Llambias: SJP name changed for the sake of the Geordie poor

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 | 15 Comments |

For the sake of the fans says Llambias.
For the sake of poor fans says Llambias.
Newcastle United’s Managing Director, Derek Llambias, has been speaking to David Conn for yesterday’s Guardian.

In the interview he spoke on how he has received so much abuse from Geordie ingrates that he doesn’t hear it any more, how Mike Ashley told him that he would have “a horrible job” in May 2008, just before he took over as managing director to oversee Ashley’s Sports Directification of the club, how the club spent all of the £35 million Andy Carroll money (although the club made a mighty profit of £36.731 million on player trading without amortisation in their last set of published accounts). Conn also wrote of many other things Llambias supposedly revealed to him in what is a rather fawning piece overall.

Irritatingly, for much of the “interview,” Conn give his own version of what Llambias told him, rather than just giving the quotes themselves in something which reads like a PR piece, something Llambias usually reserves for his friends at Mirror Group titles such as the Mirror, People, Chronicle and Journal. But I digress.

Anyway, as well as the above, Conn also tells us how Llambias “suggests” that he was convinced that the manager he inherited, Kevin Keegan, just wasn’t right for the “modern role” required at Newcastle United. He also recounted how Llambias told him how he was first impressed by current manager, Alan Pardew, when he used to go to watch the Silver Supremo’s West Ham when he was a Casino director in London, a time whem he also became aquainted with football svengalis such as Pini Zahavi and Kia Joorabchian, who has, allegedly, worked as an “Football Advisor” to Newcastle United, supervising the clearout of players and the aquisition of talented youth players from around the world. Although Llambias said that he had “great respect” for previous manager, Chris Hughton, obviously untrue after what he has said in another more “unofficial” interview, the football visionary claimed the credit for seeing that it was Pardew who had the “vision” they needed to “push forward”.

But one of the interesting parts which had me choking on my stotty was where Llambias gives his latest justifcation for the rename of the club’s home, St James’ Park, as the “S_____ D_____ A____.” According to the fawning Conn, Llambias understands that St James’ Park is sacred, and that no major club’s traditional home has ever had its naming rights sold. However, according to the writer, Llambias told him that he appreciates the relative poverty of many folk in the underdeveloped North East, especially in current times with so many public sector jobs being cut. So Llambias is now attempting to tie in the rename of the stadium with recent incentives on season ticket sales. Conn wrote of this:

“Of St James’ Park’s rebranding, the next big row, Llambias supplies an explanation of surprising depth. He begins with an appreciation of fans’ financial realities, rare among football executives who too often appear to think everybody is as comfortably off as them.”

Then, Conn quotes Llambias as saying:

“There is not a lot of money in the North East. The area relies heavily on public sector jobs and now the public sector is being cut.

“People in the queues were telling me they couldn’t afford it before, or that they couldn’t afford to bring their kid (it’s always a good move to bring kids in to tug on the heartstrings -wt) too. We don’t want empty seats.”

To which Conn adds:

“Seeing empty spaces at the ground, they did deals: a 10-year price freeze option, a 50% discount for the final 14 games for season ticket holders’ friends and family, interest-free payment plans.”

However if this was indeed the reason, both Llambias and Conn omitted to mention why compulsory membership, with a steeply rising fee which currently stands at £25 per annum was introduced by the club as a requirement to purchase a season ticket or even just a single away ticket, with no guarantees that the membership fee will not rise steeply again for season ticket holders who have signed up for a 10 year season ticket price freeze offer.

Llambias also persisted with the line that the rename, along with the 70+ Sports Direct signs which now decorate the stadium (and for which the club recive no money from Sports Direct International PLC), is not a vehicle to promote Ashley’s Sports Direct to a “global audience” for free, but rather, to “showcase” the sponsorship offer worldwide, saying:

“Sports Direct is being used to showcase the naming rights opportunity to a global audience. It is about being able financially to put another Yohan Cabaye on the pitch.”

However, the corporate sponsorship industry seem to be united in their agreement that the “showcase” idea will hinder, rather than help the project. Industry journal, “Sports marketing & sponsorship intelligence,” had this to say

“Arguably the most bizarre decision made by the club, however, is to brand the stadium as the Sports Direct Arena (named after Mike Ashley’s sports goods company) for a year to showcase the opportunity. What it has showcased to date is the sheer naivety of the club’s board. First, naming rights deals work over a long-term. They are not used for short-term tactical marketing or generating brand awareness but for long-term relationships and brand building.”

