Period of calm broken by a return to Ash-bashing

Posted on November 11th, 2011 | 34 Comments |

Ashley's plans to rename St James' Park go down like a lead balloon.
What's in a name?
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s bright idea to change the name of St James’ Park to ‘The Sports Direct Arena’ is still dominating the Toon news.

Just as Ashley was seemingly gaining some ground with fans after a fantastic start to the season on the pitch, it seems he’s now off a lot of peoples’ Christmas Card lists again thanks to his idea to turn St James’ Park into a shrine to Sports Direct.

Ashley’s popularity is a bit like a game of snakes and ladders. We climb a few ladders here and there as things improve a bit, only to land on an enormous snake and go right back to the start.

Various newspapers, pundits, ‘blogs and of course fans have been having their say on the whole name change issue. Even the Council have said they’re not going to recognise the name change as far as they’re concerned. The Council’s statement read:

The name of St James’ Park has been synonymous with Newcastle United football club and the city for over a century.

It is recognised around the world and the decision to change it, without consultation, will upset the overwhelming majority of fans who loyally support the team week in and week out.

While I understand the commercial reasons for renaming sports venues when they relocate, this is not the case in this instance and some things are beyond profit when they mean so much to people.

The football club is part of the beating heart of the city and while the city council values its relationship with the club, it has no plans to change any existing way-finding signs which bear the name St James’ Park.

As far as the fans and Newcastle City Council are concerned, the home of Newcastle United will always be known as St James’ Park.

It’s a fine kettle of fish and no mistake. But let’s have a look at what Llambias said and then I’ll tell you what I don’t get. As part of a Club Statement, Delboy said:

Our aim for Newcastle United is to continue to deliver success for the fans and everyone associated with the Club. We must make this Club financially self-sufficient in order to deliver that success.

To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income. These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the Club. Stadium rebranding offers a lucrative way for clubs to secure significant additional income.

When we initially launched our plans at the end of 2009, we invited sponsors to attach their brand to that of St. James’ Park. However it has become clear that in order to make the proposition as commercially attractive as possible, a potential sponsor must be given the opportunity to fully rebrand the stadium.

Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps up to showcase the opportunity to interested parties. We are now actively seeking a long-term sponsor wishing to acquire full naming rights for the stadium.

Our shirt sponsorship deal with Northern Rock will also expire at the end of this season, which presents would-be sponsors with the opportunity to acquire both the naming rights and shirt sponsorship deals.

This is the bit I don’t get: “Naming the stadium the Sports Direct Arena helps up to showcase the opportunity to interested parties.

This whole ‘showcasing’ thing sounds a bit stinky to me. It implies that the marketing departments of potential sponsors have no idea what buying the stadium rights means and that Ashley has kindly offered to demonstrate that for them via Sports Direct. I find it hard to believe there’s a corporate marketing department that needs something like this ‘showcased’ to them.

Llambias also said that they have had no interest in their original idea to buy what looked liked an email address @St James’ Park and I find that hardly surprising because it was the worst idea since John F Kennedy said “let’s take the convertible today dear”.

But how much are they asking for the naming rights anyway? If they wanted to ‘showcase’ it to demonstrate what stadium renaming means to the presumably dunderheaded marketing departments of large corporates, why not offer it at a cut price rate for 2 years so that at least Newcastle United gets some financial benefit?

Or if they’re going to do it for free, why not offer it to a charity? Surely that would be better publicity than associating it with Sports Direct and all the nepotistic undertones that generates.

You see, the key point for me is that we’re getting nothing for calling it the Sports Direct Arena. I don’t really want the name changed from St James’ Park at all but I do recognise the trend for stadium renaming as a means of earning revenue in the football world, and if a few hundred million over 5-10 years was coming our way as a result it would be all the more palatable.

Ashley has effed up here. Renaming St James’ Park would always have been a sore point but to do so without any money coming into NUFC and as a big fat freebie for Sports Direct, our owner has really pushed the boat out in terms of rankling people.

The cynic could be forgiven for thinking this ‘showcasing’ is all a ruse and that with the 2012 Olympics on the way, we’re being used by Ashley to promote Sports Direct globally.

Lucky it is then that there are no cynics on this ‘blog!

Rumours that our manager is to be renamed ‘Sports Direct @Pardew’ by deed poll are, I am assured, totally unfounded.


NUFCBlog Author: Hugh de Payen I'm a baby-boomer of the punk rock persuasion, currently exiled in Somerset for crimes committed in a previous life where locals keep trying to poison me with something called 'scrumpy'. Hates sprouts, coat-hangers, Cilla Black, ornaments, Steven Seagull movies and 50 Cent (he's not worth 10). Hugh de Payen has written 634 articles on this blog.

