Newcastle to sell naming rights to St James’ Park

Premier League club Newcastle United is to sell naming rights to its 119-year-old St James’ Park stadium.

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The ground has been renamed Sports Direct Arena in the interim, after owner Mike Ashley’s retail business, to showcase the sponsorship to brands.

The club, currently third in the Premier League, says the decision to rename the stadium will allow it “to maximise all revenue streams”.

Newcastle will offer brands sponsorship of its shirts and the ground to bolster income. Its current shirt deal with Northern Rock expires at the end of the current season.

Premier League sides are under pressure to increase revenue and operate within the boundaries of UEFA’s “financial fair play rules”, which will require clubs to establish sustainable business models or face playing bans and stringent fines.

They are also looking to exploit considerable global interest in the Premier League by offering brands worldwide exposure.

The club, which could earn up to £15m a season from any deal, reported an operating loss of £35.5m before player trading for season 2009/10.

In a statement managing director Derek Llambias says: “To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income.”

Newcastle fans have reacted angrily to the plans. One post on fan site NUFC-forum.com said: “I can’t see anyone wanting to sponsor it because in everyone’s eyes it will always be St James’ Park. If Ashley does manage to get a sponsor then for the amount it would bring in, is it really worth pissing off most of the fanbase?”  

Newcastle first mooted selling naming rights in 2009. The idea then, however, was to have a brand’s name appear alongside St. James’ Park in any new moniker for the ground. To sell the idea, the temporary sportsdirect.com@St James’ Park Stadium name was introduced.

The North East side would follow several Premier League club grounds that carry a brand’s name. Arsenal plays at the Emirates, Manchester City at Etihad Stadium and Stoke at the Britannia.

Chelsea is also thought to be considering selling naming rights to its Stamford Bridge ground.

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