Fans still simmer over stadium name change

ALL CHANGE ... St James's Park is now the Sports Direct Arena.
ALL CHANGE ... St James's Park is now the Sports Direct Arena.

ANGER among Newcastle United fans show no signs of abating after the decision to change the name of St James’s Park.

Magpies owner Mike Ashley has changed the stadium’s name to the Sports Direct Arena – sparking an angry backlash at the ground which has been the club’s home since 1886.

The club says until it can find a sponsor to buy the ground’s naming rights, it will be named after the multi-millionaire’s sports shop empire.

Newcastle had originally planned to allow sponsors to link their brands to St James’s, but have now decided to offer the purchase of full naming rights – claiming it could bring in £8m to £10m a year.

Managing director Derek Llambias said: “These are difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club.

“Stadium re-branding offers a lucrative way to secure significant additional income.”

But fans disagree.

Paul Barr, 31, from Hebburn, said: “It’s all wrong.

“It’s been St James’s Park for more than 100 years. It’s wrong to change it. The fans will never accept it. It will always be St James’s to us.”

Matthew Robertson, of West Harton, South Shields, agrees.

The 26-year-old said: “I think it’s ridiculous.

“He’s only looking at making money for himself.

“He doesn’t even care about the club, and the fans will never go for it. There’s no way people will start calling it Sports Direct Arena.”

Mark Ord, 48, a seaman, from Cleadon Village, said: “I don’t think it’s right.

“The ground’s had that name for more than 100 years.

“I can’t see people adopting the new name. I think they’ll always call is St James’s Park.

“Sports Direct is written everywhere in the ground, it’s even on the ceiling. There’s no need for it.”

Steve Hailstone, a crane operator, from Horsley Hill, South Shields, thinks that Ashley will be unmoved despite the fans’ reaction.

The 44-year-old said: “He’s a billionaire so he can do what he wants. But naming the stadium after his business is a bit extreme, it’s just a massive advert. It will always be St James’s Park.”

Steven Taylor, 31, of Marsden, South Shields, said: “I think the name should have stayed the same.

“It’s always been St James’s Park and people will always call it that. Whenever the name of something is changed, people always have the old name in mind.”

Reg Wanless, 46, a distribution worker, from South Shields town centre, said: “If the money was going to the club I’d be OK with it, but everyone knows that it’s going straight in Ashley’s pocket.

“I don’t think the fans will be happy. They’ll always call it St James’s no matter what it’s changed to.

“I think Ashley is being a little insensitive. He should have thought about the fans first.”

11,500 people voted in our online poll about the renaming yesterday.