They also wrote much more, including how detrimental the club’s association with the Sports Direct brand has been for the Newcastle United brand, but you can read that in one of my previous pieces on the stadium renaming here.

Whatever the motivations for the rename, some of the confused and often conflicting explainations by Llambias simply beggar belief, especially the idea the the complete Sports Directification of St James’ Park, including the ghastly rename, is just a “showcase” for potential future sponsors, with no benefit whatsover to Sports Direct. I shall be revealing more on this in a future blog however. He must beleive that Geordies really are a very simple folk who are lacking in the most basic intelligence or critical faculties. But anyway, I will conclude this piece with some of the other things Llambias said on other issues in the interview.

On the insults he has received from fans: “We had so much of that, I don’t hear it any more,”

On the Andy Carroll sale to Liverpool:
“They came in late, the day before deadline day [31 January 2011] which pushed the price up,” says Llambias of Liverpool’s approach. “We had no time to replace Andy, so they had to pay a premium.

“The football side [Pardew and his staff] didn’t want to sell him. But once he wanted to go, we all agreed to sell.

“We had a fan backlash, people asking where’s the money gone, saying the £35m would never be spent. Then we did spend it all.”

On Newcastle’s relegaton to the Championship: “Then you reflect on where you are. There was a responsibility for us. Failure is not a word in Mike’s vocabulary. So we decided to get back into it, and to be brave, to keep the core of the squad, add to it and try to bounce back.”

On how the club no longer have to sell players, but might anyway:

David Conn: “Llambias says they do not have to sell players this summer, although with growing interest in the flourishing players including Tioté, he will not rule changes out.”

Derek Llambias: “We will continue to follow our financial and transfer model during the summer.”

You can read the original article here.

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NUFCBlog Author: workyticket workyticket has written 1092 articles on this blog.

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15 Responses

  1. I know it is frequently asked but I still don’t understand teh answer when Llambias says “We had a fan backlash, people asking where’s the money gone, saying the £35m would never be spent. Then we did spend it all.” They actually said they would invest it in players, so what did they spend it all on?

  2. It just goes to show how far from reality Llambias is.
    He obviously believes the “cloth cap and whippets” culture still exists in the North East. This bloke is an idiot and for some unknown reason tries to stir things up when we least need them. To say that we are all in poverty and don’t really understand why it is essential to have the ground littered with SD logos is a complete insult. If this is the ramblings of a lazy reporter in David Conn then Llambias needs to come straight out and distance himself from the article and show some regard for the people who spend their hard earned money supporting our (not his) great club.

  3. i really dont get what was wrong with what he says in the piece – i think he came over better than he ever has before – and what he says MAKES SENSE.

    i’m no apologist for the PR mistakes that they’ve made before – but FFS – the club is now the ‘model’ for the rest of the premier league.

    they’re never going to win with some – fair enough – but look at the positives – the ticket incentives/prices/family enclosure – the players on the pitch –

    consider where we were before he came

    convince me that we would be in just as good shape now without his input.

    i couldnt give a rats tadger if he called SJP the ‘dirty twats arena’ IT WILL ALWAYS BE ST JAMES’ PARK TO ME

    in the spirit of Vic Reeves….let it lie

  4. Tattyheed says:

    “in the spirit of Vic Reeves….let it lie”

    Entitled to your opinion TH but that seems like a cop out to me.

    Why, because if Fatman and Grandpa Munster were so worried about the income of the club then THEY SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT IN A SPONSOR CAPABLE OF PAYING MONEY FOR THE RIGHT TO NAME THE STADIUM.

    Yet SD are paying NUFC nowt for the privilege. So thats OK to let that lie is it ?????????

  5. Worky,

    ‘…The Halls and Shepherds had also earned prodigiously over the years in dividends and salaries. Ashley paid off all external debt, personally lending the money, now up to £140m, interest free. He has taken no money out of the club in five years…’

    Unless I missed it in your article you never mentioned the bit from the interview or is it something that we Geordies shouldn’t be told that fellow Geordies lined their pockets from the gate receipts of ordinary Newcastle United fans and the same custodians of our club borrowed heavily from the banks and took some of it for themselves, their families and the friends?

