More of the same?

2009-11-14

St. Insert-Name-Here’s Park

Filed under: NUFC — Tags: , , — _ds_ @ 14:12

Well, okay, maybe not quite that bad. But close enough. (And it’s about time that I wrote something about this, now that things have calmed down a bit.)

You have to agree that the initial annoucement of Mike Ashley’s plans to invite sponsorship for the renaming of St. James’s Park was, well, a bit of a PR disaster.  The announcement was made, there was “a bit of” a backlash, then Derek Llambias (Newcastle United chairman, for both of you who’ve not yet heard of him) was wheeled out to say that the plan is “corpo-rat.com @ St. James’s Park Stadium” (or something very similar), of which the general opinion seems to be “marginally better, but still unacceptable”.

Witness the crowd at NUFC home games (against Peterborough, for example): “get out of our club“, “stand up for St. James’s Park“, and no doubt a few more to come.

Of course, there was the alleged promise that the stadium will always be called St. James’s Park. I don’t think that the Fat Cockney B…, er, Person would dare go back on that even if he would like to (yes, doing so would be true to form – “the manager will have full control over player transfers” but didn’t) but I suspect that Cashley and the board have been a little bit clever here: suggesting something which they knew was completely unacceptable, getting the 100% negative reaction which they expected, then suggesting something merely unpalatable as an alternative such that it stands a better chance of being accepted, particularly when compared to what was originally proposed (you know, lesser of two evils kind of thing). That does appear to have been watered down (yes, right, as if anybody trusts you) and, well, it’s been explained a bit since. I wonder why.

And, of course, the Fat One isn’t selling up any time soon, which I don’t doubt is a factor in this (and I do wonder about those bids; something seems to me not quite right here). People have commented that he makes Freddie Shepherd, the previous owner and chairman, look less bad. (Fat Fred has weighed in on this, basically siding against Crassley & co.)

It’s interesting that Chelsea only mentioned this kind of sponsorship once somebody else had done so: they’ve clearly taken into account what’s happened at Newcastle and decided that their support might just about find it barely acceptable and have consequently decided to test the water. (I don’t know if it’s got beyond this, though.)

I recall the sponsorship of York City’s ground, Bootham Crescent, where Nestlé chose to replace “Bootham” with one of their formerly Rowntree Mackintosh product names. My opinion at the time can be summed up as “this is stupid and disrespectful”; I’d be surprised if anybody refers to the ground using the sponsors’ chosen name. I’m quite certain that there are some who have chosen to avoid knowingly buy Nestlé products; I for one have not knowingly bought anything of theirs since.

Now, for how to properly do this, take Middlesbrough: their stadium was for a time known as the “BT Cellnet Riverside Stadium”, which was not so bad since it was a new stadium. (The sponsorship deal has since expired; it’s now just the Riverside Stadium.) Were Newcastle United to move to a new stadium (which, basically, isn’t going to happen), then sponsored naming like that might just about be acceptable.

A lot are still going to refuse to buy from Sports Direct, and I for one don’t blame us.

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