Newcastle United's St. James' Park naming rights go up for sale

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Newcastle United Logo.svg
Present St James' Park stadium sign outside the club's main entrance

The naming rights for St James' Park, the home ground of English football club Newcastle United F.C., are to be put up for sale. The club stated that the club would be "welcoming offers for the stadium naming rights next season". The move was part of a new drive to "maximise its commercial revenues", after the announcement that owner Mike Ashley was not selling the club, which had been up for sale since May 2009.

St James' Park is the largest and oldest football stadium in North East England. Football had been played at St James' Park since 1880, with Newcastle United using it as their home ground since their inception, in 1892. Despite Newcastle being in the second tier of football, St James Park is the third largest club football stadium in England, behind Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium.

Naming rights is not unprecedented in English football, including the Premier League grounds the Britannia Stadium, DW Stadium, Emirates Stadium, KC Stadium and Reebok Stadium. Bookmakers Ladbrokes named sportswear company and current club sponsor Addidas favourites to secure the rights. In order to stop the move, BBC Radio Newcastle football commentator Mick Lowes suggested that the Newcastle United Supporters Trust's used part of its reported £25m funds to pay Ashley not to sell the rights.

Ex-Newcastle striker and local sports pundit Malcolm Macdonald said of the decision:

they thought they had got on the wrong side of the people of Tyneside then just wait and see what happens if they go through with their plans to re-name St James’ Park because there will be an almighty uproar and outcry. It would upset people so much because it everyone’s second home. That is how people feel about it. It has been St James’ Park forever and a day and it should remain that way.

Lee Ryder, the Evening Chronicle's chief sportswrite blogged:

We need to make Coors Light Park a fortress" - to even imagine a future Toon player uttering such words will make many physically sick...Renaming St James's Park is simply bad taste in the eyes of most Geordie fans - and many will feel that even the injection of silly money to do it will do nothing to make up for another piece of heritage being ripped away from the Tyneside streets....Renaming St James's Park to Coors Light Park, Bwin Park or even the McDonalds Arena shows that Newcastle's top brass have again got it so seriously wrong

George Caulkin of The Times wrote of the decision:

Renaming St James’ Park is a muddle-headed, flawed and divisive notion which must not and cannot stand. In an era of recession, there may be a need for Newcastle, in their own words, to “maximise their commercial revenues,” but if it comes at the expense of goodwill (what little there is left of it), hope and a sense of community, it would also come at a bitter, prohibitive, self-defeating cost.

There has been debate over the correct spelling and pronunciation of the stadium name, with differing accounts based on its meaning and origin. In 2008, the club insisted to the BBC programme Look North that the the correct spelling of the Stadium is St James' Park, with no following 's' after James', because the stadium is not named as "the park of St James", rather, it is named after the nearby St James Street, which predates the ground.

The announcement came on the same day as it announced Chris Hughton as the club's permanent manager, and that owner Mike Ashley was taking the club off the market for a second time.


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