  6. Hall said when he sold his share in the club to Ashley, that he told him his reason for buying was to use it as a vehicle to promote his other business interest namely Sports Direct…this he has done so what? Are you really so naive to think he would do anything else? Why should he… would you? I’m paying over £550 for a season ticket, and seeing some of the best games since I can remember, we’re challenging for the top spots, and I’m getting a lot of enjoyment out of seeing if we can do it using this current business model. We could of course have been taken over by a rich Arab and seen immense spending on the world’s top players coming through the doors like spoilt kids with their Ferrari toys and wags in tow, but we’ve kind of already been there to a limited extent with some of our previous prima-donnas and I for one didn’t like it seeing them squabbling on the pitch or constantly telling us how it’s shite up here, and they really want to play in London, Manchester or Madrid. I’m perfectly happy with where we are now as a club and whilst you’re perfectly entitled to your opinions, if the constant carping on about Ashley & his group causes any further unrest at the club, you’ll only have yourselves to blame when we return to the Comedy Club antics like before!

  7. JoeSoap & Tattyhead

    Must agree with you both.

    We are now getting grudging* respect from pundits, other clubs and fans for the way the club has conducted itself this year and the way the team has performed.

    I say grudging possibly because many have to pinch themselves at how a once complete basket case of a club has turned itself around to become a club that others can respect, admire and follow. Yes, it’s only been this season but all the foundations have been laid for the future.

    Yes, Llambias and Ashley may be Cockneys but they are far far better than the money grabbing blood sucking Geordie Shepherd and Hall famililies.

  8. Spartan says:
    May 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

    “They actually said they would invest it in players, so what did they spend it all on?”

    Spartan, when they said they would invest the Andy Carroll fee in players, they chose their terminology carefully. They didn’t say that they would invest the Andy Carroll fee just on fees for other players, it is also supposed to include future salaries, signing on fees, improved contracts contracts for existing players, player amortisation costs, undersoil heating systems for the players and so on. You always have to read the small print with Ashley and Llambias.

  9. Kamar says:
    May 2, 2012 at 11:45 am


    ‘…The Halls and Shepherds had also earned prodigiously over the years in dividends and salaries. Ashley paid off all external debt, personally lending the money, now up to £140m, interest free.”

    Who has he loaned the money to exactly, Kamar? And why are we still discussing Freddy Shepherd the bogeyman? It is now five years since he was running the club.

  10. Appears to me “WallsendStu” you could be wrong!
    In fact the cloth cap and whippet era may still be with us.
    At least thats the conclusion i reach, having just read some of the Ashley/ Llambias apologist viewpoints above.
    It amazes me how gullible people can be.
    Is there any doubt that NUFC are anything other than an adjunct to “Sports Direct”?
    Does anyone believe Ashley or the other footballing genius and yes man Llambias, that either of the two give a rats ass about the fans.
    Hey get used to it , they are not going anywhere soon and they will continue to focus on increasing revenue.
    That means more shirt sales and increased attendance, from the fans.
    Prefering you buy your shirts from ? where else !

  11. chuck says:
    May 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    “Is there any doubt that NUFC are anything other than an adjunct to “Sports Direct”?”

    Thanks Chuck, you’ve just reminded me that I need to check out “NUFC Direct”.

  12. worky @ 8-and even that line of reasoning assumed those receiving it wouldn’t ask question one.

    For example, here’s something I’ve said for over a year now. We’re to think of wages as part of where the AC fee went, but AshleyCo certainly don’t want to talk about the additional 10M+ in wages that weren’t paid to AC since we didn’t have to pay the 5-year deal he had just signed:(40K x 52 = 2.08M per annum x 5 years = 10.4M + loyalty bonus = you do the math). So that sale netted the club as much as 47M or so. In fact, considering reduced wages along with fees, net revenue at this club in the near term (going back a few year and ahead a couple more) has been increased by well over 100M via player sales.

    But then I’m not supposed to be so logically consistent and proficient with arithmetic, am I?

  13. It amazes me how gullible people can be.
    Is there any doubt that NUFC are anything other than an adjunct to “Sports Direct”?
    Does anyone believe Ashley or the other footballing genius and yes man Llambias, that either of the two give a rats ass about the fans………Nobody is being gullible Chuck. I think most fans realise that we are just a meal ticket for all net takers in football, that’s from club owners thru to talksport radio, we’re a source of income! In fact it’s gullible to believe that any other attitude would exist in the game & that includes KK & Alan Shearer….at the end of the day they are all in it for the money, keeping fans on side is merely incidental!