SBC News Focus on stadium naming rights – part 3 – The End Game

Focus on stadium naming rights – part 3 – The End Game

emiratesWith six Premiership clubs now enjoying commercial stadium deals it’s perhaps a surprise that the other top clubs are yet to do so. It is however not for want of trying; as far back as 2009 Chelsea openly admitted they were considering selling off the Stamford Bridge name and were reportedly hunting a deal in the region of £10m a year. As yet no deal has been struck.

Tottenham, whilst chairman Daniel Levy is still breathing, will always be looking to increase revenue and plans are in the advanced stages for a new stadium. The club announced that in the past decade they have invested around £100m in the project in terms of acquiring land and relocating 72 businesses. It’s a near certainty that the naming rights will be sold off in order to part finance the development.

Liverpool’s plans to redevelop Anfield are also in the advanced stages with officials hoping for construction to begin in early 2015. They have stated that though the naming rights of a stand will be sold to offset the outgoings, the stadium name will not change. Everton are another who in the recent past were seriously investigating the possibilities of a new build stadium, which would be partially funded by selling the naming rights. Chairman Bill Kenwright stated that they were pursuing options regarding suitable companies and former Club Press Officer, Ian Ross, noted that these were deals which would generate “maybe £5m or £6m a year.” These plans eventually fell through though the club are thought to be exploring other options.

Southampton are one of those few sides side who had a brief dalliance with stadium sponsorship only for the corporate part of the name to eventually be dropped. Upon opening in 2001 their new ground was known as The Friends Provident St.Marys Stadium, the club had wanted it to be a purely commercially titled ground but fan pressure prevented this. From then on fans referred to it as purely St.Marys leading to the decision by new sponsors Flybe, in 2006, not to purchase the naming rights.

In football today commercialisation is all around us. From shirts to stands, to the beer and coffee and pies they serve at half time you’re hard pressed to look anywhere within a stadium, without unwittingly being subject to an endorsement for something.

A club’s stadium name is the last stand against this tide. Though it is a battle which is being lost and season on season any hope of victory grows increasingly unlikely. The question to ask is not how can we ensure it doesn’t happen to our club, but does it really matter?

In terms of further opposition to branded stadiums UEFA’s refusal to acknowledge commerically branded stadium names during European matches has not deterred any club from making these deals. The Emirates for instance is referred to as the Arsenal Stadium, the Liberty Stadium the Swansea Stadium, due to neither Emirates nor Liberty Properties being amongst the official Champions League sponsors.

Fans often maintain a huge sentimental attachment to a ground name. Granted it’s one which endures regardless of club manager, owner, division they find themselves in, whatever; it reliably stays as it is. In a perfect world no club would have to consider selling its stadium naming rights. But this is reality and success in the game today, and playing at the top level necessitates significant cash flow (unless you’re Diego Simeone) and this often means sacrifices. It is almost inevitable that more and more clubs will follow suit and get their piece of the stadium naming rights pie.

kitkatAs a Charlton fan I’ve been attending the Valley since I can remember. Whilst, yes, I’d rather the name remain the same until the end of time I would sooner have the club play their games at the Bet365 Stadium if it meant we were able to attract a higher quality of players and challenge at a higher level due to the increased revenue. The fans would not change, the classic chants would still be sung: the Valley would remain the Valley after all.

Just because a stadium’s name is changed on paper does not mean the fans have to follow suit.

There are of course situations when stadium rebrands go a little too far. The home of Witton Albion, at Wincham Park, has in the past been known as the Brittania Carpets Stadium and yet more tragically the Bargain Booze Stadium. It’s now the more respectfully titled The Help for Heroes Stadium.

 Oh, and before you next complain about your club losing yet another part of its history, it’s soul and the death of tradition bla bla bla. Spare a thought for York City fans who, for five seasons until 2010, had to endure the renaming of Bootham Crescent to Nestle sponsored, KitKat Crescent.

Have a break, have a real think about just how much stadium naming rights matter

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