Newcastle rebrand St James Park as Sports Direct Arena
Newcastle United have stoked fan fury after their owner, Mike Ashley, controversially renamed the clubs stadium after his own sportswear firm – a move that will see the stadium rebranded as Sports Direct Arena.
At a stroke it would end 119 years of history in which devoted fans have known the stadium as St James Park and is being done at no financial benefit to Newcastle, stoking divisions between board and fans.
Mark Jensen, the editor of The Mag fanzine, said: "It's very hard to take. Everyone understands the economics of football in that you need to maximise the revenue but I think most fans would rather the ground not be renamed at all. Most fans will see this as pretty opportunist with the team doing well on the pitch.
"Apart from having more exposure for Sports Direct, and I can see the benefits for Mike Ashley to do that, I don't see how there are any benefits whatsoever for anybody connected with Newcastle United."
Derek Llambias, Newcastle’s managing director, said: "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."
Club directors believe that the move could pave the way for a combined shirt and sponsorship deal valued at £10m.