Stadium Name Shame

‘Welcome to sportsdirect.com@St James’ Park.’

It’s got to be a joke hasn’t it? They’re pulling our leg. Those Geordies up to their old tricks again. But it seems Mike Ashley has proved just how little he knows his beloved compatriots once more by taking away the famous name of their stadium but only half replacing it – he couldn’t even go the whole hog with this one either. So now he’s failed at running the club, failed at selling it and failed at renaming the stadium. Not the best record.

It does illustrate the influence that money is increasingly having in the game though, and it isn’t just Newcastle that are sacrificing club history in the chase for more pennies in the piggy bank. We’ve already seen Arsenal leave Highbury to play at the Emirates and are soon to see Liverpool leave Anfield, one of the most iconic grounds in football, to play at a bigger, commercially named stadium (if the Americans can stay in a room long enough to get their figures in order that is). I find these two examples slightly more acceptable as the stadiums themselves are brand new and it’s true that the amount of money available from naming rights is incredible. However, renaming a club’s existing ground is slightly harder to swallow and I’m glad I’m not a Newcastle fan at the moment.

As a Darlington fan I’ve seen a similar situation evolve at our club as former chairman George Reynolds built a shiny 25,000 all-seater stadium (despite our average gate being around 5,000!) and seeing it fall on its face as he didn’t get the concert licence he was hoping for to support the funding of it. Perhaps a tad presumptious George. Anyway, the naming rights were sold for our stadium too in order to raise funds for the club after we sacrificed the history that went with the tin shed stands at the old Feethams Ground. Unfortunately though it seemed that any company that sponsored the stadium suffered similar fortunes to the team on the pitch as one after another went bust. It’s now called the Darlington Arena, looks like no-one else wanted to put their name to it…

So will we soon see Barcelona playing at the Adidas Stadium, Manchester Utd at the Andrex Arena or Newcastle at the…oh no, they’ve already changed. Is nothing sacred anymore?

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