The news that Newcastle United are to rename their stadium from St James’ Park to the Sports Direct Arena has attracted much consternation not just among the Newcastle United fans.
Perhaps if St James’ Park were renamed as something else then the pill might not be so bitter for Newcastle fans to swallow however anyone who has undergone the Sports Direct “retail experience” will know that this is not a store befitting an association with a ground like St James’ Park or a club like Newcastle United particularly given their form so far this season!
Moreover it’s the same old story with Newcastle. Just as things look like going right (they sit third in the league) something comes along (usually thanks to the calamitous whim of their owners past or present) and throws a spanner in the works! For me however, the renaming, which was done to encourage naming rights from potential sponsors, makes me wonder what might be in store for Anfield should we decide to stay put and redevelop it rather than move and build a new ground, arena, bowl or whatever!
A move to new premises would be a clean break and would therefore make it easier for the new owners to rename the stadium. However, if we decide to stay put and redevelop Anfield then perhaps we will be faced the same outcome that Newcastle fans are currently facing namely (no pun intended) the callous airbrushing out of a name associated with over a hundred years of tradition in the persuit of commercial gain?
Newcastle started played at St James’ Park in 1892. Ironically this was the same year we were formed and started playing at Anfield. Over the years the Old House at L4 has changed, stands have been built and demolished, seats have been installed other bits and bobs have been added or taken away (the boot room). It is always changing with the times and its attempts to keep up with demand be it from, the commercial market, more fans wanting to see games, health and safety or building regulations. However, throughout all this, one thing has always remained constant, the name of Anfield.
“What’s in a name?” some might ask. Well there is the tradition associated with your club home but there is also money and seemingly lots of it. Newcastle reckon they will get around £10m a year when, or if, they attract a sponsor however, this is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the figures that have been bandied regarding the sponsorship of a Liverpool FC stadium.
The new owners seem undecided on what route to take, be it upping sticks to pastures new or redeveloping Anfield. However, if history is anything to go by, you can be sure that, whatever route we take, naming rights will be on the agenda? According to Wikipedia (yes I know, but run with it please!)….
“Stadium naming rights in North America may have been traced back to 1912 with the opening of Fenway Park in Boston. The stadium’s owner had owned a realty company called “Fenway Realty”
Perhaps we need to be more pragmatic? If renaming means extra money that can be put towards strengthening the squad then fine, who should really care about what a stadium is called, in our heads it will still Anfield? The Premiership and the other leagues are full of grounds that have been renamed with a sponsor’s name however, these were new builds in a different part of town. It also begs the question is nothing sacred in this game? What other opportunities or changes will be made over the next ten years that trample on ground or issues that were previous assumed to be “non negotiable”? Perhaps I’m being over emotional or illogical about it however, football isn’t always a logical business?
If the owners do rename Anfield perhaps they will be prepared to ride it out, to put up with any flack safe in the knowledge that the fans will “get used to it” just as we have to do with all the other “improvements” that have been made in the name of “progress”. However, perhaps I’m totally misjudging them. Firstly they haven’t done anything yet so perhaps all my worries are premature and may be, just may be, they might surprise us? Wouldn’t it wonderful if we moved to a new ground and instead of the Adidas Arena, Standard Charter Stadium or the Carlsberg Crucible it was given a name that showed some consideration for the fans, past and present who have supported this great club rather than just a bank balance. To me The Hillsborough Memorial Stadium would be a fitting choice.