Thursday, 10 November 2011
Mike Ashley certainly has an impeccable sense of timing. Whenever Newcastle are going well the club’s owner always seems to cause unnecessary disruption and incur further wrath from the supporters.
His latest act is to rename the club’s home – St James’ Park – the Sports Direct Arena, after his own company. With their shirt sponsor due for renewal next summer, Ashley is hoping to provide potential sponsors a taste of what it could be like for a combined shirt and sponsorship deal, similar to the ones seen at Arsenal and Manchester City.
It is a typical hard-nosed business decision from Ashley, a man who holds no room for sentiment when it comes to making money.
However, the uneasy marriage of business and football that has grown since the dawn of the Premier League has often left sentiment – something supporters hold dear – out in the cold.
Newcastle have played at St James’ Park since 1880 and the fans are hugely proud of their history and heritage. They see this move as a slap in the face and ignorant of their history. The timing is also pretty rotten, given the club are currently defying the football betting to sit in third place in the Premier League table following and unbeaten start to the season.
In a statement, United managing director Derek Llambias explained: "Our aim for Newcastle United is to continue to deliver success for the fans and everyone associated with the club. We must make this club financially self-sufficient in order to deliver that success.
"To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income.
"These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club."
The idea makes sense, but given the past few months has seen the likes of Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll and Joey Barton al leave with much of the cash received banked, the supporters feels their positive football scores this season are despite of Ashley and not because of him. This latest move is the equivalent of asset stripping the history of the club for profit and the fans are now hoping this disruption will not negatively affect a wonderful start that has given them hopes for a bright future after a difficult few seasons.