Newcastle United fans will have been relieved this week following the news that their stadium will once more be officially recognised as St James Park from the beginning of next season.
Of course, to many this reversal back to the original name will be of minimal consequence, as the majority of Newcastle fans, indeed football fans through the country, as well as proportions of the media, refused to acknowledge the sponsored naming of the ground, believing it tarnished the reputation of one of England’s finest football venues.
It was controversial owner Mike Ashley’s decision in November of last year who made the decision to discard generations of Newcastle United tradition and local pride by disposing of the St James Park name in favour of the ludicrously titled Sports Direct Arena, the company that Ashley owns. The anger around Newcastle at the time was clear, and the mood was summed up when a group of fans spray painted the name “St James Park” back in its original position after it had been removed for the new official title.
Here lies a major problem with the modern football era. The fact that Newcastle’s owners were prepared to sell the soul of their club in favour of a short term sponsorship agreement shows just how dominant money is in today’s game, where making quick money is the main objective, and the thoughts and opinions of the every day fan is simply ignored in pursuit of achieving these financial gains.
Newcastle, of course, aren’t the only club who have had to endure continuous name changes to their own football ground as part of a sponsorship agreement, and you sense it will only be a matter of time before every ground in the country’s name is sold off for a short term revenue stream. Unfortunately, clubs see little other alternatives, as they try to rake in the money in order to be able to afford to compete at the highest level.
With a new shirt sponsor for Newcastle next season, Wonga has also purchased the stadium rights and has opted to make the welcome decision to revert the official name of the stadium back to St James Park for next August, but it is a decision that never should have had to be made. To quote from a fan who voiced his opinion surrounding the issue to the BBC Sport website, football has become a sport with “money over morals, income over integrity, financials over fans”. It is a sentiment that is tough to disagree with.