Related Posts:

34 Responses

  1. Hugh,

    They way I read and interpreted the statement is that ‘Sports Direct Arena’ is temporary and is only being used, together with all publicity generated in the last few days, to alert and attract potential sponsors who will be given the rights to plaster their name all over the ground and change the name of the stadium for a large wodge of cash.

    Given how the press, even as far as Japan, have picked up the story it looks like the club have done a good job in getting the message across.

    The question now is whether prospective sponsors will be attracted by the opportunity to advertise themselves worldwide or totally put off by the hostility of the fans.

    If the club doesn’t get (any or enough) paying sponsors and with Ashley having said that he will not put any more of his money into the club then either ticket prices go up or players have to be sold in order to balance the books.

    The Catch 22 is that selling players could balance the books but without these players or their replacements the club could miss out on money from higher league positions, extended domestic cup runs and even European competition.

    Whatever name the ground becomes it will always be known as St James’ Park. The main point is that the club should continue.

  2. Kamar, I have accepted the inevitable and, as I said in my article, if we’re getting money in from a big sponsor it’s a whole lot more palatable.

    But we’re not.

    And do you really think he needs to ‘showcase’ what stadium naming means? And even if he does, is Sports Direct the best way to showcase it?

    And what if there are no takers?

  3. Please please let us not get all divided again.we are doing well as a club and lets be honest we are loving it,we are back.We are building a good pool of players,we have a good manager and all the stupid gossip off the field has stopped,in fact get rid of the lone Ranger and everyone around the Club is doing there bit.
    Ashley is not selling St James Park and moving you away somewhere,he is only rebranding it,to you and I it will still be St James Park,but to the TV people and the sponsor it will be whatever.Get Over It,get behind the Club,Newcastle Utd and l;et the Owner do what he needs to do to make us successfull,then judge him.For Goodness sake lets not get all Strike Tis and demonstrate that,enjoy our success and move on Please

  4. Just look around the newspaper websites, listen to SkyNews & TalkSport, even Radio Newcastle [nobody kicked off when they changed their name btw!]……..they’re all loving it! Geordies true to form can be depended upon to start the whole pantomime off again. Let’s get the bedsheets out, the token inbreds up at the ground, permanent camp outside for david craig et al….it sells their rags, as we are lead like a bunch of performing donkeys !!

  5. Agree that this was all about generating a lot of publicity plus calling it the sports direct arena for now takes away a lot of the flack that a new sponsor would’ve got. I can imagine a lot of would be sponsors telling the club “we like the idea but no way do we want to be seen as the company who took away the name St James’ Park”. And you never know whoever comes in may still call it “at St James'” and then they look like the good guys eg “o2 at St James”. Or is that just me being cynical?

  6. Joe soap and jim red and white. Go wash your mouths out.

    What ashley is doing is disgusting. He is exploiting us like he does the kids in Laos who work all day in his sweat shops for pennies.

    The guy is a lunatic, he is not well liked anywhere and now we can all see why. He is a spoilt brat. Who need to be brought down a peg or two.

    A lot of us who live or have lived in Newcastle know what st. James park means.

    And Joe soap I’d rather not sell my soul for ten million per season if it meant the men and women who have died loving every minute of st. James park.

    It’s more than a name its a heritage, its a soul, nothing you can do will take that away. Many people have died and have bricks dedicated to them around st James and they would be turning in their graves if they knew.

    This isn’t a money making attempt thus is a publicity stunt and nothing less. No one will bye into this because I doubt any calls will be answered.

    Mike is a con. Show casing his sports direct empire in middle eastern markets. Wake up. Smell the coffee we have been caught staring and now we need to realise we have been taken for fools.

    Time to get our act together and make sure we have a voice.

    I Think it is time we worked with the council and bought our way out.

    And did any one pick up on something lamearse said yesterday?

    He said “we need a striker in January and replacements in the summer”

    So that means if we start calling him a fat bastards again he is going to sell our best players.

    Mark my words. He is a sly, arrogant, knob who thinks he is king of his castle. So much so he is too shit scared to drive he has his helicopter fly him instead.

    Not only that but he is scared of his own market.

    Where are those London rioters when you need them? Plenty of sports direct shops with free gear to be had.

