‘It belongs to the club and the fans’ – Sir Bob Murray reveals why he never sold naming rights Sunderland’s Stadium of Light

Sie Bob Murray
Sie Bob Murray

Sir Bob Murray has explained why he never considered selling naming rights to the ‘unique and inspirational’ Stadium of Light.

Current Sunderland AFC chairman Stewart Donald revealed last week that the club has held talks with companies regarding naming rights of the club’s home since 1997.

With the Black Cats looking to increase revenue in order to comply with Football League financial fair play rules, the stadium name could prove a useful way to attract extra sponsorship.

Related: Stewart Donald on concerns over possible changes to Sunderland’s badge

Sir Bob oversaw Sunderland’s move from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light and said he had wanted a name that would be ‘instantly recognisable, distinctive and inspirational’ and which also paid tribute to the industrial heritage supporters and the location of the stadium, on the site of the former Wearmouth Colliery.

His father was a miner at Silksworth Pit from the age of 13 before the family moved to Consett.

Sunderland owner Stewart Donald

Sunderland owner Stewart Donald

“I chose the connection to light for two main reasons; firstly as an ever-lasting tribute to the region’s mine-workers and proud industrial heritage and in the expectation and hope that the stadium would be a guiding light in the future,” he said.

“The name is very much a symbolic link to the thousands of miners and Sunderland supporters that emerged from the darkness and into the light every day when they returned to the surface after working in the mine.

“This is also why a Davy Lamp, which saved the lives of thousands of miners and was invented in Sunderland, is located on the approach to the stadium and the words ‘Into the Light’ also appear on the Murray Gates in front of the main reception.

Related: A step too far or time for something new? 23 things you said about Sunderland AFC’s badge and how it could change

In an age when so many stadium names are not distinctive or where naming rights have been sold solely for commercial reasons, the name Stadium of Light remains unique and inspirational and sets Sunderland apart.

Sir Bob Murray

“The name was also chosen in the anticipation that the stadium would be a symbol of hope for the club.

“It reflects the desire of the club and its supporters to be in the limelight and to achieve sporting success.

“In an age when so many stadium names are not distinctive or where naming rights have been sold solely for commercial reasons, the name Stadium of Light remains unique and inspirational and sets Sunderland apart.

“I chose not to sell the naming rights during my Chairmanship as I felt the stadium name should belong to the club and its fans rather than a corporate entity.”

The Stadium of Light

The Stadium of Light

Donald had previously told the Roker Report webcast: “We’re talking to a couple of companies about it.

“We’re talking to them commercially, but I think the fans should have a say on whether they’re comfortable with it.

“The vibe I get is that they aren’t particularly attached to the name of the stadium. It’s not a sacred thing like some of the other grounds. “I think it’s something that we could do without upsetting from the fans, so from that perspective there is potential for us to do it.”

Sir Bob’s intervention follows a row over the possibility of changing the club’s badge, which it adopted at the time of the move to the Stadium of Light.

Executive director Charlie Methven told a meeting with the Supporters’ Collective group that the club was looking at drawing up a fresh, more simple design to put on kit and merchandise.

The news split fans, with an Echo poll finding 49% of voters wanted to keep the current badge, 34% wanted it to revert it to the old ship crest and just 17% backing a new design.

But Donald later said there were no plans to change the crest.

“It would be expensive to change the badge, it’s everywhere, so we would like to keep it as it is,” he said.