St James’s Park renaming will ‘antagonise’ United fans – Macdonald

END OF AN ERA ... Mike Ashley has changed the name of Newcastle United's famous old stadium.
END OF AN ERA ... Mike Ashley has changed the name of Newcastle United's famous old stadium.

MALCOLM Macdonald today told Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley: “Ignore the club’s history at your peril.”

St James’s Park has been renamed the Sports Direct Arena by Ashley.

The move is designed to “showcase” the benefits of stadium-naming rights, which are for sale along with shirt sponsorship, with managing director Derek Llambias believing a rebranded St James’s Park could bring in £8-10m a year.

Newcastle United’s St James’s Park renamed Sports Direct Arena

Anti-Ashley sentiment has been on the wane given the upturn in fortunes on the field for Alan Pardew’s side, who are third in the Premier League.

However, the decision will again “antagonise” supporters, according to legend Macdonald, now a panelist on The Real Radio Legends.

“At this particular time, it seems antagonistic,” Macdonald told the Gazette.

“It won’t be well-received, not by any generation of supporter.

“It’s not only part of the football club’s heritage, but part of the heritage of the city. Something like this can upset the apple cart.

“The club might think this can be quietly brought in when the international games are being played, but it doesn’t work like that.”

Other clubs have sold naming rights, among them another of Macdonald’s former teams, Arsenal.

However, it has only happened when a club has moved to a new home, and rights haven’t been sold for the likes of Anfield and Old Trafford.

“It’s a PR blunder,” said Macdonald. “The way Arsenal and Manchester City have done it is fine – they moved to new stadiums.

“It’s about a football club’s heritage, and you ignore that at your peril.

“This is a time when everybody’s pulling together. The owners were winning fans over.

“The club’s been trying to sell naming rights for a couple of years now and haven’t been able to find do so. Will someone suddenly come and buy them now?

“As I said, it seems antagonistic.”

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