  7. Stephen C that is the type of divisive debate this Club Does NOT Need you are as bad as Ashley the best badge for the Toon is being “up there” mixing with the best in England and then Europe dont lets go back to turning in their graves and all that.St James Park will always be that BUT to a Sponsor it will be something else its the way ahead dont hold the Club back do you not think that the previous owners would not have done the same oh and what about the sponsors name on the jersey your attitude would have said it was defacing the strip we lived and died for come on lets move on Forget Ashley,Cockneys etc etc what do you want Far Eastern problems !!!! Forget the politic the press are using you get behind your Toon and by the way this so called Red and White Stripe man travels back and forth from Scotland from every game dont doubt my loyalties have a look at yours !!!!

  8. Ashley will not be selling the naming rights to anyone.
    Sports Direct Arena it is and Sports Direct Arena it will stay.
    Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.
    Watch out for blue and white shirts next with Sports Direct plastered all over it.
    We have become a billboard for his nasty, cheap labour, tacky empire. Nothing more. Nothing less.
    Football for the fans? It’s just a by-product.
    (Oh … and for those fans saying it will always be St. James Park – forget it! In the next generation the name will be lost forever. Constant advertising and verbal reference will see to that.)

  9. The naming rights have supposedly been for sale for about 2 years and no takers the stadium is not showcasing sports direct it is sports direct the clue is in the name.

    Over 100 years of heritage being thrown down the pan!!
    Worse still NUFC isn’t even getting paid for that or the visual abuse of the stadium…the signage is a disgrace,even to be slightly associated with such a tacky empire based solely on child labour and profit is a total humiliation and should be stopped now before things go to far.

    Who the F@@K does Mike Ashley think he is?
    Get out of town Mike your a Prize Prick!!

  10. sorry guys….I am away to support My TEAM politics dont win points and we know what points make PRIZES Toon Toon

  11. Hope you enjoy your ‘prizes’ at the end of this season jim but I think you’ll be disappointed … as usual.
    I, for one, would rather have no prizes with Ashley gone than accept this guy and still have no prizes.
    There again what do I know? – I’ve only supported my TEAM for over 50 years.

  12. Jim since Ashley took over we have been taken for a ride end of story.
    It has been one catastrophe after another as the two southern buffoon’s jump from one mess to another.
    They both need to be forcefully removed from SJP as they have gone way too far this time.

  13. I agree we will have no prizes ever under this regime,anyone that plays well will be sold at profit and again replaced with cheaper/free players.
    We are not a vehicle for some tacky sport dealership we are NEWCASTLE UNITED and we play at SJP.

  14. Guys
    I agree with all you say BUT some things are going to change and Owners have their own ideas but for some reason we are slow to change.I am not agreeing with all he does but getting up my arse with Ashley bashing was spoiling my pleassure of watching the team and you know they are once again a pleasure to watch and thats now what I want.You or I wont change Ashley he bought it ,he owns it and we visit it thats the way it is and until someone puts up the dosh and I hope it is a Geordie thats the way it will be all I am saying is lets not look like a bunch of Ancients on the Telly and to other Clubs Protest this and That what do the Players think Club Spirit that comes from us not songs about Cockney Bas#####etc Look forward and Up thats fan power enjoy

  15. Sorry Jim, but fan power isn’t rolling over and dying.
    It’s reacting and objecting to (and hopefully doing something about) anything that besmirches the name and performance of our great club.

  16. As far as I judge by the arguments I’ve read here and elsewhere, there are two main issues.

    The first is whether St James’ Park should be renamed ever.

    The second assumes that one is prepared to concede the first and asks whether renaming it the Sports Direct Arena is of any benefit to NUFC Ltd.

  17. “Revealing that the sale of naming rights could be worth up to £10m, he added: “I totally respect the tradition and history of the club,” he said. “But we need to move with the times. We’re not disrespecting our fans. Far from it. We’re trying to make it affordable and put players on the pitch. We’ve exhausted all our other revenue streams and if we want to compete, we have to bring more money in”

    “How do you know when Llambias is lying ? If he’s breathing, he’s lying !!!

    How the feck can this twatt stand up and say in all sincerity “We have exhausted all our other revenue streams” ? When they clearly lag way behind, in terms of commercial revenue (not shirts or hospitality), the top 4 plus Liverpool, Spuds and even West Ham last season ?

    A proper TV station wouldnt go amiss for a start but that of course would cost money and Fatman neednt spend any changing the stadium name.

    PS When oh when will we see the end of these infantile “If you dont like it go support someone else/Support the team and dont make waves” posts ?

  18. How many other clubs who have successfully sold the naming rights to their stadium have had to use this “showcasing” idea for over two years?

    Ashley’s whole raison d’etre for buying the club was as a vehicle to promote Sports Direct to a worldwide audience and that is worth more to him than selling the Stadium’s naming rights to someone else.

  19. And how is associating the stadium’s name with a tacky, downmarket brand such as Sports Direct first supposed to enhance this naming rights offer to others?

