Premier League club Newcastle is said to be in discussions with the controversial online payday lender over a shirt sponsorship deal

Discussions are centred on a three-year shirt deal starting in 2013. A source close to the situation played down reports that a new deal would include the naming rights to the club’s 120-year-old St James’ Park stadium.

News of the potential deal comes just a week after Newcastle announced that it was ending its multimillion-pound deal with current shirt sponsor Virgin Money at the end of this season, a year earlier than originally agreed. At the time, the club’s owner Mike Ashley said he would announce a new sponsor soon.

Wonga already sponsors the shirts of championship side Blackpool in a deal that lasts until the end of this season.

The tie-up with Newcastle could be potentially £8m a year, according to the Sunday Telegraph. Wonga declined to comment on the reports.

The high profile money lending business was criticised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) earlier this year for reportedly using aggressive and misleading debt collection methods. It is alleged Wonga, which charges annual interest rates of up to 4,000 per cent, tried to collect some debts by suggesting that people who had fallen behind on repayments had committed fraud.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes criticised the potential deal on Twitter. He wrote: “Wonga about to sponsor #NUFC? Disgraceful if true, will undermine all the work we are doing to crack down on legal loan sharking.”

The concerns over a potential deal are likely to be echoed by some of the club’s fans who have criticised Ashley in the past following his controversial re-branding of the club’s St James’ Park stadium to the Sports Direct Arena last November. The move was designed to showcase the stadium to potential naming rights partners.