Sorry, it’s one of those moments when I have to say something about events at Newcastle United FC. As some readers may know, the club has not been having a happy time with its current owner, Mike Ashley, and fans have been in revolt ever since he forced Kevin Keegan to quite as manager.
But however inept his performance as owner may have been to date, this week he wandered into quite new and mine-strewn territory. Earlier in the week the club announced:
‘Newcastle United now aims to move forward on and off the pitch. The Club aims to maximise its commercial revenues; this includes renegotiating its Club sponsor and kit deal, which expire at the end of this season, as well as welcoming offers for the stadium naming rights for next season.’
Stadium naming rights? Does he even begin to know what can of worms he is opening there? As every Newcastle supporter knows, St James’s Park is one of the key iconic places in England’s North-East. Generations have converged on it on Saturdays and other match days. Of course the stadium itself has had to change radically over the years, as standards have moved on and new expectations have grown regarding safety and comfort. But what has kept the link between today’s stadium and past generations of supporters is the name, St James’s Park.
The idea that it might be re-named, and indeed for commercial reasons, has united supporters in fury. I find it hard to see how Ashley will not be forced to back down; or else be run out of Toon…