in order.

  7. Bishopville Red

    November 11, 2011 at 9:16 am

    In North America, some stadia have sold their naming rights so many times that nobody seems to remember what the place is now called. Gaffer – where do the Florida Panthers play again? A good half dozen companies have sunk millions into the venture and anyone I know calls it “Miami arena” – and that place doesn’t even exist anymore.

    In their attempts to create brand awareness, they seem to create confusion or hostility. What a reverse! I truly baffles me what companies have kept sinking money into this type of venture.

    • Tagomi

      November 11, 2011 at 10:27 am

      @Bishopville Red

      I agree with you, some places change names so often people just refer to it as the original name no matter what. I’ve always hated corporate names on stadiums; it seems to lack a sense of permanency and dignity.

  8. CTBlues

    November 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Chelsea announced earlier this week that they plan on selling the naming rights of Stamford Bridge in the next 6 to 8 months so it lookes like the dominos are starting to fall. I’m just glad the Yankess didn’t sell the naming rights to the New Yankees Stadium.

  9. CTBlues

    November 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Its the “Home Depot Center” my friend. If the stadium were in Canada or England then it would be “Centre”.

  10. trickybrkn

    November 11, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I still refer to the Houston’s Astro’s stadium as Enron Field… Not the same thing at all, but it reminds me of just how stupid naming stadiums after brands can be.
    And while the money wouldn’t be the same, at least name it Brand Name At St James Park.
    On the other side you have branding like Nike putting a poppy on England player’s boots. A snarky retort to a stupid FIFA rule. With the controversy surrounding the ‘Poppy’ how many times do you think there will be cut aways to the poppy and the swoosh.
    The media could fix all this, when a reporter refers to a stadium with a brand name, just use the team name. Today at Arsenal stadium, for example… Why should a publication be part of a branding effort if they are not getting part of the pie. Just a thought.

  11. Jared

    November 11, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Newcastle fans need to decide if they want their club to be successful or not. With the FFP coming into play, they should want their club to do whatever they can to maximize revenue in order to be as competitive as possible going forward. Just don’t call it anything other than St James Park.

  12. The Gaffer

    November 11, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I think the big difference here is that Newcastle United is the first Premier League club to change the name of their current stadium to a sponsor’s name. All of the other changes have been made to brand-new stadiums. The cost of a new stadium can be subsidized by a sponsor. But for a club to rename their ground in favor of stadium rights to a current ground is an injustice in my opinion.

    The Gaffer

    • Walrus

      November 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Correction: The Etihad Stadium

      • Why?

        November 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm

        Oh really what was the Etihad called before then?

        • bentley

          November 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

          City of Manchester Stadium

          • Why?

            November 12, 2011 at 6:19 am

            That was the name that the stadium was given for the Commonwealth games stadium not Manchester City Football club there was a lot of debate of the name none came about so the stadium never had an official name, some called it CoMs or Eastland’s and some even Maine Rd. The stadium now has a name, The Etihad. If you were to read some of the anti City anything brigade in the media you would think they were destroying football history! It was the selling of there soul again nonsense etc. No surprises there as this behaviour has been their favourite pastime since the take over. If City were still at Maine Rd this change wouldn’t have happened, but then again neither would the take over. So The Etihad was indeed a new stadium without a name.

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