    Surely it will only denigrate it and make it much less apppealing?

  20. Well say what you will, but this controversy just generates publicity, of which there’s no such thing as bad publicity, just publicity.
    And the re-branding to “Sports Direct”, around the stadium, has given the company a lot of publicity.
    If in fact NUFC is only an adjunct to Sports Direct, then Ashley is getting his money’s worth.
    He has a third place team, in the EPL, bought for very little, with a low wage scale to boot, and an advertising board, seen most weekends to a worldwide audience.
    He does’nt care a damn about St. James Park, or the people who fill it, just business.
    Obvious he likes to annoy the fans every so often, having
    after a brief honeymoon period, been sussed and rejected by the majority of them.
    Oh! there’s a bunch of Ashley apologists who believe he has the best interest’s of the club at heart, believe it his interest is in making a buck and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

  21. Oh ! by the way Hugh, did’nt think much of your attempt at humor, talking bout the Kennedy crack, bad taste pal .

  22. Andymac – totally agree with your PS mate. Says it all.
    Don’t know how some supporters come on here purporting to be Toon fans.
    Anybody who is happy to accept Ashley and whatever he does, is not my idea of a Toon fan.
    I guess some people get kicks out of being abused!

  23. Andy Mac says: “PS When oh when will we see the end of these infantile “If you dont like it go support someone else/Support the team and dont make waves” posts ?

    I think that’s the football forum/’blog’s equivalent of Godwin’s Law

  24. Sikovash says:

    November 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    “Don’t know how some supporters come on here purporting to be Toon fans.”

    But that’s what the Ashley fans say too Sikovash.

  25. Hugh de Payen says:

    November 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    “I think that’s the football forum/’blog’s equivalent of Godwin’s Law”

    You seem to be a big fan of that “Godwin’s Law” Hugh. Personally I think it’s more of an American politics thing. Democrats usually seem to end up accusing Republicans of being Nazis, Rebublicans usually seem to end up accusing Democrats, and “PC” people in general, of being Nazis, Zionists accuse anti Zionists of being Nazis, anti Zionists accuse pro Zionists of being “Zionazis” and so on…

  26. Hugh de Payen says:

    November 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    “I must confess I am a proponent of Godwin’s Law having witnessed it at work a goodly number of times.”

    Hugh, I must admit that I have compared Ashley’s PR machine with Goebbels in the past. In my defence though, his principles are still indeed highly influential in that industry, where he is looked upon with much reverence as the Godfather of modern PR.

  27. ‘Ashleys Sports Direct Arena”


    Only that Fat Tw@t could undo all the good work and feel good facter of this season.gets to point were fat runt and owl heed P you off so much,after there last 4 years of taking us for mugs,that the pain gets to much.

  28. barton12 says:

    November 11, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    “Only that Fat Tw@t could undo all the good work and feel good facter of this season.”

    But that’s the whole point barton12, ie wait until everything is rosy before revealing the next item on his agenda that fans will find repugnant, like Jo Moore when she wrote that the 9/11 attacks would be a good time for the Government to “bury bad news”. This way it minimises the opposition, fans who oppose it can be accused of not getting behind the team at a crucial time etc. Whether the fans “like” him or not is of less importance to him than promoting his Sports Direct brand to a worldwide Premier League audience.

    In the unlikely event that we finish the season where we are now and get into the Champion’s League, it certainly wouldn’t shock me if he was to announce that he intends to move the NUFC franchise to London to maximise revenue streams. :-)

  29. I understand that m8,but the fact is we let him,hard to say but we do,its a catch 22,we go there week in week out supporting the lads in droves as we should,buying 10’s of thousands of replica shirts every year and because of this he has no regard for us,we are not supporters in his eyes we are customers,and as long as things keep going,turning up every week,buying merchandise ect it will continue,untill we do something collectivley that starts to hit him in the pocket,week in week out,dare i say this would Cashley have mugged the scousers off as much if he had bought liverpool?,i doupt it,and why because collectivley they would have burnt oot every shop of his from the liverbird city to his front door and back again,but we sit and stew,as always nowt being done,am i losing fave in the club NEVER,but the point is the pain gets to much,we are a special breed,its more than a club,its a emotional bond,thats there from our first breath,my grandfather first took me to St. James’s,he is turning in his grave,as i said its a emotinal bond,and the pain gets to much.

    ps,i apolagise for my poor spelling ect.

  30. Godwin’s law ? LOL ! Nice one.
    For those who don’t – Godwin’s law – there is a point where someone will match a decision with what Hitler and Nazis did – done it myself (shamed) :D